Public use of copyright works

Public use of copyright works

There are specific requirements around the public use of music and film. In these cases, the copyright owners are still entitled to be asked for permission on the use of their work.


Businesses and organisations often play background music or the radio to create ambience, or hire bands, solo artists, DJs and karaoke or jukebox equipment to entertain their customers and staff. Using music or playing the radio in a business or public setting is considered a “public performance” under the New Zealand Copyright Act 1994. A public performance covers playing music and radio broadcasts in any commercial environment (e.g. café, restaurant, bar, hair/ beauty salon, dance studio, store, shop or factory).

The copyright owners are entitled to be asked for their permission and to charge a fee for the use of their work. You'll almost certainly need permission from the copyright owners if you want to:

  • play pre-recorded music,
  • play the radio at your business premises,
  • make piped music mixes for your business. 

New Zealand businesses and organisations can sign up for a OneMusic licence, which covers the rights of both APRA (who represent songwriters and music publishers) and Recorded Music NZ (who represent record companies and artists). For more information see the OneMusic website.

You'll also need permission from the performers (often called a release) if you want to record the event. You should also inform your guests if audience images will be taken to avoid privacy law disputes. Typically, event organisers will include a filming or photography notice on the invitation or entry ticket.

Film and television

Moving images - including feature films, documentaries, short films, home videos, animated films, television programmes and commercials - are protected as “films” under the Copyright Act 1994.

Films generally incorporate a set of separate copyrights, including copyright in the screenplay, visual images and soundtrack.

Film producers need to ensure they have clearance to use any third party copyright works included in their film.

You may also find the New Zealand Film Commission website useful.