So You Want to (Legally) Add Copyright Music to a Film. Here’s the Right Way to Do It.

Many people who are into filmaking in all its possible variances – short films, doccos, news, feature length movies or simply just for fun – want to at some point add copyrighted music. It might be from their favourite artist, a piece that just fits or a particular mode or lyrics.

The long and the short is you can’t, not without going through the correct approval process(es) anyway. I contacted APRA, the governing body in Australia for their advice, and here is what they sent me.


In order to create a video containing music, and then post it publicly online, there are three areas of copyright which must be cleared. The first two are for the actual creation of the video. The third step is to then make the video available online.

  1. Synchronisation

 Whenever music is included in any type of video (audio/visual production), this is referred to as a synchronisation. “Synch” rights must be obtained in order to create any video. This is usually through the publisher of the song. This includes background music, especially in a commercial context.

  1. Master Rights

If you are using any recording of a song you have not created yourself, you must obtain permission to use the recording (or “master rights”) from owner of the recording, usually a record company. If you are using your own recording (e.g. a cover version you have commissioned or a live recording you have filmed yourself) then you do not need to seek master rights.

If you require assistance in identifying the publishing rights holders of a particular work, you can use our search feature found on our website, by clicking the menu button and selecting search works.

You will then need to contact them directly to obtain a quote for the use of the song and sound recording.

  1. Communication rights

To then make this video available online, the communication right to broadcast (i.e. stream) the video from a website must be cleared through APRA AMCOS, as we administer these rights on behalf of composers and music publishers.  For more information on communication licences, please provide the website where the video will be hosted, whether or not the video will be generating any revenue. We may require more information depending on these answers. In regards to Facebook, YouTube & Instagram, currently APRA licences them directly for the streaming of videos which contain copyright music. This means no additional rights need to be cleared with APRA to upload a video directly to these sites. The Sync and Master rights still must still be cleared as described in points 1 and 2.


If you want some more information here are the contact details:

 Emma Hughes
Account Assistant, Recorded Licensing

Media Licensing

16 Mountain Street
Ultimo NSW 2007

P +61 02 9935 7626
E ehughes@apra.com.au

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