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Music : Copyright & Referencing

Everything you need to know about music resources and how to find them in the ECU library

Copyright & Referencing for Musicians

Referencing and copyright is vital to your Student life, Legal life, and as a Practitioner!

Referencing correctly:

  • Protects you from claims of plagiarism
  • Shows your workings Like high school math, might even get you “part marks”
  • Makes you a part of the (academic) conversation

Using copyright correctly

  • Protects you from claims of "ripping off" another artist
  • Protects your work

As a practicing musician, this should all make sense, you Quote and riff-off other works all the time, and don't "hide" it. References and copyright notices may be more explicit than alluding to another work, but they're just another part of creative practice.

See the tabs to the right regarding how to reference in APA and Chicago styles, and information on copyright.

Finding Copyright Owners

Finding the Copyright owners for music can be difficult, especially when the Copyright for Recorded performances, and for the Published music (the owners of the print music) may be different.

Performance Rights Organisations (PRO), also known as a performing rights society, provides intermediary functions, particularly collection of royalties, between copyright holders and parties who wish to use copyrighted works publicly in locations such as shopping and dining venues

ECU APA Referencing Guide

Referencing & Copyright Resources

Referencing is to cite the sources you used as you quote them in your essay and at its conclusion, in your bibliography. It is important as an acknowledgement of your sources and allows colleagues to follow the path you’ve taken. The referencing system adopted as standard by ECU is called the APA system (American Psychological Association). However, Music also uses the Chicago Note and Bibliography style, both are supported here.

The referencing subject guide published by ECU now includes music score and recording examples, book, journal article, website referencing and handy links, videos and tips.

APA Style Central is a comprehensive and authoritative online resource that is designed to assist with the application of APA style formatting rules. It provides access to videos, quizzes, and a searchable collection of sample references, as well as information on academic writing and research in the psychology field. This database features full integration of the "Publication manual of the American Psychological Association" and the "APA style guide to electronic references".
This seventeenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style has been prepared with an eye toward how we find, create, and cite information that readers are as likely to access from their pockets as from a bookshelf. It offers updated guidelines on electronic workflows and publication formats, tools for PDF annotation and citation management, web accessibility standards, and effective use of metadata, abstracts, and keywords. It recognizes the needs of those who are self-publishing or following open access or Creative Commons publishing models. The citation chapters reflect the ever-expanding universe of electronic sources--including social media posts and comments, private messages, and app content--and also offer updated guidelines on such issues as DOIs, time stamps, and e-book locators
Differences between APA and Chicago 17th A
In-text citations in APA are (Author, Date) style in-line with the paragraphs of the assignment, Chicago is a Footnote style.
Authors are normally fully spelt-out in Chicago, with all authors after the first spelt in natural name order, i.e.:

McLaughlan, Paul, and Lutie Sheridan.

Multiple authors are listed up till 10 authors, if there are more than 10 authors, list the first seven followed by "et al."

Titles for parts (i.e. article titles, movements from a whole work, etc.) are in "quotes" for Chicago, and without quotes in APA. Titles for whole publications (i.e. book titles, anthology titles, journal titles) are italicised in both styles.


If performing works of others that are in copyright you generally need permission from the copyright owner (usually the composer or the music publisher) or have a license from APRA/AMCOS to perform the work in public.

Some venues may already have licenses to cover performance but you would need to check with the venue.

Students and staff may be able to perform music without permission in limited circumstances, where it is for their research or study or teaching purposes.


Copyright protection arises automatically on the creation or significant new arrangement of music. You do not need to register but © name of composer and year may remind others the work is protected by copyright.

There is separate copyright for lyrics and music and for sound recordings of music.

Co-composers share copyright.

There is also separate copyright in arrangements of music that display sufficient originality (eg transposing music into a different key may not be considered a ‘new arrangement’.)

You, as a composer, control the rights to copy, perform and record the music you create. You can join APRA/AMCOS and they collect royalties on your behalf including where work is performed/recorded overseas and they have arrangements with an overseas collecting society.

You also have the right to be attributed as the composer or lyricist of your music under Moral Rights.

Research and Study

Australian Copyright law allows for a student in a University to photocopy 10 per cent or one chapter of a book or a journal article for educational study or research purposes. Photocopying entire books or journals and photocopying multiple copies is illegal, unless you have specific written permission of the copyright holders or their representatives.

Similarly, tracks may be copied from CDs or LPs for study/research purposes (eg an assignment or class presentation) but copying whole albums or making multiples is illegal. It is important to understand and acknowledge the copyright legislation.  Refer to the following web references for copyright information and books on Copyright in the library.