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How to: Copyright Symbol

Mark Beard - Friday, December 03, 2010

How to use the Copyright Symbol in music

The symbols © and (P)

The © symbol that you may find on most CDs is not required by the Australian Copyright Act for copyright protection to be applied. It simply serves as a warning to others that the work is copyright-protected.

The symbol ( P) is required by the Rome Convention to indicate the owner of the copyright in the sound recording. (the ‘p’ stands for ‘phonograph’, an old word for a sound recording). So what is the most acceptable way in which to use these symbols?

ARIA, the Australian Record Industry Association, suggests the following standards; however, on close inspection of CD covers you will see that a variety of applications are used. The use of these symbols on many records is purely the result of guesswork.
As a guide, ARIA suggests that the owners of the copyright in the music and lyrics be identified with the symbol © .

This will usually be the songwriter(s) who wrote the music and lyrics or the current owner of the copyright (such as a music publisher) if the original owner(s) have assigned or licensed the works to the new owner or controller of the copyright.
ARIA suggests the (P) appears with the name of the owner of the sound recording followed by the year that the sound recording was first published.


The owner of the copyright in the sound recording will generally be the person who paid for the sound recording.

Down Under vs Kookaburra

Info Info - Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Down Under vs Kookaburra

There has been a lot of discussion in recent months around the ‘Down Under’ vs ‘Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree’ case.  See: for the latest.


As the parties are back in court this week, I thought it timely to conduct a closer inspection of what is happening in this case.


It really comes do to an example of the significant portion rule.


Substantial portion

An infringement is seen to have taken place when a ‘substantial portion’ of the copyright-protected work is being used without the permission of the copyright owner or the payment of the correct royalty. So what exactly is a ‘substantial portion’?


It can be a question of quality and or quantity.  The question turns to the particular essence or quality of the part that is taken, not how many words or how much of the melody of the original work are used.  A snippet of a song (like ‘Kookaburra’) can still be an infringement


There is no hard and fast rule — it is different in every case. Generally, however, if the part of the copyright-protected music that you are using is recognisable as having come from somewhere else, you will need to obtain permission or pay a royalty — or provide a defence as to why you did not.


û    I can use any music I want, as long as I change a note or two.

û    I can use up to 13 seconds of a song without gaining permission.

û    As long as I’m not making a profit from using a song, I can use any part of it I want.

û    I didn’t know the part of the song I was using was ‘recognisable’, so I didn’t need to get permission.

û    I’ll just use it. No-one will ever know.



In the current case the authors of ‘Down Under’ are saying that the reference to Kookaburra is an insignificant portion.  It is important to note that their defence did not include a suggestion that there were no similarities between ‘Down Under’ and Kookaburra.  The last phrase of the flute riff in ‘Down Under’ is exactly the same as the opening melody line in Kookaburra.  The court agrees with this assessment and it is now up to the courts to decide what that substantial portion is worth in dollar terms.


Watch this space for a discussion of the courts ruling.

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