The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is calling on the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) to provide greater transparency about licence fees and royalties if it is to reauthorise its musical works licensing arrangements for a further four years.

The APRA and its members hold performing rights for almost all commercially popular music played or performed in Australia and earn royalties from those rights. In most cases, members assign these rights on an exclusive basis to APRA, which collects royalties by imposing licence fees on users of that music.

For many businesses that play music, including retailers, cafes and bars, their only option is to obtain and pay for a licence from APRA.

ACCC deputy chair, Mick Keogh said, “Collective management of copyright is generally more efficient than songwriters having to independently negotiate and collect royalties directly from each business that plays their songs. However, APRA’s exclusivity provisions can mean higher fees for some businesses that want to play music.”

There are concerns about the licence fees charged by the APRA due to lack of transparency and accountability both to members and to businesses from which it collects licence fees.

The ACCC will grant reauthorisation to the APRA with a number of conditions that limit its market power and help protect songwriters and small businesses.

The APRA must publish its methodologies for calculating the rates for each category of licence and an explanation each time licence rates are increased by more than CPI. In addition, APRA must publish more detailed information about its royalty distributions to its members, publish an annual transparency report with information on rights revenue, operating costs and payments to members, and continue the ‘Resolutions Pathways’ alternative dispute resolution scheme.

“If the information APRA publishes about how it calculates its licence rates is not sufficiently clear and detailed, the ACCC is able tor require that an independent report be prepared,” Keogh said.

The APRA said it appreciated the opportunity to respond to various industry submissions made to the ACCC during the authorisation renewal process and looks forward to implementing improvements to continue to better serve its members and licensees.