Can I play music at my premises?

A lot of small businesses play radio or some other music in their premises. This is quite prevalent especially in retail stores. Did you know however that you generally need permission to play recorded music in your shop or your business, even if you have already purchased the CD?

It’s a little complicated, but when you purchase a CD you don’t actually purchase the rights to the music – you purchase the right to play the music for private, or domestic purposes. If you want to play the music to the public, then you must get permission from the owners of the music to do so. The courts have even considered that playing music over the telephone while people are waiting on hold can be considered playing music to the public.

If you want to play music in your business or your shop, you will likely need permission, or a license, from the Australasian Performing Rights Association (ARPA) and from the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA). These are non-profit organisations who work for their members, who are the owners of the music. They collect money from granting licenses and distribute the collected income to their members.

Of course, this is not an issue if the music is something that you’ve composed and performed yourself, or you’ve already obtained permission from the person (or people) who composed and performed the music.

This is also not an issue if copyright has expired over the music, but this can often be misleading. For example, while copyright has expired over Beethoven’s works, copyright protects the recording of the orchestra performing Beethoven’s works. If this is the case then you’ll still need licenses.

If you fail to obtain the relevant permissions then you could face the long arm of the law – either ARPA or PPCA might send you some letters seeking that you stop this behaviour or even worse, take out actions against you in a court of law.

Long story short – if you’re playing music in your business or at your store, then you should get the proper permission! If you’re still confused about what you need to do, drop us a call or send us an enquiry using the quick contact form.

Introduction to Intellectual Property

“Intellectual Property” is a phrase that is often thrown around these days. Most people understand that it can be valuable, that it can be an important element especially in today’s highly competitive markets. However, most people do not understand what it actually consists, and what rights go with it.

There are several types of intellectual property:

Patents

A patent is a right to protect something that you have invented. It can be a device, substance, method, or process, and it has to be new, inventive, and useful. You cannot patent artistic creations, mathematical models, plans, schemes, or mental processes. Patents have to be examined and registered with IP Australia, the Australian Government’s Intellectual Property body.

Having a patent gives you the exclusive right to commercially deal with your product for the lifetime of the patent. In Australia, the standard patent lasts for 20 years, and annual maintenance fees are payable.

While patents give you protections for your product, remember that patents only last for a limited period of time, after which your patent becomes part of the public domain. This may be an issue for you if you would like your product to be exclusively sold by you in the long run.

Trade Marks

A Trade Mark is a mark that represents your business’s image or brand. A Trade Mark can be a phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, aspect of packaging, or combination of these. In some circumstances a Trade Mark may even be a sound, smell, shape, or colour. It is used to distinguish your goods and services from the goods and services of other businesses.

Registration of your Trade Mark gives you the exclusive legal right to use, license, or sell it to others within the territory that it is registered in. Registration is not compulsory; however registration reinforces already existing protections under common law.

Copyright

Copyright is a protection of the original expression of an idea, not the idea itself.  Copyright protects original works of art, literature, music, films, sound recordings, broadcasts, and computer programs. In Australia, Copyright is not registered and protection is automatically provided when the work is written down, painted, or recorded.

Copyright generally lasts for 70 years from the author’s death. Once copyright has expired it becomes part of the public domain.

Designs, Circuit Layout Rights, and Plant Breeder’s Rights

Designs are the features, shapes, patterns that give a product a unique appearance. An artistic design is covered by copyright but a registered design gives you exclusive right to commercially exploit the product.

Circuit Layout Rights refer to designs for circuits and computer chips. They do not need to be registered however the rights can last up to 20 years from the year the layout was made.

Plant Breeder’s Rights are protections on new breeds or varieties of plants. They must be registered and the protections generally last for 20 to 25 years.

Confidentiality and Trade Secrets

You should consider confidential information and trade secrets to be also intellectual property. After all, nobody can infringe on your right if nobody knows about it or knows how to reproduce the work. In certain situations a confidentiality or trade secret strategy may be appropriate to protect your intellectual property. Your strategy can be backed up or reinforced with confidentiality agreements.

All in all, intellectual property protection can be complicated.

As it is a developing area of law, it changes frequently and you should always get advice from your lawyer or an intellectual property specialist.