The Australasian Performing Right Association, which licenses thousands of businesses to play music, will simplify its rules for direct deals between composers and users under an authorisation granted today by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The ACCC has granted re-authorisation until 31 December 2013 for APRA's arrangements for the acquisition and licensing of performing rights.

APRA controls in Australia virtually the entire worldwide repertoire of performing rights for musical works and generally offers music users 'blanket licences' allowing them to publicly perform any work in APRA's repertoire.

APRA will be able to continue offering users a one-stop shop for licences to play music and continue collecting royalties on behalf of music creators and publishers, while also making its processes for members and music users to deal directly – as an alternative to APRA – easier to use.

"As a centralised licensor of music, APRA offers a straightforward way for users to obtain the rights to play almost any song in the world and for creators and publishers to receive royalties," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.

For most users, it would not be efficient or practical to negotiate licences to play music directly with individual composers because the users do not know far enough in advance and with enough certainty which songs they will want to play and when.

"But in some cases it might be more attractive and efficient for composers and users to deal directly and the ACCC has been concerned that APRA's membership rules unnecessarily restrict such direct dealing," Mr Samuel said.

In particular, for some classes of users who do not require access to APRA's entire repertoire and whose use of music is predictable and planned, direct dealing may be a practical alternative to dealing with APRA for some songs – but for the restrictions on doing so that result from APRA's arrangements.

"In response to the ACCC's concerns, APRA has simplified the process for members to retake control of some of their works from APRA on a non-exclusive basis and deal directly with music users," Mr Samuel said.

The ACCC has re-authorised APRA's arrangements subject to two conditions. In the context of the relaxation of APRA's rules for direct dealing between composers and users, these conditions are principally designed to encourage consideration, where appropriate, of alternatives to blanket licences.

"There is little incentive for users to deal directly with composers and publishers if APRA does not offer a genuine discount on blanket licences to reflect direct dealing," Mr Samuel said.

The ACCC will require:

  • the expert appointed to consider disputes under APRA's alternative dispute resolution process to report whether APRA has offered genuine licensing alternatives to accommodate or reflect direct dealing and
  • APRA to report to the ACCC annually on the outcome of disputes with users considered under the alternative dispute resolution process.

This will assist the ACCC to continue to monitor whether the relaxation of APRA's rules to facilitate direct dealing are working in practice and if not, why not.

APRA's arrangements were first authorised by the Australian Competition Tribunal in 2000 and re-authorised by the ACCC in 2006 for four years.

Authorisation provides protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974. Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the conduct's public benefits outweigh any public detriment.

The ACCC's determination will be available on the public register www.accc.gov.au/AuthorisationsRegister, by following the links to this matter.

Related register records