Updated 7 April 2022
Teachers regularly use music for educational or other purposes. They may want to copy sheet music for students or perform music live. Or, they may want to record a live performance of music by students or play a sound recording in class or at a school event.
What do we mean by music?
When we talk about music, we are referring to both musical works (ie the score and/or the lyrics of a song, which is what you see on sheet music) and sound recordings (ie recorded versions of musical works).
A musical work can be the score, or both the score and lyrics. The copyright owner of the score may be different to the copyright owner of the lyrics. Note that if you are just copying lyrics, they will be considered as text for the purposes of the Statutory Text and Artistic Works Licence.
A sound recording might be a recording of the score only, or of both the score and lyrics. Examples of sound recordings are Apple or Spotify tracks, MP3 files, vinyl, CDs, audio cassettes, reel to reel tapes and any other method for recording and storing sounds.
When you use a sound recording, you need permission to use both the musical work and the sound recording of that musical work. Generally, the composer or music publisher owns copyright in the musical work, and the record label owns copyright in the sound recording. If you are only reproducing or performing the musical work (eg by playing the music with an instrument or singing the song yourself), you only need permission from the owner of copyright in the musical work.
How do schools use music?
Some of the ways schools may use music include:
- performing musical works (eg students singing songs or playing instruments in the classroom or at assemblies)
- communicating musical works (eg emailing the score and/or lyrics of a song)
- displaying musical works in class (e.g. on an interactive whiteboard)
- copying musical works (eg photocopying sheet music for the school choir)
- playing sound recordings (eg playing a sound recording in the classroom or at a school event)
- communicating sound recordings (eg uploading a recording of a school concert at which a sound recording was played to the school’s password protected digital learning environment (DTE)
- making recordings (including audio and video recordings) of school performances of musical works and sound recordings
- making a copy of sound recordings (eg making a compilation of tracks on a laptop, CD or USB to play at a school dance performance).
How are schools permitted to use music?
Schools can do some activities using musical works and sound recordings under free exceptions in the Copyright Act, and for some other activities they can rely on voluntary licences that most schools have entered into with the collecting societies that represent music composers and record labels.
Schools have entered into a Schools Music Licence, which allows schools to copy and share musical works and sound recordings in certain circumstances All government and most Catholic and independent schools, are covered by the Schools Music Licence. You can check whether you are covered by the music agreements by contacting your school authority.
Performing musical works live or playing sound recordings
- in the course of education and is not for profit
- the people in the audience or class are giving or receiving instruction or are directly connected with the place where instruction is given (i.e if parents or guardians are in the audience, schools may not be able to rely on this exception – however see below for what can be done under the Schools Music Licence instead).
Teachers can upload sound recordings to a school intranet or DTE in order to play them in class, but they should remove them from the DTE, or disable student access to the sound recordings, as soon as the class is over.
Examples of what teachers and students can do in reliance on this exception include:
- singing musical works and performing musical works using instruments in class
- playing a sound recording in class in any format (eg digital music from Spotify or Apple music, Google Play Store, CD) using a DTE or interactive whiteboard)
- playing a film (DVD or online film) in class which contains a musical work and or sound recording using a DVD player or DTE.
For further information schools should see Performance and Communication of Copyright Material in Class.
Schools can also rely on the Schools Music Licence, together with an exception under section 106(1)(b) of the Copyright Act and an interim agreement with PPCA to perform and play music in the classroom when parents, guardians or members of the school community are in attendance, or to invite a performer from outside the school to come into the classroom to perform for the students.
For non-teaching purposes
Schools often want to perform musical works live or play sound recordings outside the classroom context. The Schools Music Licence, together with an exception under section 106(1)(b) of the Copyright Act and an interim agreement with PPCA, allow schools to perform musical works live and play sound recordings for a range of purposes that a school undertakes as part of its usual activities (eg providing educational or religious services for staff, students and members of the school community as part of normal school activities, engaging with members of the school community, promoting students work and school events such as school concerts, dances or formals, sports days and fairs).
Schools can charge admission fees to performances of music as long as the proceeds from the fees mostly go to the school or a registered charity.
Schools can perform some songs from a musical, but, to perform an entire musical, schools cannot rely on the Schools Music Licence and will need to obtain permission from the copyright owner of the musical.
If a secondary school is performing music in a dramatic context (eg a performance where there is a storyline, characters or a ballet) it cannot charge admission and advertise the event outside the school community.
Copying sheet music
The Schools Music Licence allows schools to make multiple copies of sheet music for educational purposes, including delivering school music lessons and ensemble programs, provided they do not make more copies than reasonably required for the relevant school purpose. The licence tops up the rights that schools have to copy sheet music under the Statutory Text and Artistic Works Licence.
Under the Schools Music Licence, schools can:
- photocopy hardcopy sheet music
- make digital copies of print sheet music (ie scan to digital format)
- print copies of digital sheet music
- email PDF versions of digital sheet music
- upload copies of sheet music to a password protected or restricted access DTE.
Schools should not undertake ‘just in case’ copying, such as digitising entire collections of print sheet music.
Schools can make as many copies of print or digital sheet music that the school considers is reasonably required for a relevant school purpose. However, the copies must be made from an original copy of the sheet music that the school or a teacher at the school owns. What this means is that the school first needs to purchase of a copy of the sheet music from an authorised publisher before they make any copies.
There are some other limits on the copies of sheet music that schools can make under the Schools Music Licence. For example, a school:
- can only copy up to three songs from a Grand Right Work (eg words and music that has been written expressly for an opera, operetta, musical play, revue or pantomime), but it can make as many copies as it needs of the sheet music for each of those three songs. So, it could make copies of the sheet music for three songs from ‘Matilda the Musical’ for its students to sing. However, if a school wants to rehearse or perform an entire musical, it needs to obtain permission from the copyright owner of the musical
- can only copy a choral work that is longer than 20 minutes where the public performance of the choral work is validly licensed (e.g. the school has a obtained a licence to perform the choral work)
- cannot make copies of sheet music for students’ private music tuition.
- cannot make copies of sheet music where the lyrics have been changed or the music has been adapted.
Marking hardcopy and digital copies of sheet music
Under the Schools Music Licence, schools must do all they reasonably can to mark all hardcopy and digital copies of sheet music they make with the words “AMCOS LICENSED COPY” and the following information:
- name of the school
- date copied
- the name of the owner of the original sheet music that was copied (e.g. if the school bought the original, the school or if it was a teacher, the teacher).
Live streaming school events
Schools can live stream their school event, where musical works are performed (eg a live performance of a song by a school band or orchestra) and/or a sound recording is played, in real time from the school website, a social media platform (eg Facebook Live, YouTube) or a video conferencing platform (eg Zoom). In the case of social media platforms, schools can rely on the licences that APRA AMCOS and record labels have with the social medial platforms to communicate (ie make available) the stream on the platform.
If you are live streaming a performance where a musical work or sound recording is being played on social media, it is possible that the performance may be muted or blocked by the social media platform. For what to do if this happens, see ‘Blocking or muting of event on social media’ below.
Making audio or video recordings of school events
All school event recordings which include music, made by the school should display the following notice:
‘This recording has been made under a licence from AMCOS and ARIA for school purposes only’.
Schools can also authorise members of the school community (or a third party such as a commercial videographer), to make recordings of music performed at school events, provided this is either for the exclusive use of the school, or for private and domestic listening or viewing by members of the school community (eg parents, guardians and friends can make a video of a presentation night at which the school band played, or a videographer could make a recording for the school to use later in an end-of-year presentation).
Uploading recordings of school events, where a musical work or sound recording is being played, to social media
Schools can rely on the Schools Music Licence to upload recordings of their school events to the school’s official social media page on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. In order to communicate (ie make available online) those recordings from those social media pages, schools can rely on the licences that APRA AMCOS and record labels have with the social media platforms.
Schools can also upload videos and presentations, or audio only recordings, of someone performing a musical work (not a sound recording) to the school’s official social media page on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube (e.g. a video of a student performing music or singing a song in class). If the video, presentation or audio only recording contains a sound recording, it must not be uploaded to social media (e.g. a video in which a recording downloaded from Spotify or YouTube is playing cannot be uploaded to social media).
Where schools upload recordings to social media the post may still be muted by the social media platform, or the school may be asked to take it down.
Blocking or muting of events on social media
Music recording companies (ie record labels) and some music publishers use software to identify potentially infringing content on social media platforms, such as Facebook. When a school live streams a performance where a musical work or sound recording is being played, or uploads a recording of a school event where a musical work or sound recording is played, this software may alert Facebook or other social media platforms to mute the recording or send a takedown notice to the school. If you are concerned about a live stream or recording being muted or your school being issued with a take-down notice, contact the National Copyright Unit. Alternatively, you may want to consider uploading the recording to your school website or password protected digital teaching environment or intranet.
What else can be done with audio or video recordings of school events
Schools can also do the following with their recordings of schools event(s):
- upload the recording to the school website
- upload the recordings to a password protected school server, intranet or DTE and make this available to parents, guardians and students. For example, if parents and guardians are unable to attend an assembly or graduation day, the school could send them a link to the recording on the school’s password protected intranet and allow them to download a copy for their private use
- upload the recording to an app that is being used by the school for internal school communications to members of the school community, such as Schoolbag, Seesaw, Compass and SZapp. This is limited to apps being used by the school for internal school communications, and would not include apps like Snapchat or TikTok
- email/message a copy or make a physical copy of the recording (eg copy it on to a USB) and distribute it (for a no cost or on a cost-recovery basis) to members of the school community (eg students and parents or guardians)
- provide a digital or physical copy of the recording to:
- members of the school community (e.g. parents, guardians and staff)
- other third parties, including other schools and administering bodies, to facilitate entry to events such as music competitions and festivals by students representing the school.
- stream a live communication of the school event from the school’s website.
Making audio or video recordings that are not of school events
As well as recording school events at which musical works are performed or sound recordings are played, schools are also able to make recordings that are not of school events as long as they are being made for school purposes. Schools can:
- make videos or presentations (eg classroom PowerPoint slides, presentations for assemblies or functions or end of year videos) in which musical works or sound recordings are playing in the background
- record someone playing a musical work (eg record a student playing the violin)
- copy sound recordings (eg download tracks from a streaming service, such as Spotify, or format shift a CD to MP3):
- for the educational purposes of the school (eg to play in class relevant to material being studied, whether face-to-face or virtual) – this doesn’t extend to ‘just-in-case’ format shifting of whole CD collections
- to use at a school event (eg to play at a school graduation); or
- to include in another work, such as a video or presentation (e.g. to add as a soundtrack to a PowerPoint presentation or a commemorative video).
Schools should not undertake ‘just-in-case’ copying, such as format shifting entire CD collections.
All recordings and videos and presentations, which include music, made by the school should display the following notice:
‘This recording has been made under a licence from AMCOS and ARIA for school purposes only’.
What can schools do with audio or video recordings that are not of school events
Schools can do the following with:
- recordings of musical works (eg a recording of a student performing a musical work in class)
- videos and presentations that include musical works (eg a PowerPoint presentation to which a recording of the school choir has been added)
- upload them to the school website, password protected intranet or password protected DTE
- upload them to the school’s official social media page on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube
- email and/or message them to students and parents or guardians (the school community)
- upload them to an educational app that is being used by the school to communicate with the school community (ie Schoolbag, Seesaw, Compass and SZapp, but excluding apps like Snapchat and TikTok).
Schools can only upload sound recordings (eg a track the school has downloaded from a streaming service or a CD that the school has digitised) to an intranet, DTE, educational App, video conferencing application or school website where it is password protected and only made available to members of the school community.
Schools can only do the following with videos and presentations that are not of school events and which contain sound recordings (eg a video of the school athletics carnival highlights to which a Spotify track has been added as a soundtrack) provided that what is being done is for a school purpose:
- upload the recording to the school website, password protected intranet or password protected DTE
- email and/or message the recording to students and parents or guardians (the school community)
- upload the recording to an educational app that is being used by the school to communicate with the school community (ie Schoolbag, Seesaw, Compass and SZapp, but excluding apps like Snapchat and TikTok).
Sale of recordings made by schools
Schools may sell any of the recordings they make:
- to another school, provided that the sale price is no more than needed to cover the costs of creating the recording.
- to members of the school community for their private and domestic listening and/or viewing, provided the sale price is no more than what is needed to cover the costs of creating the recording, including, any costs staging a school event comprised in the recording (i.e. a school could sell recordings of a school event to recoup some of the costs in staging the school event but cannot sell the recordings in order to make a profit).
Summary of how schools can share recordings
This table summarises how schools are permitted to share live streams of school events, school event recordings, videos or presentations that include music and audio-only recordings under the Schools Music Licence.
|Activity||Email or message||Password protected DTE||School website or educational app||Social media|
|Live stream of school event|
|Recording of school event (audio or audio-visual)|
|Video or presentation||to which a recording of a musical work has been added (eg school makes its own recording|
|to which a sound recording has been added|
|Recordings for school purposes that are not of a school event||of a musical work|
|of a sound recording|
Teachers may also be able to rely on one of the copyright exceptions when copying musical works or sound recordings for specific purposes. There are a number of these exceptions which are listed below.
Playing sound recordings in public
Schools are able to play sound recordings in public. For independent and Catholic schools, this is under section 106 of the Copyright Act. For government schools, it is under an interim licence from PPCA which permits the use of sound recordings in connection with the activities of the school. Please note, however, that the public performance of any musical works embodied in the sound recordings must be done in accordance with the Schools Music Licence.
Teachers and students may be able to copy and communicate some musical works and sound recordings under the fair dealing exception for research or study. Teachers will only be able to rely on the fair dealing exception in limited circumstances (ie it must be for their own research or study and not the research or study of their students), but students using musical works and sound recordings as part of their study will generally be able to rely on the fair dealing exception for research or study.
For more information see Copyright Exceptions.
For more information on the disability exceptions see Disability Access Exceptions.
For more information see Copying for Exams.
If you can’t rely on the music licence, the licence with PPCA or any of the copyright exceptions to use musical works or sound recordings, you may, in limited circumstances, be able to rely on the flexible dealing exception.
For example, a teacher may be able to:
- prepare an arrangement of a musical work for students to perform in a music class when they cannot buy the arrangement they need
- format shift sound recordings from vinyl, cassette or CD into digital format such as mp3.
For more information see Flexible Dealing.
Creative Commons Music
Creative Commons (CC) music is a great alternative to buying music online, or being limited to the uses of music under the schools music licences. A song licensed under CC does not carry the risk that it will be taken down or muted if shared on social media.
There are several websites that publish digital music that is licensed under CC. CC licensed material can be copied and shared for educational purposes because the copyright owner has already given permission to use their musical works and sound recordings.
- SoundCloud – online sharing platform with option to filter search results for CC content
- Vimeo – online community with option to search for CC content
- CC Mixter – CC sound remix tool and archive
- Magnatune – CC Record label
- Jamendo – CC music distribution site
- Freesound – collaborative data base of CC licensed sounds.
Note – if you are incorporating a musical work or sound recording into another work (eg you are synching music to video footage of your school sports day or other school event) you will not be able to use a musical work or sound recording that is licenced under a CC ‘No Derivatives Works’ Licence (CC BY ND), which means that the musician does not want you to change, transform or make a derivative work using their musical work or sound recording. Under CC licences, synching the musical works and sound recordings to images amounts to transforming the musical works and sound recordings, so you won’t be able to use any music available under this particular CC licence.
See ‘Legal Music for Videos’ on the CC website for more information.
Using Music in Religious Services
Schools often use music as part of their religious services. Examples include:
- students and staff singing hymns during school assemblies
- playing recorded music in a school chapel as part of a school service
- students performing music at a school service held at a local church.
Schools that are covered by the Schools Music Licence can rely on them when using religious music if:
- the music is covered by the Schools Music Licence
- the service or event is for a school purpose
- they are using music in a way that is covered by the Schools Music Licence.
The majority of musical works (including musical works used in religious services) are part of the APRA AMCOS repertoire, and therefore covered by the Schools Music Licence, however a small number of composers/publishers are not. You can check whether a particular composer and/or music publisher is covered by the Schools Music Licence by searching APRA AMCOS Works Search. We suggest contacting APRA AMCOS at email@example.com if the composer/music publisher does not show up in the search.
If the musical work is not part of the APRA AMCOS repertoire, you should contact CCLI or OneLicense. They represent a number of publishers and composers of Christian liturgical music, and also offer music licences for congregational use. Note that the CCLI and OneLicense licences provide schools with access to the original sheet music, from which schools can make copies, and this may be appealing to some schools.
Sometimes composers or music publishers will be represented by both APRA AMCOS and CCLI or OneLicense. If this is the case, you can use their music under the Schools Music Licence.
Using Music as a School Bell
Schools often want to play musical works and sound recordings to their students over the PA system as the school bell. For example, a school might play a popular song from a streaming service such as Spotify, or play classical music from a CD, over their intercom or PA system.
All schools are able to do this.
Non-government schools are covered by the Schools Music Licence and an exception in the Copyright Act (s106 – playing a sound recording in public).
Education departments and administrative bodies
The Schools Music Licence also extends to departments and administrative bodies making copies of sheet music in order to:
- deliver music lessons to students on behalf of a school (provided such lessons do not constitute private tuition)
- for use in ensemble programs that are organised by the administrative body or department and connected with the school.
The department or administrative body may only make copies of an original version of the sheet music (i.e. an original published copy of the sheet music owned by the administrative body on behalf of each school for which it is making copies).
Note, that departments/administrative bodies are not able to rely on the licences to publish resources that contain sheet music.
Departments/administrative bodies are also able to share recordings of school events on a password protected intranet or DTE only with schools that participated in the event of which the recording was made. They cannot upload the recordings to the Department/administrative body’s intranet or DTE for general access by all schools.