Public Performances


You’ve purchased the music. Doesn’t that give you a right to play it? Not necessarily. One of the exclusive rights given by copyright is the reproduction right, but another is the public performance right.

This means that, even after you have purchased a licensed copy of a literary, dramatic or musical work or a sound recording or movie, you have to negotiate separately with the copyright owner if you want to play or perform the work in public.

If you play music at home for family and friends, that doesn’t count as a public performance, but if you run a motel where members of the public can watch videos in their rooms, that does count as public performances even if only one person sees a video at a time.

It isn’t practical for everyone who wants to play songs in public to contact every songwriter to negotiate a licence for every song. To get around this difficulty, copyright collecting societies have been set up.


In Australia, the Australasian Performing Right Association offers music performance licences to businesses and individuals, and distributes the royalties to songwriters. For sound recordings, the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia performs a similar task.

If you run a shop and you play background music, you will need to get licences both from APRA to cover public performance of the music and PPCA to cover public performance of the sound recordings.

If you run a non-profit organisation which puts on a concert which members of the public can attend, you still need to get a public performance licence, even if no entrance fee is charged.