Music and sound: copyright guide
The fair dealing provisions for research and study only apply while you are enrolled as a student. Once you have completed your studies any copyright works used under the fair dealing provisions will require permission if the work is to be used for another purpose.
Using music and sound
In a presentation
The Copyright Act (1968) allows students and researchers to use, and present music in class to a closed or limited audience. A limited or closed audience would be defined as other students or class members, and presentation as part of examination/assessment. This provision does not allow for music included in presentations to be recorded, copied, placed online, or shown as part of a public activity.
You are able to rely on the fair dealing provisions ‘research and study’ ‘criticism and review’ or ‘parody or satire’ to use snippets or short samples of music as part of assessment tasks. The use of snippets under the fair dealing provisions must be for the genuine purpose of the provision such as criticising the film/TV program - forming an opinion on the work. Parody is transforming the original work into a new work that is either satirical or humorous.
The provisions ‘criticism and review’ and ‘parody and satire’ are provisions that are open to the public, yet are untested areas of law. If you rely on these provisions, you are doing it at your own risk. Make sure it is a genuine act within the purpose of the provision, and adhere to the fair dealing factors.
Mashups can be created legally from out of copyright works where copyright has expired, or licensed works such as Creative Commons. See Duration of copyright guide.
Mashups incorporating commercially produced music, downloaded music, samples ripped from CDs need to be assessed against ownership rights and copyright exceptions such as fair dealing – research and study.
Works protected by copyright, such as commercial music, will require the permission of the copyright holder in creating a mashup that is to be performed publicly, or entered into music competitions. Find out more about permissions on the APRA AMCOS website.
Most CDs come with technological protection measures to stop the CD from being ripped/copied. Copyright law contains anti-circumvention (unlocking) provisions, it is a breach of copyright law to circumvent or unlock a technological protection measure.
If you have created a mashup using snippets from commercial music as part of your assignment or assessment, fair dealing (research and study) allows you to present/perform the mashup in class only.
Publishing online, including Canvas, blogs and wikis
The fair dealing provisions allow the use of copyright works at RMIT for assessment tasks, such as blogs and wikis, that are hosted on RMIT platforms and require authentication. Copyright works can only remain online whilst you are enrolled. If you are no longer enrolled in the course, the works must be removed. It is your responsibility to remove all copyright works you have uploaded.
The fair dealing provisions do not apply to posting to public sites, such as blogger.com, sound cloud, Facebook, YouTube or other social media platforms.
Sources of music and sound
Be careful when downloading music or sound from the Internet. Unless you are certain that the files were uploaded by the copyright owner, you might be downloading an illegal copy. By downloading or linking to the work you will also be undertaking an illegal activity.
A much safer source is Creative Commons music.
See The Free Stuff section of our Copyright guide for sites that host either free, Creative Commons and licensed music for use.
Music purchased online
When you purchase music from an online source, you will be asked to agree to their terms and conditions. This forms a personal contractual arrangement between you and the provider. If you wish to make use of the music that you have purchased online, you must meet the agreed terms and conditions.
In general, if you purchase musical work online, it is for your personal use only.
RMIT has a music licence that allows the use of commercial musical works by students for educational purposes. This means you can use the musical works for study, research and assessments, but you must not use them for commercial or promotional activities, including commercial research.
The music licence has been negotiated with the four musical societies that represent music composers, artists, and record labels. A key requirement of the music licence is that the musical works used must be listed in the catalogue of works of the four music societies. Most music released within Australia meets this requirement.
The musical licence allows students to:
- Play musical work in class as part of educational activities for educational purposes.
- Make recordings of university events that include musical works performed in any format for private and domestic purposes only.
- Synchronise musical works or sound recording[s] with video recordings of course-related activity that includes:
- Student analysis of musical works as part of a course related activity.
- Course-related activities where musical works used are for educational purposes.
Requirements for online streaming
Musical works that you intend to stream online must meet these conditions:
- The works must be housed on an RMIT secure network and password-protected,
- They must be in a format that does not allow for downloading and sharing,
- You must register the works with the Library's Copyright service. Email email@example.com the following details:
- The title of each musical work;
- The name of each composer, lyricist, and arranger of the musical work; and
- If the recording is an ARIA Sound recording, the artist/group name, and the record company label.
Requirements for all musical works placed online
For each musical work placed online, used for educational purposes, course activities, or synchronised with a video, you must include the notice below.:
Educational purposes means the sole purpose of using in connection with a particular course of instruction or course of study and/or research of the University, including the necessary administration and assessment of that course, but not including commercial or promotional activities and commercial research.
Synchronise means the process of combining a musical work and/or sound recording with video or still imagery to create an audio-visual recording.
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