How is APRA AMCOS able to license music use?

Whenever music is performed in public, communicated or reproduced the songwriter and their publisher may be entitled to a payment or royalty. The New Zealand Copyright Act gives writers 'economic rights' which cover certain uses of their music.  By licensing and allowing the public performance, communication or reproduction of their music, songwriters can generate income, known as royalties.  Songwriters and their publishers have joined APRA AMCOS and together with our reciprocal arrangements with overseas societies, we are able to aggregate their rights to offer blanket music licences. 

Where does the money go and how do you know who to pay?

Getting the distribution details right is critical for us. It's our job to ensure that we collect accurate data on what music is used so that we pay the right amount to the correct copyright owners. See Where does your money go? for more details.

What do I do if I have a concern or complaint about APRA AMCOS?

We care about the service we give you and we welcome your feedback. 

  • If you would like to comment on our licensing service, email
  • To comment on our membership service, email
  • If you are not satisfied with the resolution, you can choose to lodge a formal complaint. Read about our formal complaints procedure here.
  • If you still have concerns after using our formal complaints procedure, you may wish to use our dispute resolution system.  Email
What rights does APRA AMCOS control?

We look after the performance, communication and mechanical copyright on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers in New Zealand.

What is a performance right?

Songwriters and composers own the right to have their original music performed in public. So…they control the right to:

  • play their songs/compositions live at a venue or an event
  • play a recording of their songs/compositions in a business, venue or workplace
  • have their songs/compositions used in a film or advertisement

What is a communication right?

Songwriters and composers own the right to have their original music communicated to the public. So they control the right to:

  • have their song/composition broadcast by television and radio stations
  • have their song communicated to the public online
  • have their song used via an on-hold telephone system 

What is a mechanical right?

Songwriters and composers own the right to have their songs and compositions reproduced or copied. So they control the right to:

  • have their music used for a film’s soundtrack
  • have their music copied onto a CD, DVD or reproduced online for sale 
  • have their lyrics and music reproduced as sheet music
Is APRA AMCOS a government body?

No. we are a not-for-profit organisation that collects royalties on behalf of those who create the music – composers, songwriters and their publishers.  The organisation’s roots can be traced back almost 90 years to its foundation in 1926 (when radio first started in Australiasia). APRA AMCOS is New Zealand’s oldest copyright collection agency. Find out more in the What We Do section.

Where can I go for independent copyright information?

Information regarding copyright is available from the Copyright Council of New Zealand website.

What is copyright and how does it work?

Copyright is a legal right that generally belongs to the original creator of a work.

Copyright protects literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. It also protects sound recordings, films, published editions, performances and broadcasts. A song may have more than one copyright. The lyrics will be protected as a literary work and the music as a musical work. A recording of the song will also be separately protected as a sound recording.

Generally the composer or author of music or lyrics is the first owner of copyright in the work.

However, if you create music or lyrics as part of your employment, your employer is usually the first owner of copyright.

Similarly, if you create a work under the direction or control of a government body, the government would own copyright in the absence of an agreement to the contrary.

  • Commissioned works: If you are commissioned to write music or lyrics, the person who commissioned you does not automatically owns the rights in the work, unless there is an agreement to this effect or unless they are “the Crown”. They will, however, have a right to use the work for the purpose for which it was commissioned. In these circumstances it is advisable to clarify the rights of both parties in a written agreement.
  • Works created in collaboration: If you collaborate with others in writing music or lyrics, it is also advisable to have a written agreement clarifying who owns the rights in the resulting work. You may be regarded as joint authors under the law. Failure to clarify ownership at the time may result in lengthy and difficult disputes further down the track.
  • Sound recordings: The person who pays for the sound recording to be made will usually be the first owner of copyright in the recording. The performers on the recording may also be joint owners of copyright in recordings. Advice on ownership questions and assistance with drafting these agreements can be obtained from the Copyright Council of New Zealand.

Copyright owners in music and lyrics have a number of exclusive rights.

Anyone who wants to use a protected work in any of the ways outlined below will usually need the copyright owner’s permission. He or she may also have to pay a royalty.

Copyright owners have the right to:

  • Reproduce the work: This includes recording the music or lyrics onto a CD, a film soundtrack, or onto a computer disk. It also includes reproducing the music or lyrics as sheet music.
  • Publish the work: This means making your work available to the public for the first time.
  • Perform the work in public: This includes playing the work live at a venue, playing a recording of the work in a venue, business or work place, and showing a film containing the work.
  • Communicate the work to the public: This includes communicating the work over the Internet, via a music on hold system or by television or radio broadcasting.
  • Make an adaptation of the work: This includes arranging or transcribing music, or translating lyrics.
  • Rent a recording of the music: This is the right to control the rental of recordings (on CD for example) of the work.

In the music industry, these rights are usually grouped in the following way:

  • The mechanical right: This is the right to record a work on record, cassette or CD. This is usually administered by either AMCOS or by music publishers.
  • The synchronisation right: This is the right to use music on the soundtrack of a film or video and is usually administered in the same way as the mechanical right.
  • The performing right: This is the right to perform a work in public or to communicate a work to the public. It is administered by APRA.

There is a separate copyright in the sound recording of a musical work (with or without lyrics). The person or company that owns the rights in the recording owns the right to copy it, record it, perform it, communicate it to the public or rent it out.

Copyright lasts for the life of the author + 50 years

Generally copyright in music and lyrics lasts for the life of the author or creator, plus 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which the author dies.

If the work was not published, broadcast, performed or records of the work had not been offered or exposed for sale to the public until after the creator’s death, copyright will last for 50 years from the end of the calendar year of first publication, broadcast, performance or when records of the work were offered or exposed for sale to the public.

  • Print music translations, arrangements and published editions: Where music is arranged or lyrics are translated, there is likely to be a separate copyright in the arrangement or translation. Copyright in these will last for 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which the translator or arranger dies.
  • Published editions: Another copyright exists in what is known as the published edition. Published edition copyright protects a publisher’s investment in the typesetting and typographical arrangement of the music and lyrics. Copyright in published editions lasts for 25 years after the date of publication. This copyright may still subsist even when the copyright in the music and lyrics have expired.

When copyright in a work expires, it is in the public domain and anyone can use it without having to obtain permission or pay a fee.

What about copyright in other countries?

Most countries have copyright laws similar to New Zealand. If your work is protected here, it will also be protected in most other territories. This is because most countries (including New Zealand) have signed international treaties and conventions requiring signatories to provide minimum standards of protection for copyright material from all countries party to the treaty.

New Zealand copyright works are protected in about 133 countries, including Canada , China , France , Germany , Hong Kong , Indonesia , Japan , Korea , Malaysia , Australia , Singapore , the United Kingdom and the United States . Similarly, works from these and other territories will also be protected in New Zealand. It is important to note, however, that the term of protection may differ in other territories, and you may wish to seek specific advice on this matter.

Does copyright apply on the Internet?

Many people assume that material on the Internet is copyright free, however it is protected in just the same way as material available through other more traditional channels. A song stored, for example, in an mp3 on a web site is protected in the same way as a recording on a CD. If you want to copy that CD, play it in public or communicate it to the public (by broadcast or via the Internet for example), you need permission from the copyright owner. Similarly, you will also need permission if you want to download the mp3 file onto your own computer, make a copy for a friend or put it on another site.

The Copyright Act states that a person who authorises a copyright infringement may also be liable for that infringement. A web site or bulletin board operator may therefore be liable for any infringements that occur as a result of users of their site uploading or downloading their material. The Australian courts have held that a person who sanctions, countenances or approves of an infringing activity may be liable for authorising that activity.

What is the difference between the 'Sound Recording' royalties and the 'Musical Work' royalties?

The copyright of a recorded song has two elements; the sound recording and the musical work. The sound recording information relates to the Artist/performer and the record label involved in the recording and production of a song. Performance royalties for sound recordings are collected and paid by OneMusic on behalf of Recorded Music NZ , and the mechanical (sale) royalties are collected and paid by Recorded Music NZ. The musical work information relates to the songwriter (which can be someone different to the performer) and their publisher; the performance royalties for musical works are collected and paid by APRA and the mechanical royalty is collected by either AMCOS, the publisher or the songwriter. 

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