Australian Live Music Industry Worth More Than $1.2 Billion
Australian Live Music Industry Worth More Than $1.2 Billion

Performance and broadcast royalties continue to show strong growth Down Under, where the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) this week announced it had distributed a record $71.2 million Australian ($75.9 million) to its members

APRA's latest royalty distribution -- covering the six-month period to Dec. 31, 2010 -- represents a 7% rise on the corresponding period the previous year.

In a snapshot of the society's recent activity, APRA said 57% of royalty payments went to its 67,000-plus Australian or New Zealand members, the balance going to members of overseas collecting societies.

The society also said more than 19,500 Australian or NZ writer members received a royalty payment, up 6.25% on 2010.

"In an increasingly challenging environment," comments APRA/AMCOS CEO Brett Cottle, "it is heartening to see royalty distributions increasing for those who create the music."

APRAs full financial figures - including those for sister mechanical rights organization AMCOS - will be released in its annual report in October.

Also later in the year, APRA will move from a half-yearly to a quarterly distribution cycle for its members. In announcing that move, Cottle noted the difficulties associated with the rise of electronic media.

"The advent of digital services and the dramatic increase in television services in recent years means that we are having to process vastly more performance data than ever before," he said, "and having to make many thousands of micro payments to members.

While the aggregate sums being distributed continue to increase, Cottle explains, individual returns to writers are in most cases declining. Apart from Apple's iTunes service, no other digital service had really gained traction, meaning that the financial returns to songwriters and publishers were still dominated by traditional media and performance outlets.

"The biggest barrier to earnings for music copyright owners remains free, illegal content on the web. It is well past time for ISPs in this country to take some responsibility in relation to illegal file-sharing."

And in other news from these parts, the movie studios can claim a small victory in their drawn-out copyright battle with the Australia iiNet Internet Service Provider.

Despite losing both the primary case and an appeal, trade body the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) has won a big discount on its costs.

The full bench of Sydney's Federal Court has ordered the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) to pay just 60% of iiNet's costs, a decision which flouts Justice Dennis Cowdroy earlier demand for AFACT to pay the full sum.

For AFACT, the discount could result in a saving of up to $1.5 million Australian ($1.6 million), observers say, bearing in mind the ISP's previously-reported costs from the earlier trial of about $3.8 million Australian ($4 million).

In the full bench's ruling, Justice Emmett explained that it was at the "general discretion" of the court to "consider an order that involves depriving a successful party [iiNet] of some of its costs". He added, "Ordinarily the successful litigant receives its costs."

It's a win-some, lose-some scenario for AFACT's legal team who at the start of the hearing had argued the studios should pay no more than 20% of iiNet's costs.

AFACT represents 34 Australian and U.S. movie companies and Sydney-based broadcaster Seven Network. The industry group launched its case in November 2008 arguing that iiNet had failed to take adequate steps to prevent known repeat copyright breaches by users on its network. The studios' case was ultimately rejected, and AFACT subsequently appealed the decision in the Federal Court of Australia. That appeal too was rejected earlier this year.

In March, AFACT turned to the country's High Court -- the final court of appeal -- in a last-ditch attempt to overturn the Federal Court ruling.

The music industry is closely following this copyright infringement case, as is the national communications minister Stephen Conroy. Many believe the outcome of this trial could shape the country's stance on "three-strikes" anti-piracy legislation.