AUSTRALASIAN PERFORMING RIGHT ASSOCIATION
Established in 1926, the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) is the central payment collection society in Australia and New Zealand for composers, songwriters and music publishers. It collects fees for the public performance of musical works on television, radio stations, the internet and other communication (such as ‘on hold’ music and mobile ringtones). It also distributes foreign earnings to members. Its sister organisation, the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA), licenses businesses (gyms, restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, pubs, offices and retail stores) to play or broadcast protected copyright recordings. The Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society Limited (AMCOS) has been managed by APRA since 1997.
APRA’s revenue for 2013 was $207.6 million, derived from a membership of 79,139. It has been vigorous in pursuing copyright royalties for its members, exemplified in its many battles with music radio stations. In 1931, APRA suspended the playing of members’ recordings on air; in 1970, commercial radio stations refused airplay of the six major labels’ songs as a result of demands for a higher levy. With the PPCA and the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), it fought the ‘parallel importing’ amendments in 2002, and the ‘private copying’ changes to the Copyright Act 1968 in 2006.
As a co-founder of the Australian Content Industry Group, APRA has strongly opposed music piracy. It was a litigant in the Village Roadshow Films v iiNet (2010–12) case that failed to convince the courts that ISP companies be held legally responsible for unauthorised downloading on their sites.
APRA also hosts a number of annual songwriting and composition awards. Questions about its powerful role have existed since the 1920s, including criticisms of its monopoly power, the dominance of the major labels in its executive and the pursuit of ‘secondary’ property rights as recording sales and related copyright incomes decline.
REFs: B. Atkinson, The True History of Copyright (2007); http://www.apra-amcos.com.au.