Copyright in Music

These days copyright in music is in news for various aspects like unauthorised copying from Hollywood, composer/singer rights, licensing and broadcasting rights. In order to understand each of these copyright issues it is firstly, important to know what copyright is.

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By Shivi Gupta in IPR

July 24, 2018, 12:08 p.m.

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Out of all the forms of protected works, music is one of the most protected and restricted. From Bollywood to Tollywood, from Punjabi rap songs to remixes, India is a home to many songs. These days copyright in music is in news for various aspects like unauthorised copying from Hollywood, composer/singer rights, licensing and broadcasting rights. In order to understand each of these copyright issues it is firstly, important to know what copyright is.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is one of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), given by the law to the owners/creators of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and producers of cinematograph films and sound recordings. By protecting the works of artists, it aims at producing an environment conducive of creativity and economic growth.

Ownership in Music/ Song

A song can have various aspects of ownership in it ranging from the lyrics, music, etc. The ownership in a song comes in several parts and it may or may not be in the hands of a single person.

  • The lyrics of the song can be protected as a literary work wherein the owner of the copyright will be the lyricist. 
  • The music of the song can be protected as a musical work wherein the owner of the copyright will be the composer and
  • The song together with music and lyrics which is recorded can be protected as a sound recording altogether and the owner of the copyright will be the producer of the sound recording (the record label in general).
  • The singer of the song can claim performer’s rights and morality rights.

The term of a copyright in case of a musical work or a literary work is the lifetime of the author plus sixty years while in case of sound recording copyright subsists until sixty years from the beginning of the calendar year next following the year in it is published. The performer's right in his performance shall subsist until fifty years from the beginning of the calendar year next following the year in which the performance is made.

 

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Rights of the Song Owner

A song owner has a variety of exclusive rights and authorisation is required by others to perform the same activity or else it would amount to infringement. Several rights to which a copyright owner is entitled to includes-

  • Produce the work in public
  • Publish the work
  • Perform the work in public
  • Translate the work
  • Make any cinematograph film, or a record in respect of the work
  • Broadcast the work
  • Make any adaptation of the work
  • Make copies of the work and distribute the work
  • Make derivatives of the work
  • Prevent others from making unauthorized use of copyrighted work.

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How to Copyright a Song in India?

A copyright lawyer must be hired to file an application to obtain copyright in India. A copyright lawyer can file an application on your behalf, with the Copyright Office. The copyright application must be filed along with 4 copies of the work along with the prescribed fee.

An application number and receipt is given by the Copyright Office. After that, the Office examines the application and either approves it or communicates the objections to copyright application. Once the application is accepted, copyright is granted for the music or song.

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Licensing and Copyright 

As per the Copyright Act, license is the right to use a copyrighted song or the right to use benefits of having a copyright of music. In general terms, a music license agreement is an agreement between a third party and the creator(s) for use of the composition, in exchange of money. The party that obtains the license is referred to as a licensee. 

A licensing agreement drafted by top copyright lawyers in India ensures that the rights of the creators and the producers are not violated and they get their returns by way of royalties. Royalty, in simple terms, is a payment made to the legal owner for the use of his property/ work. Licensing allows commercial usage of a copyrighted work. 

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Copyright Societies in India

It is a very cumbersome process for artists to look after each licensing agreements.  In order to avoid the hassle, artists register with copyright societies. These societies, collectively, grant licenses to the third parties, and they pay the artists accordingly. A copyright society acts as a mediator for the transactions with the licensee. 

They represent the producer or the licensor. They interact with the radio channels, websites etc. on behalf of the producers and formulate an agreement with them. These societies have following rights/duties-

  • They have the authority to give licenses to the third parties and collect the licence fee.
  • They also have the right to distribute the fees amongst the artists after deducting their own fee.
  • The owner of the rights throughout have the right to withdraw such authorization from the society.
  • The copyright society also has the power to work with foreign societies like the BMI for the granting of licences.

In India, most of the producers are registered with multiple societies like Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) and Indian Performing Right Society Ltd (IPRS). PPL handles the copyright of sound recordings while IPRS handles the rights for lyricists and composers. 

If one needs to play a song at a petrol pump, restaurant, etc then a license has to be obtained from PPL and if one wants someone to perform or sing a song, then a license has to be obtained from IPRS. ISRA is a body comprising of 290 singers, which has Lata Mangeshkar, Sonu Nigam, Alka Yagnik, Kumar Sanu and Pankaj Udhas on its Board of Directors. Even in case of a sound recording, license has to be obtained from both these societies. 

Performer and Copyright 

As per the copyright act, a ‘performer’ ‘includes an actor, singer, musician, dancer, acrobat, juggler, conjurer, snake charmer, a person delivering a lecture or any other person who makes a performance’. A performer has both moral as well as performers right. 

Moral right of a copyright owner is a bundle of incidental rights such as right to attribution, the right to have worked published anonymously or pseudonymously, and the right to the integrity of the work. These bars the work from alteration, distortion or mutilation. 

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Performer’s right on the other hand, is the exclusive right of the performer to perform or authorize the performance of these acts or any substantial part thereof. A permission of the performer is required to perform his song or act. Even in case of a cinematographic film, a permission is required to perform a performer’s version.

In order to protect yourself from copyright infringement, one must obtain proper license. License is required in cases wherein the use is not personal but commercial in nature and it does not fall under the fair use doctrine. 

India has realised that in order to promote creativity and protect integrity of the performers, it is important to give them certain rights. A copyright lawyer in India can help you in obtaining a copyright in music. Talk to the best copyright lawyers in India through MyAdvo to copyright a song. Email us at info@myadvo.in or call us at +919811782573.