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Music Copyright in 2021, India

The Copyright Act, 1957 came into force from January, 1958. The Act has been amended numerous times, however, the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 is considered to be of utmost importance. The amendments in the Copyright Act, 1957 helps conform the Act with 2 WIPO Internet Treaties

  1. The WIPO Copyright Treaty(WCT)   
  2. The WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty(WPPT)

The Copyright Act protects work that is original in nature, which is related to literature, drama, music and cinematographic films and sound recordings, against illegal, unofficial and unsanctioned uses. Through copyright, the rights of the originators over their creation or production are ensured. In other words, we can say that copyright, functions as proof of ownership.

In relation to Music and Sound Recording, Section 14 of the Act defines Copyright as: [1]

  • In case of literary, dramatic or musical work
  • Reproducing the work in any material form which includes storing of it in any medium by electronic means,
  • Issuing copies of the work to the public which are not already in circulation,
  • Performing the work in public or communicating it to the public,
  • Making any cinematograph film or sound recording in the respect of work,
  • Making any translation or adaptation of the work.
  • In the case of sound recording
  • To make any other sound recording embodying it “including storing of it in any medium by electronic or other means,
  • To sell or give on commercial rental or offer for sale or for such rental, any copy of the sound recording,
  • To communicate the sound recording to the public.

Commercial Utilisation of a song includes live performance of a song or playing the recordings of a song for general entertainment, for which payment of royalty or licence fees. After the amendment of the Copyright Act, section 39 states that Performer’s Right cannot be infringed in matters related to private usage, teaching and researching.

Section 38 in the Copyright Act, 1957[2]

 Performer’s right-

  • Where any performer appears or engages in any performance, he shall have a special right      to be known as the “performer’s right” in relation to such performance.”
  •  The performer’s right shall subsist until 50 years from the beginning of the calendar year next following the year in which the performance is made.

An instance wherein, the consent of the original creator is not taken before the usage of his work, a complaint of copyright infringement can be filed under the section 63 of Copyright Act, which can result in civil liability and criminal liability. The amount or the number of songs used is not taken into consideration and the one and only thing which matters is whether it is a copyright violation. Therefore, in such a situation,

  • A person is fined between Rs. 50,000-2,00,000, along with an imprisonment of 6 months to 3 years. In case a defence is used that no commercial exploitation took place, and that, no gains were made out of the creator’s work, then the person is liable to pay a compensation of Rs. 50,000, and faces an imprisonment of 6 months.
  • In certain cases, people tend to violate the copyright laws even after conviction. Such cases may lead the person to pay a compensation between Rs. 1,00,000-3,00,000, following an imprisonment of 1-3 years. Also, in case, the above-mentioned defence is used, it may result into a compensation of Rs. 1,00,000 and an imprisonment of 1 year.
  • Thus, the culprit can be arrested by a police officer whose rank is not less than a sub-inspector. Such a person may be arrested even without a warrant.

Purpose of Copyright- Copyrights help one to decide that how, when, where and by whom can the original work by the creator be used. Copyrights support the earnings of people by letting them get a financial return for their creations.

Also, one can ask for a financial compensation or an equitable remuneration, in the following cases-

  • Reproducing someone else’s original work.
  • Distributing someone else’s original work.
  • Communicating about the original work a person, to a large number of people.
  • Adapting somebody else’s original creation.

Intellectual Property Rights grants security to the artists’ creation, against others copying their work. Authorization by the musician or recording studio is essential before copying the work. Distribution and broadcasting should also be done by the approval of the composer.

It is important for musicians and composers to be aware of Intellectual Property and make correct decisions in order to avoid undue advantage. This enables them to earn money from their original work as well as from the altered form of their work. Hence, in order to tackle and get through the cumbersome legal aspect of the music industry and copyrights, it is always recommended that a music attorney is present as a member of the musical team. A skilled lawyer, with a good experience should be hired and he/she should be made well-versed with any and every dealing of the artist.

Trademark Protection refers to safeguarding a symbol, word/s, a design or a phrase, which can prove helpful in protecting logos and brand names. Musicians generally make use of logos for their albums and merchandise. Thus, this is acts like a registered and proven public record, that a musician or a lyricist is entitled to the rights of their work.

Types of Copyright Owners in the Music Industry

  1. Songwriters/Composers
  2. Musicians
  3. Artists
  4. Music Publishers
  5. Record labels

Case Law pertaining to Copyright Infringement in Music

❖     M/s. Indian Record Manufacturing Co. Ltd. vs. Agi Music Sdn Bhd, Illaiyaraja and M/s. Unisys Info Solutions Private Ltd., Madras High Court,

In the given case, the Plaintiff was a well-known music company that practices production, distribution and sales of music albums. Defendant 2, a famous music composer, had been composing music in various South Indian Films since many years. The matter of dispute arose when it was found that Defendant 2 had been selling the copyrights, to defendant 1 on the basis that he was the author of those musical compositions, which were composed for many films, produced by the plaintiff. A complaint of copyright infringement was filed by the plaintiff, claiming that the producers are the primary owners of the rights over the musical composition. The Madras High Court ordered in favour of the plaintiff stating that, since those musical compositions were financed by the producers, they were undoubtedly the authentic and lawful owners of the copyright. Furthermore, defendant 2 failed in producing the required evidences for claiming the ownership over the musical compositions. Whereas the plaintiff was successful in assuring the court by producing all the necessary documents and agreements between the plaintiff and the defendant. The judgement was passed in favour of the plaintiff and the complaints of the defendant were dismissed.


Giving the credits to the creator, which he deserves, adds fuel to his enthusiasm and encourages him to perform better, keeping him motivated. After all, it is his source of income. Copyright protection helps to shelter his hard work and gives him the right and power to lodge complaints in case of an infringement without consent. One should refrain from commercially exploiting an original work, failing which, the punishments laid down would become unavoidable. It is naturally evident that the original creator is worthy of all the benefits and royalties.

ARTICLE- Music Copyright, 2021.

EDITED BY- Pranjal Neeraj Singh

COLLEGE- University of Mumbai Law Academy

[1] The Copyright Act, 1957, § Section 14, No. 14, Acts of

Parliament, 1957 (India).

[2] The Copyright Act, 1957, § Section 38, No. 14, Acts of

Parliament, 1957 (India).

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