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Media Release: APRA AMCOS and the PPCA caught sharing personal information about their licensees

COSBOA today has lodged a privacy complaint with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner about the behaviour of the Australasian Performing Rights Association and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (APRA AMCOS), and the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia Limited (PPCA).

These organisations licence businesses to use copyrighted musical works and copyrighted sound recordings, respectively. In July 2019 they launched a new venture, OneMusic Australia, which allows businesses to take out a single licence for both rights (musical works and sound recordings). COSBOA has criticized OneMusic and APRA AMCOS in the past for unreasonably high licence fees, lack of transparency, inaccurate distribution of royalties to members, and bullying behaviour.

But it gets worse: it has come to COSBOA’s attention that the organisations have been sharing personal information about their licensees with each other in order to raise licence revenue for OneMusic Australia. The organisations appear to have compared databases of current and past licensees to identify APRA licensees who are not currently PPCA licensees and PPCA licensees who are not currently APRA and/or AMCOS licensees.

The personal information includes the names of people filling out licence applications on behalf of businesses, their titles/ positions, and their contact details including their physical addresses, email addresses, fax details and phone contact details. These people are being contacted and threatened with legal action if they do not immediately take out a licence from the other organisation through OneMusic Australia.

COSBOA CEO Peter Strong said “this is atrocious. It just proves that APRA AMCOS and the PPCA are a cartel and a law unto themselves. These organisations clearly have no respect for small businesses or individuals and are only interested in raising as much money as possible to send overseas to the major record labels which control them.”

Mr Strong added “we know that APRA is constrained by the Privacy Act of 1988. They said it themselves when it was suggested to them that they release details on who was paying what to certain industry associations so that the industry associations could make sure that their members weren’t being ripped off. But apparently the Privacy Act only applies to APRA when it’s convenient to APRA.”

COSBOA has been contacted by small businesses who have been bullied by OneMusic Australia. In one example, there was no basis for the small business owner to be contacted as, in his own words, he had not “performed in public, reproduced or communicated any music in the past 12 months.” The highly aggressive, threatening language of OneMusic deterred him from ever taking out a licence to use music in the future.

Mr Strong said “it is threatening emails like this which make people believe they are a scam. If you look at the conventional advice given to small businesses on how to spot scams, OneMusic’s emails show a lot of the signs, like being pushy and intimidating and threatening you with a penalty if you don’t take action immediately.”

Mr Strong added “if the ATO or any other Government regulator behaved like this, people would rightly be appalled and there would be a senate inquiry.”

Mr Strong concluded “It’s a shame that this bullying behaviour is putting people off taking out licences for using music in their businesses because, when it comes down to it, in most cases, music licensing is just small businesses paying to use the products or services of other small businesses.”

“We must not forget that songwriters and musicians are small businesses too and deserve to be remunerated for their work. Unfortunately, they are being represented in this negotiation by a highly aggressive, multi-million-dollar monopoly. The behaviour of this monopoly is creating resentment between small businesses where there should be respect and solidarity, and further isolating artists from the small business community. It’s truly a shame.”

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