Knowing the Music Copyright Laws

As experts in the music and creative industries, we talk you through the laws of copyright in the Music Industry….music.jpg

First of all, Copyright is free and automatic. 

That's right - you don’t have to do anything to ‘get’ copyright; You do not need to register your work, pay any fees or fill in any forms for it to be protected. So as soon as you set down your lyrics or music, create a new song or piece of music, or record it to any media, you have copyright in it. The only requirement is that the work is original and the result of some skill or effort on your part and then if you ever need to prove you own the copyright due to disputes, you just need to evidence your early drafts ad recordings of the work. 

Who owns the copyright in a piece of music?

In any piece of musical work, there is usually more than one copyright owner:
•    The composer who wrote the music owns copyright in the musical works.
•    The lyricist who wrote the lyrics owns copyright in the literary works.
•    The artist who performed the music owns copyright in a sound recording in their live performance.
Finally, the maker of the recording (typically a record company) owns copyright in the sound recording.

Copyright lasts for 70 years after the date of publication, and it can really help if you include a © statement on your work, e.g. © John Smith 2007. This doesn’t give you legal protection but it indicates that you claim to be the copyright owner.

Cover Songs and Copyright

YouTube allows publishers to claim their copyrighted material and monetize the videos by putting ads on your cover song video.

As a performer, you do not have to pay performance royalties. These are paid by the venue that hired you to perform. However, if you record your show and sell it as a live album, you will need to pay for the compulsory licenses.

In order to share your cover song recordings, however, you must obtain a mechanical license. Many independent artists are weary of putting cover songs on their album because of the hassle of obtaining a compulsory license, however, using an online licensing system such as RightsFlow’s Limelight service  is easier than you may think. Also be wary that if you are making a music video to go alongside this (which is very likely) you will need a Synch licence (Synchronisation).

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that as YouTube is required by law to have a number of broadcast licences, that you’ll be covered by these. You’re not covered.  These licences cover the broadcasting of each video and do not, however, cover your responsibility to secure all of the necessary licences and clearances required before uploading/publishing your video. 

For more help copyright laws there are some links below that may help:


This website is the home of the Australasian Performing Rights Association and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society. These organisations are a valuable source of information for songwriters, artists, managers and others that are involved in the exploitation of copyrighted works.


The Artslaw site contains lots of information that is directly related to legal issues in the arts industry.


The Phonographic Performance Company of Australia(PPCA) is a non-profit organisation that provides licenses to Australian businesses to play recorded music in public. The net fees are distributed to record labels & registered Australian artists and provides up to date information and advice

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