By scot morris, Director international relations &
Kirti Jacobs, Communications manager, aPra|amCos
Surely, no-one in the world has felt the impact of the internet more
than songwriters. From creation and distribution, to connection with
fans – there’s been a fast and furious explosion of opportunity and risk
which has worked for some (think The Arctic Monkeys, Sick Puppies,
Radiohead, The Grateful Dead), burned others and left many more
wondering in its wake.
Collecting societies the world over, like APRA|AMCOS, have been
dealing with the issues of online music use since the early days. Keen to
assert the right of their music creator members to be paid for the use of
their works in emerging digital media, they’ve focused on developing
and implementing new digital licences that enable music use online,
track and monitor that use, secure payment and seek to protect the
integrity of the works. Creative Commons stepped into this space a few years ago, claiming to offer an “alternative” way
In this article we explore some of the differences between the notion of licensing by collecting societies like APRA|AMCOS
and those offered by Creative Commons – and what these differences mean for music creators.
some BaCKgrounD on Creative Commons
The Creative Commons (CC) movement began a few years ago in the US when Stanford University Constitutional Law
Professor, Laurence Lessig, acted in a case challenging the US provisions extending the duration of copyright.
In defeat, he developed a set of standard online “licences” that encouraged creators to give away certain copyright rights
to the world at large. These “licences” were based on principles of “open software licensing”, but they applied to other
materials such as music, art and film. Academics in other jurisdictions have sought to adapt these licences to local laws and
conditions – this is known as the iCommons project.
is CC an alternative to CoPyright?
No – nor is the movement in favour of abolishing copyright. It claims to be an alternative way of “licensing” the copyright
in creative works. However it is not the kind of licensing service typically offered by APRA, where a copyright owner is able
to monitor use, negotiate payment and conditions for use.
Under a CC Licence, creators give up certain of their hard-won exclusive rights for free, forever.
Under copyright law, it is generally the creator’s right to decide if, how and when their works may be copied, adapted,
distributed, performed, broadcast or made available to the public. The creator is also entitled to negotiate a payment for
this use. Copyright recognises that there is a commercial value to creative works and grants the creator the exclusive right
to exploit those works and share in the profits third parties make from the works.
Creators, who apply a CC “licence” to their work, give up control over some of these rights and offer all people free and
legal access to their works so they can be used for “non-commercial” and sometimes “commercial” purposes. These terms
are not defined in the “licences” and are at the crux of the difficulties and confusion created in the market place by CC
Once a CC “licence” is applied to your work, it cannot be revoked. CC does not monitor or control how your works may
be used, adapted, distributed, copied or performed.
how Does a Creative Commons liCenCe worK?
Individual creators can attach one of various types of CC “licence” to their work - licences are downloaded from the CC
website. It is estimated there are currently over 200 different versions of CC licences in circulation around the world. The
majority of musicians who use CC licences seek to retain their “commercial rights”. However, CC doesn’t assist with this
nor explains how such rights can be administered in practice. In particular, CC won’t step in and negotiate on behalf of
songwriters, nor will they enforce the rights on behalf of creators. Non-profit collecting societies like APRA exist to enforce
commercial rights that are impossible to administer individually. Also, many songwriters enter into publishing contracts to
obtain the benefit of a publishers experience and contacts to place their music, negotiate deals on their behalf and take
action in the case of infringement.
Can i use Both aPra anD CC liCenCes?
You may not be able to apply a CC licence to your work if you have co-writers on a pre-existing agreement with a music
publisher or a collecting society. For example, APRA members generally cannot apply CC licenses to their works because
when they become members of APRA, they assign all the performing and communication rights in their musical works to
APRA. This is the case for nearly all collecting societies around the world.
However, APRA has long recognized the need for members to have flexibility and choice when it comes to the licensing
of their works. To that end, we have for some time now, offered members the choice of flexible licence-back and opt-out
arrangements that enable members to self-licence certain works if that better suits their needs.
In particular members can licence the use of their own works on their websites. APRA grants a complimentary licence to
allow this. Attaching a CC licence would give away much more extensive rights and not be revocable. Some online music
services are building business models around the use of CC licences, ensuring that songwriters get to benefit from the
value they create for these services.
APRA has been in discussion with CC Australia for some time. We are looking at ways APRA members the can use CC
licences to self-license the use of their work for non-commercial purposes, while retaining the advantage of their APRA
membership to license, monitor and collect royalties for the commercial use of their works. Stay tuned for updates.
Creative Commons aPra|amCos
You sign away rights in that work, forever, for the whole You assign all the performing and communication rights in
world, for free. your musical works to APRA, who then negotiates licences
for the use of your music on your behalf. This is the case
for nearly all collecting societies around the world.
You cannot later change your mind. APRA members can change their minds. Ask about our
opt-out and licence-back schemes.
CC does not negotiate payment for the use of your work – APRA negotiates with users on your behalf and collects
it is up to you to contact individual users across the world to royalties for the use of your work. These royalties, less
negotiate and secure payment. our administration expenses are distributed back to our
It is up to you to monitor and enforce the use of your work. APRA takes on responsibility for monitoring and enforcing
If someone uses your work in a way that is not authorised the use of your work. The assignment of rights enables us
by the Creative Commons Licence, you will have to contact to take legal action on your behalf against users making
the person responsible or seek legal help to enforce the money out of your work without a proper license.
terms of the licence. This can be difficult in practice,
especially online and overseas.
May limit your chance of securing a commercial deal for APRA represents over 50,000 Australasian songwriters,
that work – if it is available for free already, commercial composers and music publishers and, through our
music users may be reluctant to pay for the right to use it. agreements with similar societies overseas, the vast
majority of music creators worldwide. This means we can
promote the repertoire of our members with confidence
and negotiate the best possible rates with music users.
When considering any licensing scheme, it’s very important to make sure you get informed, independent legal advice.
“Songwriters frequently contact MIPI asking that we help remove “illegal” material on websites. However, increasingly artists are
putting their material on websites where they have agreed, in the small print, to Creative Commons (CC) licences. This means
third parties can use their work without payment or permission. It’s permanent and cannot be revoked, ever. Even where the CC
licence is pitched to restrict “commercial” use, the definition is extremely narrow and may actually allow the music to be used by
big business. If a CC licence is applied to your music, in many cases MIPI simply can’t protect your rights.”
General Manager, Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI)
MeMbeRSHIP eNqUIRIeS NSW Head office VIC/TAS qLD SA NT WA
PHONe 1800 642 634 16 Mountain St 3 & 5 Sanders Pl 3 Winn St Suite 54 /55 Melbourne St GPO box 4519 Suite 1/12-20 Railway Rd
WRITeR@APRA.COM.AU Ultimo NSW 2007 Richmond VIC 3121 Fortitude Valley qLD 4006 North Adelaide SA 5006 Darwin NT 0801 Subiaco WA 6008
WWW.APRA-AMCOS.COM.AU P: 61 2 9935 7900 P: 61 3 9426 5200 P: 61 7 3257 1007 P: 61 8 8239 2222 P: 0447 447 646 P: 61 8 9382 8299