Copyright - Part 2

Copyright - Part 2
Type of post: News
Sub-type: No sub-type
Posted By: Dick Bushell
Status: Current
Date Posted: Fri, 19 Apr 2019

As explained in the last edition of In Harmony, ensuring compliance with copyright law is not always straightforward.  You must have a sufficient number of legal copies of any sheet music for each member of the chorus or quartet.  (Note, however, that if your group is capable enough, you may be able to learn a song just from (legal) learning tracks and not need sheet music at all).

Some barbershop sheet music can be purchased in Australia.  Online music stores such as may also have what you want.  (Sheet Music Plus sells either printed sheet music or an electronic copy with a print licence).  However, the most extensive source of barbershop music is at the Barbershop Harmony Society Market Place at .

Copyright law in the USA is somewhat different from that in the rest of the world (where copyright exists).  As a consequence, the BHS sheet music may or may not meet copyright requirements in Australia or New Zealand so they may or may not be able to sell you it directly.  If BHS is unable to sell the music directly, you will need to obtain a print licence for the number of copies you want.  BHS can obtain a licence for you but charge $US150 just for the licence and this is likely to be a more expensive route.

What is usually best is that BHS can provide a single reference copy of any song in its library to any BHA or BHNZ affiliated group.  This will allow you to seek a print licence for the number of copies you need. 

The first step is to determine who represents the copyright owner.  You can contact the Australian Performing Rights Association,, with the names of the authors and arranger.  Alternatively, Hal Leonard, Devirra or Alfred Music can usually tell you if it is or is not them. 

There are really only two copyright houses in Australia and New Zealand (both located in Australia): Hal Leonard Ltd (contact Robert Griffin, +61 3 9585 3300 ext 138 or and Devirra Corp (contact +61 2 8707 3650 or ).  In addition, however, Alfred Music in the US licences their music directly to Australia and New Zealand (contact Michael Degen on +1 (818) 891-5999 ext.1113, or go to

APRA can also tell you if the song is in the public domain – but make sure you specify Australia or New Zealand when asking as there are some differences.  You may also need to be careful as the song may be in the public domain, but the only sheet music you can find is still in copyright.  While you might not be able to copy the sheet music in this case, you can legally jot down the notes and the words for any public domain song from listening to it.

Occasionally, multiple copyright houses have part claims over the copyright and you will have to deal with.  When multiple houses are involved, the process can take longer than usual and you might even want to consider a different song.  The process is really long winded if the total claim between the two exceeds 100% which also happens very occasionally.

Once you have identified the correct copyright house, email them (addresses above) and ask for a print licence (or an arrangment licence in the case of Alfred Music).  You will need to give the name of the song, the names of the authors (for both words and music), the name of the arranger and the number of copies you want.  You will need to send a pdf of the one legal copy of the music you and may need to give proof of purchase – or indicate it is a reference copy from BHS.  After a variable delay of a day or two to a month or three, you will get a print licence and an invoice.  Very occasionally, however, a licence may not be granted and you need to be prepared for this. 

After a couple of times of going through the process, most people find the process fairly easy.  And in times of trouble, you can always phone a friend as plenty of others in BHA and BHNZ will have been down the same path.  Good luck!!

John Faris