Who are APRA and AMCOS?


Founded in 1926, the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), is the oldest copyright society in Australia. APRA represents over 47,000 composers, lyricists and music publishers in Australia and New Zealand and licenses the public performance and communication rights on their behalf.


The Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS) represents both composers and music publishers for the mechanical right – ie. the right to license the reproduction of musical works (in audio format) and the limited right to license the reproduction of musical works in print form (ie. the AMCOS schools’ photocopying licence – only available to primary and secondary schools in Australia.)

Since 1997, APRA has managed the day-to-day operations of the AMCOS business, although each has their own board of directors elected from and by their own membership.

APRA and AMCOS’ joint objective is to secure the fairest and highest level of payments for our members, provide the strongest possible defence of their rights and the best customer service for both our members and our licensees.

To understand the role of AMCOS and APRA it is important to look at the rights that are granted under the Australian Copyright Act (1968) to a creator of an original work. Under section 31 of the Act, the creator of an original musical, artistic, literary or dramatic work is granted a ‘bundle of rights’ to control their work in certain ways. These include the right to:

  • reproduce the work (includes photocopying, making recordings)
  • communicate the work (formerly the rights of transmission and broadcast)
  • publish the work
  • publicly perform the work
  • adapt the work

Reproduction of music involves making a copy of the work, such as in a CD recording, in a video or DVD, as a mobile phone ring tone, as a digital download, as production music or in audiovisual and broadcast material.

Communication of music covers music used for music on hold, accessed over the internet or by broadcast by television or radio broadcasters.

Public performances of music include music played in pubs, clubs, fitness centres, shops, cinemas, festivals, whether it’s performed live, from a CD or even just from the radio or television.

In Australia, these rights are administered on behalf of creators by four different organisations:

In relation to the above chart:

  1. If you wanted to make an audio recording eg. a CD of copyright music (other than your own originals), you will need to apply for an AMCOS manufacture licence.1
  2. If you wanted to copy an existing commercial recording (eg. to copy a CD), you would need both the permission of the record company (who own the copyright in the sound recording) – contact ARIA in the first instance and a manufacture licence for the copying of the musical works From AMCOS (See 1.) (Please note that there is no guarantee that the record companies will grant such permission.)
  3. Any public performance of a musical work requires an appropriate APRA licence, unless an exception applies.2 Similarly, the playing of music within a business will in most cases require a licence.3
  4. Playing sound recordings of music in public requires both an APRA licence (for the playing of the musical work) and a PPCA licence (for the public performance of the sound recording.

As soon as an original work is written down and recorded in a ‘material form’, the work has automatic legal protection under the Copyright Act. Composers then need to decide if they will administer their copyright themselves or assign the rights to someone else to administer. If they have a music publisher, they may choose may choose to assign some or all of the above rights to a music publisher to administer on their behalf. If they don’t have a publisher, they may choose to appoint APRA and AMCOS to administer their performing, communication and reproduction rights.


A composer who has written a new song and who can demonstrate that their work is being publicly performed can choose to join APRA and AMCOS. They can choose to have APRA and AMCOS administer, on their behalf, their:

  • Performing right
  • Communication right
  • Reproduction right

As the diagram below demonstrates, at the time of their application, the composer chooses to assign their performing and communication right to APRA. They can also decide if they want AMCOS to administer their reproduction right (excluding print music) and, if so, for what purposes.

Why an Assignment of Performing and Communication Rights is Important

Collecting societies such as APRA and AMCOS certain rights on behalf of their members in circumstances where it is difficult or impossible to license the copyright on an individual basis. By acting as a link between the users and creators of copyright material, collecting societies can provide a simple means of helping users comply with their copyright obligations and ensuring copyright owners are paid for the use of their work.

APRA and AMCOS offer Worldwide Coverage

APRA and AMCOS have reciprocal agreements with overseas performing and mechanical reproduction right societies. That means our licences can cover the performance, communication or reproduction of pretty much any work, worldwide.

Who do APRA and AMCOS Represent?

Both APRA and AMCOS represent more than 47,000 composer and music publisher members, and by agreement many millions of copyright owners throughout the world. This means that the available ‘repertoire’ to record, broadcast, perform is vast, under our licences.

How do APRA|AMCOS Treat their Different Types of Members?

APRA|AMCOS represent a great diversity of writers. We do not differentiate nor discriminate, but treat all members equally. APRA ensures that it maintains a good link to its Indigenous writers: in 2004, APRA appointed an Indigenous Project Officer, Ebony Williams. Since Ebony’s appointment, APRA|AMCOS has been commissioned by the Australia Council for the Arts to undertake an audit of support infrastructure for Indigenous music in Australia.

The objective of the scoping project is to provide comprehensive, integrated and up to date information about Indigenous music in Australia. The outcome of the project will be used to guide the Australia Council and other agencies with policy development and funding responsibilities for Indigenous music.

This important project will focus on factors affecting the economic circumstances and professional practice of Indigenous musicians in Australia.

How Much Money Does APRA|AMCOS Collect and Distribute?

For the 2005/2006 financial year APRA’s gross revenue collection was $127.2 million (net of management fees) and AMCOS collected $41 million. APRA distributed over $110.3 million during the year whilst AMCOS distributed a total of $35 million to composers and music publishers. APRA|AMCOS also achieved its lowest ever expense to revenue ratio (12.8% of gross revenue).

How is the Money Distributed?

Performing and Communication Right Licences

APRA|AMCOS collects licence fees and then pays royalties for performing and communication rights to its members throughout the year. Licence fees collected from domestic sources, including; TV and radio stations, nightclubs, hotels, restaurants, fitness centres, cinemas and retailers; are paid as royalties twice a year in May and November; overseas royalties are paid as they accrue.

Once APRA|AMCOS has collected the performing and communication right licence fees, it painstakingly researches the copyright ownership of works that have been communicated or performed, in order to distribute the royalties to the correct copyright owners. In order to work out how these royalties should be allocated, APRA|AMCOS monitors what music is performed or communicated, and how often. As part of their licence agreements, our clients provide detailed reports of their music use, either by keeping full records or by taking part in a survey system. The aim is to obtain as accurate a picture of music use as possible, with as low administrative overheads as possible.

The majority of television and radio stations in Australia are obliged under the relevant licences to keep full details of music broadcast as part of their programmes. These works are researched and the licence fees allocated to particular pools and distributed.

Concert promoters are also obliged to send full details to APRA|AMCOS about works performed, to ensure that the copyright owners of these works are being paid for the performance of the specific works.

Further detailed information about how licence fees are distributed may be found at his reference.4

Reproduction or Mechanical Right Licences

APRA|AMCOS collects licence fees for the reproduction of musical works from a number of sources, the major ones being record companies, television stations, Screenrights, video makers, schools and dance schools, and anyone who reproduces music for their business or pleasure.

In many cases, the reproduction right licence is on a pay per use basis, with the money being allocated directly to the copyright owner (for example the band’s manufacture licence in the example above).Where a blanket licence is issued, for example to a television station, a revenue pool is created for each licensee or group of licensees.

In the online world there has been a misconception that music downloaded over the Internet is somehow ‘free’. The problem however is that ‘free’ music means songwriters and artists do not get paid.

New technologies such as the internet and mobile phone applications are opening up new distribution avenues for songwriters. These new avenues include: digital downloads as full length songs; mobile phone ringtones; webcasting (i.e. online radio stations); and on-demand streaming (i.e. services which permit users to access and experience music over the net at a time and place convenient to the user).

Whenever music is downloaded or streamed over the internet, there are a number of rights which are exploited. These include:

  • the reproduction of a musical work
  • the communication to the public of a musical work

The reproduction of a musical work occurs in the process of operating a streaming, on-demand or download service – i.e. uploading a work onto a licensee’s central server and/or downloading onto a user’s hard drive.

Online Licences Offered by APRA|AMCOS

We can offer a reproduction licence on behalf of our music publisher members for certain rights associated with the reproduction of musical works in an online context. In most cases, a communication licence will also be necessary for the work to be communicated in an online context.

A communication occurs when music is made available – which would include online streaming and digital download services and mobile applications such as ringtones and caller tunes.

The reproduction and communication to the public of a sound recording is a separate right and may need a separate licence (usually from a record company) if an original sound recording is used.

For more information about these licences, refer to the following:

  • Webcasters. Includes licences for Net Radio and Simulcasts.5
  • On-Demand Music and Other Services. Includes websites that use looped background music, discrete music mixes – ie. DJ mix sets, on-demand songs, clips and music videos.6
  • Digital Downloads. Where consumers purchase and download a full-length song or album, via legitimate Digital Service Providers (DSPs).7
  • Mobile Phone Ringtones. Includes downloading of popular music to customise a ringtone and caller tune services.8

If you would like more information or are uncertain as to which licence is relevant to your service, please contact us on 02 9935 7900 and ask to speak to someone from Online in the Mechanical Licensing Department, or email.

Production Music

APRA|AMCOS-controlled Production Music (PM) is music specifically written and recorded for inclusion in all forms of audio and audiovisual productions including adverts, films, DVDs, TV & radio programmes, websites, online games, music-on-hold and ringtones etc. It is available for convenient synchronisation or dubbing, and can provide an administratively simple and cost effective answer to your music needs. Using commercial (aka “published”) music in productions usually involves seeking clearances in two separate copyrights (the musical works and the sound recording). A licence for APRA|AMCOS-controlled PM covers both the music (musical work) and the recording (sound recording) with the one rate. See PM Rate Cards.

Resources Available to the Public on APRA’s Website

Music Database

In many situations, you may need to work out if a piece of music is in copyright and if so, may need to seek permission from the copyright owner to copy it, arrange it etc. or may need a licence from APRA|AMCOS to perform or record it.

APRA|AMCOS has an online database which permits users to access information from its vast musical database. It has a search facility which enables you to look up a work and if it is in our database, it will list it together with relevant reference numbers (if you need further information from APRA|AMCOS as to its exact copyright ownership by a music publisher or composer.)

(It is important to note that just because a work may not be listed in the database, it does not necessarily mean that the work is out of copyright, as it may be a copyright work that has been written by a non-APRA|AMCOS affiliated writer.)

Helpful Publications

APRA publishes a number of newsletters and journals for our members and our licensees. These keep you up to date with what’s happening at APRA and in the music industry generally.

Upbeat is published annually by APRA’s General Licensing Department: Client Services, Upbeat gives APRA licensees up to date information on services and activities.

Music Copyright for Schools: A practical guide to the use of music in schools, including detailed information on the licences and useful contacts.

A Practical Guide to the Use of Print Music is for private music teachers, music students, music administrators, community choirs, orchestras, eisteddfodau, conductors and composers.

Music in Your Church: This brochure addresses your church’s copyright obligations in relation to the use of music.

Music in Your Business: This brochure addresses your business’s copyright obligations in relation to the use of music.

For further detail see music user publications on APRA’s website.


APRA AMCOS. Last updated 28 March 2007.


  1. http://www.apra.com.au/music-users/making_records/making_recordings.asp↩︎
  2. http://www.apra.com.au/music-users/events/events.asp;↩︎
  3. http://www.apra.com.au/music-users/business/music_in_your_business.asp↩︎
  4. http://www.apra.com.au/writers/royalties/all_about_royalties.asp↩︎
  5. http://www.apra.com.au/music-users/online_mobile/webcasters.asp↩︎
  6. http://www.apra.com.au/music-users/online_mobile/otherweb.asp↩︎
  7. http://www.apra.com.au/music-users/online_mobile/downloads.asp↩︎
  8. http://www.apra.com.au/music-users/online_mobile/mobile-ringtones.asp↩︎

Hans founded his own consulting firm, Economic Strategies Pty Ltd, in 1984, following 25 years with larger organisations. He specialised from the outset in applied cultural economics — one of his first major projects was The Australian Music Industry for the Music Board of the Australia Council (published in 1987), which also marks his first connection with Richard Letts who was the Director of the Music Board in the mid-1980s. Hans first assisted the Music Council of Australia in 2000 and between 2006 and 2008 proposed and developed the Knowledge Base, returning in an active capacity as its editor in 2011. In November 2013 the Knowledge Base was transferred to The Music Trust, with MCA's full cooperation.

Between 2000 and 2010 Hans also authored or co-authored several major domestic and international climate change projects, using scenario planning techniques to develop alternative long-term futures. He has for several years been exploring the similarities between the economics of cultural and ecological change, and their continued lack of political clout which is to a large extent due to conventional GDP data being unable to measure the true value of our cultural and environmental capital. This was announced as a major scenario-planning project for The Music Trust in March 2014 (articles of particular relevance to the project are marked *, below).

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