Public performances and campus events

One of the exclusive rights of a copyright owner is the right to perform the work in public or cause the work to be seen or heard in public. There is no exception to this right for educational institutions. UNSW has a licence for public performance of music in certain circumstances. But, generally, permission must be sought from rights holders if a work is to be performed, seen or heard publicly at UNSW.

Public performance is different for different works. For literary works, performance might be reading the work aloud. For artistic works, performance might be displaying the work in a gallery. For music, performance might be playing music in public or playing a musical recording in public.

An important limitation to this rule is the academic classroom. Performance of a work in a classroom is not a public performance. This limitation covers lectures and tutorials, but it does not cover online courses.

Music in public

UNSW has an agreement with the music copyright collecting societies (APRA, AMCOS, PPCA and ARIA) that covers the performance of music at UNSW. This agreement is referred to as the Tertiary Music Licence.

Under the Tertiary Music Licence, live music can be performed and sound recordings can be played at free university events. For the Tertiary Music Licence to apply, the event must be held at UNSW, or it must be organised or authorised by UNSW. No entry fee can be charged for entrance to the event. If an entry fee is charged, a separate licence with APRA and/or PPCA will be needed for the event or venue.

The Tertiary Music Licence also covers the performance of music in some public areas of the university, such as lobbies, waiting rooms and tea rooms. It also covers hold music for phone systems.

The key uses that are not covered by the Tertiary Music Licence are events where an entry fee is charged; events hosted and organised by a third party on campus (e.g. ARC, bars, cafes); and theatre performances that involve music, dialogue, costumes and sets.

A grand rights licence is required for the performance or recording of a full-scale musical such as Cats or Miss Saigon. These licences have to be attained from the rights holder; music copyright collecting societies do not have the authority to licence these works.

Films and videos in public

Permission must be secured from the copyright owner when organising the screening of a video or film publicly. This requirement applies regardless of whether an entry fee is charged to the event. There are no exceptions in the Copyright Act 1968 that apply to this activity, and UNSW does not have any existing licences that would cover this activity.

Dramatic works in public

Permission must be secured from the copyright owner when organising the public performance of a dramatic work. It may also be necessary to secure permissions from the copyright owners of associated works, such as accompanying music or set designs.

Use of accompanying music in dramatic works is covered by UNSW’s Tertiary Music Licence in some circumstances, but not all. If the production includes music, dialogue, costumes and sets, then UNSW’s Tertiary Music Licence will not cover the use.

Recording live performances

Permission to publicly perform a work is separate from permission to make a recording of that performance. Generally speaking, recording a performance is a form of copying, and permission must be secured from the rights holder before a recording is made. However, there are some exceptions.

The Tertiary Music Licence allows UNSW to make audio and video recordings of staff and students performing copyright musical works for educational purposes. For example, music instructors can make recordings of themselves playing musical pieces for their students to study. Also, UNSW staff can record students playing musical pieces for assessment purposes.

The Tertiary Music Licence additionally allows UNSW to make recordings of UNSW events where copyright music is played. For example, recordings can be made of a graduation procession or an Open Day concert.

Making recordings of live performances is a complex area of law and practice, and copyright concerns are only one part of the puzzle. When making recordings, one should also consider performers’ rights, moral rights and appearance permissions. Please contact the Library for more information.

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