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Music is a powerful tool. It has the potential to transform the atmosphere of your venue and therefore ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty. For example, studies show that customers are likely to dine for longer when slower music plays in the background. This article is a guide on how you can start playing music in your cafe or restaurant without infringing copyright laws and licensing agreements under paid streaming services.

Music and Copyright Protection

There is generally more than one copyright owner in any given musical track:

  • the composer owns the copyright to the musical work;
  • the songwriter owns the copyright to the lyrics; and
  • the producer owns the copyright to the sound recording.

The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) provides protection to copyright owners and therefore gives them exclusive rights to:

  • make copies of the track;
  • perform the music in public places such as cafes and restaurants; and
  • communicate the track to the public.

You should be careful not to infringe the rights of copyright owners by playing music in your cafe or restaurant without permission.

Playing Music Through Spotify or Apple Music

There are two types of music streaming services: B2C (business to consumer) and B2B (business to business). Apple Music and Spotify are both B2C. The licences provided to you under each of these services are for private, non-commercial use.

Playing music through either of these services in your cafe or restaurant would be a direct breach of the following terms and conditions:

  • Spotify: “You promise and agree that you are using the Content for your own personal, non-commercial, entertainment use and that you will not redistribute or transfer the Spotify Service or the Content.”
  • Apple Media Services: You may use the Services and Content only for personal, noncommercial purposes.”

Any breach of these clauses could render you liable for damages for breach of contract and copyright infringement. This is because artists and composers are entitled to different compensation if their music is used in a business.

For example, a business streaming music through a personal consumer service account is like a movie theatre playing movies straight from a Netflix account. In order to play music in your cafe or restaurant without the risk of legal consequences, you must first obtain the appropriate licences.

Obtaining the Appropriate Licences

In Australia, there are two licensing frameworks protecting the reproduction and playing of music in commercial settings:

  • the Australasian Performing Right Association/Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (APRA AMCOS) administers licences concerning the composition of the musical work and lyrics; and
  • the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) and the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) administers licences concerning sound recordings or music videos (for example, the CD or music in other formats).

APRA AMCOS and the PPCA are simplifying the process of obtaining the requisite licences. In 2019, restaurateurs and cafe owners will be able to buy a ‘blanket’ licence through OneMusic Australia. Until then, businesses are required to take out separate licences with each of the organisations.

For example, the Restaurant and Cafe Licence Scheme provided by APRA AMCOS allows business owners to play music in their establishments and on their websites. On the other hand, PPCA Public Performance Licence Scheme is for the use of protected sound recordings and music videos.

The price of the licence package depends on how you intend to use the music. Therefore, you should contact the relevant organisations to determine the most appropriate package for your business.

Alternative Options

If you do not want to pay the annual licensing fees to APRA AMCOS and the PPCA, you may decide to:

  • play royalty-free music;
  • contact the music supplier directly; or
  • use a background music supplier that provides you with the required licences.

The Consequences

The penalties for copyright infringement are varied. The court may order an injunction against you. This means it would stop you from playing the music in your restaurant or cafe. Alternatively, the court could fine you up to $60,500 if you are an individual and $302,500 if you are a corporation. If you are playing through a paid streaming service, you may also be liable for damages for violating the terms and conditions of your subscription.

Aside from the legal consequences, any breach of copyright may damage the reputation of your cafe or restaurant.

Key Takeaways

If you want to start playing music in your cafe or restaurant, you must ensure that you have the appropriate licences to do so. Until OneMusic Australia launches in 2019, you need to take out separate licences with APRA AMCOS and the PPCA. A failure to obtain these licences could mean you face hefty fines or other legal consequences. If you have further questions about how to legally play music in your restaurant or cafe, contact LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.


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