holds the copyright in a piece of music - artist, record company,
composer/publisher or all three?
There is generally more
than one owner of rights in any given track. The people who wrote
the tune and the lyrics and/or their publishers own copyright in the
song, whilst the maker of the recording (typically a record company)
owns a separate copyright in the actual recording.
I know if a recording is still protected by copyright?
In Australia, copyright in a recording
generally continues for 70 years after the year of first commercial release,
even if this is some years after the year in which the recording was
Before 1 January 2005, the duration of copyright in recordings was 50 years from commercial release. After changes to the Copyright Act introduced as part of the US Free Trade Agreement in 2005 the duration of copyright increased to 70 years from commercial release. However, if copyright in a recording expired before 1 January 2005, copyright is not revived for that recording (even if it is less than 70 years since first commercial release).
From 2019, new copyright duration terms for unpublished works will take effect. This will affect works which have not been made public before 1 January 2019. For sound recordings, the copyright term will be 70 years after the making of the work OR 70 years after making the work public, provided it is within 50 years of its creation.
Currently, if a sound recording made in 1968 was released on 1 January 2018, it would be in copyright until 1 January 2088 (70 years from public release). Under the coming changes, if a sound recording made in 1968 was released on 1 January 2019, it would only be in copyright until 2038 (as the work was made over 50 years ago, it is 70 years from creation, not public release).
A useful indication of whether
or not a recording is still subject to copyright protection is the
"P" notice which typically appears on CD covers, e.g. "P" 2004 Acme
Records Pty Limited. This notice indicates that copyright exists
in the recording (by use of the "P" symbol), that the recording was
first commercially released in the stated year (2004 in this example),
and that the named person was the owner of copyright at the time the
particular CD was manufactured. A recording that was given this "P"
notice would continue to be subject to copyright protection until
illegal for me to copy and distribute music even if I'm not making
money out of it?
The question of whether
or not you are copying and distributing music for profit may be relevant
in assessing what penalties should apply, but it does not determine
whether you are in breach of copyright. The basic legal principle
is that you cannot copy or distribute music without the permission
of all relevant copyright owners.
I have bought a legitimate CD. Is it legal to make copies for my own personal use?
In the same way that buying a copy of a book doesn't give you ownership rights in the author's manuscript, the purchase of a copy of a CD doesn't mean that you own (and can do anything that you like with) the recording that is on that CD.
Under legislation passed in late 2006, you now have the right to make a copy of a legitimately purchased recording that you own (eg, a CD or digital file) for playing on different devices for your private and domestic use. For example, you can, for your private use:
- copy recordings from your CD onto your iPod or MP3 player; and
- copy legitimately acquired digital files onto a CD to play in your stereo.
- sell, give away (except to family), distribute, perform in public, or broadcast the private copies;
- make private copies from an illegitimate recording (eg. from a burnt CD or from peer to peer files); or
share private copies online. Uploading or distributing music via the internet without permission from the copyright owner will infringe copyright.
a copyright on all recordings of music I find on the internet, including
music that may no longer be available commercially?
Generally, yes. While some
very old recordings may have fallen into the public domain (i.e. those
first commercially released over 50 years ago), the vast bulk of those
that appear on the internet are still under copyright protection.
I just want to download a few songs to see if it's worth buying the
That's fine if you're specifically allowed to so by the holder of the rights. Some commercial sites, for example, will let you listen to clips from particular songs, or sample a limited download of tracks from their service, as a 'taster' of the music.
The vast bulk of peer-to-peer
'file sharing' is considered illegal copying and transmission of copyright
material. This is because the owners of copyright in most of the music
being shared through these services have not authorised people to
make and transmit copies of their recordings.
However, this is a matter
of choice for the copyright owners involved. It's fine to share
a particular song via a peer-to-peer service if the copyright owners
for that song agree that it can be copied and transmitted in this
way without payment or restriction.
However, most copyright owners do not allow this sort of copying and
transmission because they see peer-to-peer activities as hurting sales
of music and the livelihoods of people in the business (including
the recording artists).
I download music from a site from a different country than the one
I'm in, where the law might be different?
Internet activities of this
sort typically involve acts of copying, transmission, or distribution
in both the country in which the site is located and the country from
which the music is downloaded. As a result, both countries'
laws will generally apply. Copyright owners may choose to take
legal action in any country or countries in which an infringer is
Importantly, you should be
aware that if you download music files to your PC located in Australia
, without the copyright owners' permission, you are committing an
infringement of copyright under Australian law.
can I find out more about the different laws on copying and copyright?
What is copyright? FAQs. World
Intellectual Property Organisation .
What is copyright? Copyright and the internet. The international legal
framework. IFPI .
Where can I look at various countries' copyright laws? WIPO
collection of laws for electronic access .
Where can I find a basic introduction
to Australian copyright laws? Australian
Copyright Council website.
The purpose of the FAQ’s published by ARIA is to provide general information only. ARIA recommends that you obtain your own independent legal advice if you have any legal queries or require advice in relation to the application of the law in respect of your particular circumstances.