Copyright for the dance industry factsheet #3

In This Article

Copyright is a type of protection for people who produce things like writing, images, music, choreography and films. Copyright is a legal right to prevent others from doing things like copying and making available to others, without permission. Copyright law comes from the Copyright Act and from court decisions.

Your choreography and copyright

There is no system of registration for copyright protection in Australia. You do not need to publish your work or put a copyright notice on it to be covered by copyright—the protection is free and automatic. Australian copyright works are protected in most other countries, and copyright works from most other countries are protected in Australia. A copyright owner can transfer the copyright, or parts of it, to others.

However, to be protected by copyright law, your choreography does need to be both 'original' and recorded in 'material form' (documented in some way—recorded on video or written down in dance notation).

For more information, visit the Australian Copyright Council website for their Choreographers and copyright factsheet.

Meeting your Copyright Act obligations

Get permission from the copyright owner

You need copyright permission when:

  • you use something protected by copyright
  • you use a 'substantial part'
  • the copyright has not expired
  • your use is controlled by the copyright owner (the copyright owner has the exclusive right to make the use)
  • your use is not covered by a special exception.

Visit the Australian Copyright Council website for their Permission: How To Get It factsheet.

Always acknowledge the creator and get your use approved by the creator

Even if the creator of the work doesn't own copyright, they still have Moral rights, which means you are legally obligated to attribute/acknowledge creators of works and also to not do anything with a work that may damage the creator's reputation or be offensive to the creator. 

Using other people's photographs

If displaying or publishing images of your work, you need to get permission—preferably in writing—from the photographer and everyone appearing in the image. Always acknowledge the photographer in the accompanying caption. It is also a good idea to accompany any photograph with as much information as possible, i.e. location, date, event etc.

Dance schools

Licences to use music

If you are playing music in your dance classes, copying music or sound recordings to give to your students or recording performances of your dance school events, you'll need music licences.

Dance schools who use recorded music in their classes will need to get licences from both APRA AMCOS and Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA).

APRA AMCOS have three licences to cover the various activities of dance schools.

  • Public Performance of Music licence: for playing music at your dance school as part of dance classes.
  • Reproduction of Music licence: for copying music and sound recordings to give to your pupils. This AMCOS-ARIA licence covers 1. Audio recordings; and 2. Video recordings of dance school concert events (max 75 videos each year). 
  • End of Year (or similar) Concerts licence: Playing music outside the dance class at end-of-year or similar concerts.

Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) licences allow you to publicly perform/play commercial sound recordings: i.e. to play a CD in a dance class. The PPCA licence is separate to, and distinct from, an APRA licence. If you publicly perform a sound recording, you will need to apply for a licence from both PPCA and APRA AMCOS.

Key organisations

  • The Arts Law Centre of Australia (ALCA) is the national community legal centre for the arts. ALCA gives preliminary advice and information to artists and arts organisations across all artforms on a wide range of arts-related legal and business matters including contracts, copyright, business names and structures, defamation, insurance and employment.
  • The Australian Copyright Council (ACC) is an independent non-profit organisation. Their website has a long list of current copyright information sheets.
  • Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) is an Australian copyright management company whose role is to provide a bridge between creators and users of copyright material. CAL represents authors, journalists, visual artists, photographers and newspaper, magazine and book publishers as their non-exclusive agent to license the copying of their works to the general community.