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By Philip Ritchie


Almost every piece of music in an optometry practice requires a licence for it to be played, even if just one staff member is present.  

With the proper licence, practices can play all their favourite songs. A licence protects business owners against the risk of copyright infringement while covering the rights of music owners, such as songwriters, producers and publishers.

Optometry Australia’s national professional services manager Luke Arundel says music licensing is misunderstood by many.

‘Considerable confusion exists among small business owners about the need for licensing in this area, and Optometry Australia is flagging it for members to be aware of it,’ he said.

APRA AMCOS, the largest music rights management organisation in the southern hemisphere, agrees that music copyright is an overlooked topic, with many practice owners unaware of the need to own a licence. According to Australian copyright law, businesses must have the proper permission when music is played in a commercial environment.

Director of general licensing at APRA AMCOS Catherine Giuliano says this is because music played in an optometry practice is considered a public performance. Retail and examining areas, staff-only rooms, workshops and break areas are all included.

‘It’s not classified as a private use. Practices can play anything they like, including live music, but a licence is required. If you’re playing music anywhere in a domestic setting, such as in cars, a hospital bed, your own home, a funeral service, you don’t need one,’ she said.

‘If music is used in any setting outside that, then it’s a commercial enterprise. Even if it’s a hospital or a not-for-profit, they’re considered outside the domestic setting. Those organisations or businesses need permission to play music.’

Licensing applies to all sources of music: radio, CDs, television, and digital streaming services such as Spotify, SoundCloud or YouTube.  

‘A public performance licence is required irrespective of device used or how the music is played. If it’s played in a commercial environment or setting and the public can hear it then a licence is required with us. In relation to streaming, always check the terms and conditions of your agreement with your specific streaming provider as most only allow for domestic use and not public performance. Remember, a licence with us is always required,’ Ms Giuliano said.

Royalty-free music should also be checked on a case-by-case basis.

‘There are some organisations that provide royalty-free music for practices. What we always say when people are signing up to that royalty-free music is to check with us, because the terms of copyright in our country are different from in the UK for example. So to say it’s definitely out of copyright and royalty free, you’d need to check each and every track.’

Ms Giuliano says the fees for licensing are low-cost, considering their longevity and the staff-patient benefits.

An optometrist with five 150-square-metre practices, who steams music on an iPad, for example, would pay less than $300 per practice each year and have access to almost all the world’s songs.

‘Most people want the permission in place. It’s like not having insurance or professional indemnity insurance or public liability, and most people want to mitigate that risk by doing the right thing,’ Ms Giuliano said.

‘Ninety-five per cent of people, once they’re advised they need permission, pay their licence and get on with their trading. With the few that refuse or still can’t comprehend, there’s a few that we pursue. We take very few people to court.

‘If we find an optometrist that uses music, we don’t date their licence from when they first started trading. We only licence them from the point we’ve discovered the music use onwards.’

Ms Giuliano says the best thing for optometrists to do is to identify their music use and contact APRA AMCOS to obtain a licence.

Visit the APRA AMCOS licensing guide.

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Acknowledgement of Country

In the spirit of reconciliation Optometry Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.