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Music and the Law

Music and the Law

By Peter MacFarlane and Paraskevi Kontoleon


Cover image reproduced with permission of the photographer © Sophie Karanicolas

Music and the Law is a book that examines the relationship between the law and the music industry in Australia. The book is specifically aimed at assisting and educating law and music students, as well as individuals involved in the music industry including musicians, managers, agents and music enthusiasts.

The book's introductory chapter considers the importance of music from a social, cultural and political perspective and provides an introduction to the Australian legal system. The book then looks specifically at various aspects of the music industry and, in particular, provides a summary of the following key aspects:

  • Contracts
  • Recording and distribution
  • Copyright
  • Musical works, literary works and sound recordings
  • Live performance and the live music industry in Australia
  • Alternative dispute resolution

The final chapter of the book provides commentary from various members of the Australian music industry including lawyers, managers, distributors and musicians.

Music and the Law is an indispensable tool to anyone attempting to navigate the world of music today, covering the wide spectrum of legal issues that those in the music industry may encounter.


Table of Cases
Table of Statutes

1. An Introduction to Music and the Law

2. The Making of Contracts and Agreements

3. Recording and Distribution

4. Copyright

5. Licensing Sound Recordings

6. Publishing – Musical and Literary Works

7. The Death and Rebirth of Live Music in Australia

8. Alternative Dispute Resolution

9. The Industry Perspective

Glossary: Key Definitions and Organisations in Australia




The authors, lecturers at the University of South Australia School of Law, write from experience as practising lawyers and as rock band musicians – a career combination which might seem unusual, until you remember that many successful musicians started life as lawyers – Peter Garrett and Peter Tchaikovsky to name but two…
         Music and the Law … would serve well as a text in a tertiary course on management and administration in the music industry.

Hon George Palmer QC, Australian Law Journal, Oct 2017, 91

[P]rovides a concise overview of the relationship between law and the music industry in Australia. The book provides an insight into legal principles of contracts, recording and distribution, copyright and licensing sound recording. The language
 is simple and easy to understand without previous knowledge of the law or the music industry.
         Music and the Law would assist both law and music students in providing a basic guide to the interaction
 of the legal system and the music industry. The book will primarily interest those seeking to understand the main concepts of how the law can be used to protect artists and musicians, specifically in fields such as intellectual property, moral rights, contracts (focusing on contracts for recording and live performance) and alternate dispute resolution.
         Musicians seeking to understand legal obligations and ramifications when recording, distributing, publishing and performing music in Australia will find this book a firm basis for understanding the challenges they may face and the protections they can employ.
         In contrast, legal practitioners may be inclined to skip the foundational chapters. However, the book still contains valuable information for practitioners and students regarding the application of law to the field of music. Whilst in-depth analysis is limited by the broad target audience, the book provides beneficial summaries of case law and recent commentary. The book can act as a useful starting point for further research.
         The books layout is logical, allowing readers to build an understanding as they read. Read full review...

Peter Hoolihan, Ethos, ACT Law Society, September 2017

This book is specifically aimed at assisting and educating law and music students, as well as individuals involved in the music industry including musicians, managers, agents and music enthusiasts.

InPrint, Law Institute Journal Victoria, June 2017

A cursory search of a university library catalogue reveals that books addressing the intersection between law and music are hard to come by. MacFarlane and Kontoleon’s contribution is welcome on that basis alone. It maps out key waypoints in the music law landscape, highlighting issues such as recording and distribution, licensing sound recordings, publishing musical works, and how state and territory regulations have impacted live music.
         A challenge the authors face is their audience’s differing levels of legal knowledge. The book is primarily addressed to members of the music industry, including people who are assumed to have no knowledge of Australia’s legal system and its basic features. The chapters regarding the basics of contract formation and copyright law may be revelatory for people in that category, whereas law students and practitioners might be inclined to skip these sections, yet still learn much from chapters explaining the quirks of the music business.
         Those keeping track of developments in the music industry would be aware that it has undergone tectonic changes in the last couple of decades. Music and the Law draws this context into focus, usefully summarising recent case law and commentary about matters arising from Napster, Spotify and “360” deals, while explaining how the law has kept pace.
         This book would be a valuable addition to the libraries of performers and composers, industry participants, as well as curious readers seeking to better understand what music law is all about.

Alistair Haskett, InPrint, Law Institute Journal Victoria, May 2017

This is an unusual and perhaps unorthodox legal text. That said it is compelling, taxonomically creative and informative. It has not pursued the traditional path of legal publication in an identified area of law. The authors have thought carefully about their chosen field and defined their own area of discourse. The title is ambiguous but accurate nevertheless. The work covers a wide variety of areas of the law which are relevant to any person engaged in the music industry including legal practitioners who have clients in that field.
        The introduction to the work is of great interest setting music in a social and legal context and noting the contribution of music and musicians to the development of the law, especially in the United States of America. The second chapter is an introductory one dealing with the making of contracts and agreements, while chapter 3 is more topic specific and deals with the complex world of recording and distribution agreements. It considers the substantial changes in this area of business wrought by the introduction of the digital distribution of music. It also deals with the numerous important cases concerning contracts between record label companies and musicians. Subsequent chapters deal with copyright, licensing sound recordings and publication of musical and literary works. Another interesting discussion occurs in chapter 7 dealing with legal issues surrounding the live music industry in Australia. A final chapter has insights from participants in the music industry reflecting on the difficult legal minefield in which they have had to operate.
        This is another excellent recent publication from the Federation Press which continues to be the leader of legal academic publishing in Australia. It will appeal to participants in the music industry and their lawyers.

Queensland Law Reporter, 10 February 2017, [2017] 05 QLR


Published 14 December 2016
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781760020811
Australian RRP $59.95
International Price $54.50
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Law - Entertainment
Law - Intellectual Property

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