Recently The BBC published 16’000 free audio samples, letting you ‘Explore a weird and wonderful collection of noises from the broadcasting behemoth‘. Wait – can I broadcast these samples on my radio show?


Long story short, no you can’t. Let’s zoom out a bit though and take a look at copyright in Australia and the ‘Fair Dealing’ exception. 

Disclaimer: This article is merely advice. If you need to know how copyright applies to a particular situation, get advice from a lawyer. 

As we explained in our ‘Using photos, copyright and creative commons‘ article, copyright is an umbrella law that protects creators of original content whether it be music, photography, art and/or other original and creative ventures. When someone creates something they are the only person who can copy, distribute, adapt, perform or broadcast the work in public. The owners of copyright can license or give ther rights to others whether it is for free or paid.

Copyright laws in Australia are really strong and work in favour of the artist or creator of the work. Under Australian law, copyright is automatic. That means that as soon as someone creates something, they don’t need to register for copyright and there is no legal requirement to put a copyrright notice on their work. As soon as the work is recorded it is protected under copyright. 

According to Music Rights Australia, the penalties for breaching copyright area range from ‘injunctions, damages and costs through to fines of up to $60,500 for individuals and up to $302,500 for corporations per infringement and/or up to 5 years imprisonment. The police can also issue an on-the-spot fine of $1320 and seize copyright infringing music and devices, including computers and servers used in the commission of the crime.’

Recently, the BBC uploaded thousands of free sounds to their website which they made downloadable. The bio stated: “These 16,000 BBC Sound Effects are made available by the BBC in WAV format to download for use under the terms of the RemArc Licence. The Sound Effects are BBC copyright, but they may be used for personal, educational or research purposes, as detailed in the license.”Copy of Copy of Cream and Orange Event Horse Poster

Q: Can I create an audio piece using the BBC samples and broadcast them on my radio show?

A: The BBC’s content license only allows you to use this material if you are using it for non-commercial, personal or research purposes. Or if you are a student or a member of staff at a school, college or university. So unfortunately you can’t use these in a piece you will be broadcasting out to the public. This brings us to something called the ‘Fair Dealing’ exception to copyright. 

 According to the Australian Copyright Council, “The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) allows people to use copyright material without the copyright owners permission in certain situations. These include making a “fair dealing” for certain purposes”. Those purposes are:

– Special provisions for educational institutions
– Special provisions for libraries
– Special provisions for governments
– Private copying exceptions
– Other special cases

In short, unless you’re using the material for the following purposes, you need to seek permission or a license to use the material:

– Research or study
– Criticism or review
– Parody or satire
– Reporting news
– Enabling a person with a disability to access the material.
– Professional advice by lawyer, patent attorney or trade marks attorney. 

Q: So what can I, as a community broadcaster play legally on my program?

A: You can play anything as long as you have permission for it.

Music Rights Australia tells us that ‘generally, a community broadcaster need to obtain broadcasting licences for musical works from APRA and for sound recordings from PPCA or the individual sound recording copyright owners…If you are a member of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA) then you may make use of the industry agreement that has been negotiated between PPCA and CBAA.”

Do I need permission to broadcast music on my community radio station?

Yes. Generally, a community broadcaster needs to obtain broadcasting licences for musical works from APRA and for sound recordings from PPCA or the individual sound recording copyright owners. APRA offer blanket broadcast licences. If you are a member of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA) then you may make use of the industry agreement that has been negotiated between PPCA and CBAA. However, you are not obliged to use this agreement. You can negotiate a separate licence with PPCA or with the individual copyright holders.

Finally, if you are broadcasting a live performance (for example from a community concert), you will also need to make sure you have permission from the performing artist(s) to broadcast the performance.

P.s. it’s probably best to stay away from playing songs from Youtube out to air as you can’t guarantee how the songs were obtained in the first place. If they were downloaded from a fileshare site illegally then you may be in breach of copyright.  I’m after some music to play under a promo for my station – can I use audio from free sound archives online

Q: I’m after some music to play under a promo for my station – can I use audio from free sound archives online?

A: Yes, you can however you need to see what terms the creator of the material up on those website has in order for you to use their material. For example some creators require ‘Attribution with permission’, whilst you must fall under certain criteria to use others. As a rule of thumb, ask permission, no matter what the content is and no matter where it is located. Check out our article on copyright and creative commons to give you a better idea why audio that might seem free to use is actually only free to use if you adhere to a number of terms and conditions. 

A few resources while you’re here:

Music Rights Australia for artists: 

More on fair dealing

Music rights fact sheet for community broadcasters: 

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