25 September 2023

ACCC plans encore for music licences

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has invited community comment on its proposal to renew the Australasian Performing Right Association’s (APRA) powers to license musical works for a further five years.

The renewal includes new additions.

Deputy Chair of the ACCC, Mick Keogh said APRA and its members, including composers, songwriters and publishers, held performing rights for virtually all music played or performed in Australia, and earned royalties from those rights.

“In most cases, members assign these rights on an exclusive basis to APRA, which collects royalties by imposing licence fees on users of that music,” Mr Keogh said.

“Many businesses that play music, such as retailers, cafes, bars and broadcasters, need to obtain and pay for a licence from APRA. The fees from these licences are distributed by APRA to its members.”

He said APRA was seeking re-authorisation from the ACCC for its licensing arrangements to remove any risk that it may breach competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act.

“The ACCC is proposing to grant APRA re-authorisation for five years, but with strengthened conditions to increase transparency and help protect songwriters and small businesses when dealing with APRA,” Mr Keogh said.

“It’s more efficient for APRA members to collect royalties jointly, rather than every artist having to collect their own royalties and monitor compliance.”

He noted however that APRA already had a near-monopoly, and the exclusivity provisions it had with artists made its position even stronger.

“This raises a risk of higher prices for businesses that play music, and other inefficiencies or restrictions for APRA members,” Mr Keogh said.

“We are therefore proposing to grant authorisation for a further five years with conditions that require APRA to be more transparent about licence fees and the way it pays royalties to members.”

He said the ACCC was seeking submissions on its draft decision by 5 July and further information was available on the ACCC’s Public Register.

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