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Copyright at UNSW

Events and public performances

Copyright owners have exclusive rights to perform their work in public or cause the work to be seen or heard in public, and there is no exception to this right for educational institutions. Public performance is different for each type of work and can include reading a literary work aloud, displaying artworks in a gallery, a theatrical performance or screening a film.

In general, permission must be sought from copyright owners if materials to be performed, seen or heard publicly, unless UNSW already has a licence. 

Certain performances within an academic classroom, lecture or tutorial are not considered a public performance. For more information see Copyright for teaching.  

Music in public

UNSW has a Tertiary Music Licence from the music copyright collecting societies (APRA, AMCOS, PPCA and ARIA) that covers the public performance of live or recorded music in some public areas of the university, including lobbies and waiting rooms, and music on hold for the UNSW phone system. It also covers the performance of live or recorded music at free events and performances organised by UNSW, both on and off campus.

Public performances of music that aren’t covered by the Tertiary Music Licence include:

  • events where an entry fee is charged – a separate licence with APRA and/or PPCA will be required for the event or venue
  • music use by a student-run group or third party on campus (e.g. ARC or a cafe) – the organisers will be required to arrange their own licence
  • Theatre performances that have music, dialogue, costumes and sets – grand rights must be obtained from the copyright owner as the music copyright collecting societies do not have the authority to licence these performances

For more information about how music can be used at UNSW see Music and sound recordings for teaching purposes. 

Films and videos in public

Permission from the copyright owner is required to screen a video or film publicly at UNSW, regardless of whether the event is free or not. There are no exceptions in the Copyright Act 1968 and UNSW does not have any existing licences that would cover the screening of a video or film in public.

Find out how films and videos can be used for educational purposes. 

Dramatic works in public

Permission from the copyright owner is required for the public performance of a dramatic work. Permission may also be required from the copyright owners of associated materials, such as accompanying music or set designs.

In some circumstances the accompanying music in a public performance of a dramatic work may be covered by UNSW’s Tertiary Music Licence. However, if the performance has music, dialogue, costumes and sets, grand rights must be obtained from the copyright owner as the copyright collecting societies do not have the authority to license these performances.

Recording live performances

The permission to record a live performance is different to the licence or permission for a public performance. In general, recording a performance is a form of copying, and permission will be required from the copyright owner before the recording can be made.

Recording live performances is a complex area of law, and copyright requirements are only one part of the puzzle. When recording live performances, consideration should be given to performers’ rights, moral rights and appearance permissions.

For musical performances, the Tertiary music licence covers recording performances in some situations, including:

  • audio or video recordings of musical performances by staff or students for educational purposes – including recording a staff member playing musical pieces for their students to study, or recording a student playing musical pieces for assessment purposes
  • UNSW events where copyright music is played – including graduation ceremonies and Open Day concerts


Using small portions of copyright material in conference presentations may be covered by exceptions in the Copyright Act 1968. However, in general, permission from the copyright owner is required. Permission from the copyright owner will also be required if the conference presentation will be recorded, published or made available online. For more information, see Copyright and conferences.

Artwork on display

Artworks are publicly displayed at UNSW in outdoor areas, lobbies, offices and libraries, including fifteen sculptures in the grounds of Kensington campus. The collection includes assemblages, ceramics, collages, decorative art, drawings, paintings, prints, sculptures and textiles.

UNSW art collection manages the collection and can provide guidance on issues of copyright and licensing for the display of artworks.

Need help?

For general copyright queries submit an Ask a question form, visit a Help Zone or contact us

For other queries, please contact your Outreach Librarian.