Copyrights in Music: What Every Musician Should Know

Music Copyrights Law

Musicians work very hard in producing original music works. They need to know about how to protect their original work? How to earn money on sound recording or music? How to make sure that their work is not getting infringed? Let’s understand some basics about music copyright laws in India-

What is a Copyright?

Copyright grants an exclusive right to the owner for their artistic, literary, dramatic, musical and cinematographic works. It protects the original work of the author or creator by providing exclusive usage and distribution rights to the author. It is the legal right of the author to protect his/her works. A copyright is granted to the author to protect his/her work from infringement. It may include poems, books, magazines, songs, films, artwork, paintings, and web pages.

What is copyright in music?

Copyright in music is a legal right granted to the owner of a musical composition or sound recording to reproduce or redistribute the work. The creation should be the original work of acreator and should be in tangible form. Musical work can be in the form of written musical notations or broadsheets or a MIDI file. There are two components of every track or a song i.e. lyrics and music. Lyrics or words of a song are literary works whereas musical work is a sound recording. A published version of a musical has a separate copyright.

In other words, a song has several elements which are independently eligible for copyright protection. There are various artists behind a song.  A lyricist writes a song. A composer gives music to the song. The singer sings a song or song is recorded in the studio by a producer i.e. a sound recording. Therefore, there are various ownerships in a single song – lyricist, composer, singer, and producer. But, in case if all these activities of writing, composing and recording a song is done by a single person, then he will have the sole right for the song.

In music copyright law, a single piece of any type of recorded music has two rights:

  • The first right protects the arrangement of musical notes, rhythm, chords and lyrics i.e. all musical composition or a song.
  • The second right protects the sound recording i.e. the recording of the musical composition.

What rights are given to the copyright owners-

Exclusive or legal rights are granted to the owner of a musical work. These rights are:

  1. To reproduce the work. Acreator can make copies of his/her original work either in form of a CD, movie or any medium and making work available to the public.
  2. The distribute or sell copies of the work of a creator to the public.
  3. Create a derivative version of the creator’s original work.
  4. Perform the work publically such as by performing on live shows, TV/broadcast, performances, playing music in bars, clubs and restaurants.
  5. Perform the work by means of digital audio transmission
  6. Display work in public.

How to copyright or register a song-

Only creating a song or music is not enough, you need to protect it in order to earn royalty and avoid any damage that may be caused due to infringement. Copyrighting all the elements of a song is important i.e. lyrics, music, and recording, to get complete protection of the song. Therefore, you need to register individual elements in order to copyright a song. All elements should be in the required format or file. Song’s lyrics can be in the word file i.e. in tangible form, music in a music sheet, and recording in a wav file. Copyright registration India is not very complex. Steps to copyright a song are –

  1. File an online application on the copyright website of the Government of India, describing all details of the copyright.
  2. Pay the requisite fees.

Term of Copyright –

It lasts for 60 years from the date of its publication or for the lifetime of the author plus 60 years from the date of the author’s death.

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