A copyright can be obtained for the original musical, literary, artistic, dramatic, cinematography films and sound recordings in India. Copyright Act, 1957 (“Act”) lays down the laws relating to copyright in India. Copyright in any work gives a legal right to a person over his creation against copying or stealing his work. Copyright is obtained to protect the original works by the authors, producers and performers to protect their work from infringement.
A copyright of a song is done as per the provisions of the Act and Copyright Rules, 2013 (“Rules”). A song contains various elements. A song is complete as a whole when first the lyricist writes the sing. Then music is given to the lyrics by the composer of the song. The singer sings the song. This song may be performed by the singer or recorded in a studio. The producer of the song records it. Usually, a song is the effort of many people combined. But at times a song may be wholly owned by only one person if he writes the song, gives music to it and sings it.
A song is not treated as a single piece of work. Under the Copyright Act, a song is divided into various parts. The owner of each part can obtain a copyright for his part in the song. If the song is written, composed and sung by one person, he can claim copyright over the whole song. The persons involved in making a song and their copyright in it is as follows –
Section 2(d)(i) of the Act states that in a literary work, the person who writes is the author of that work. The person who writes the lyrics of a song is the lyricist. The lyricist is the author of the song, and it comes under literary work in the Act. Thus, he can get the copyright for the lyrics of the song as the author of it.
Section 2(d)(ii) of the Act states that in relation to a musical work, the composer is the author of it. According to Section 2(p) of the Act, musical work is the work which has music and includes graphical notation of such work but does not include any words or any action intended to be sung, spoken or performed with the music. Thus, musical work is giving music to the lyrics of the song. Composer of a song is the person who provides music to a song, and thus is the author of the music in a song. He can obtain a copyright for the background music in a song.
Section 2(qq) of the Act defines a performer which includes a singer of the song. When the singer gives the performance of a song, he has the performer’s right concerning his performance. He has the right to make a sound recording of his performance and reproduce it or issue copies of it on an electronic medium. He has the right to sell the copies or recording made by him. He has the right to protect his copies or recording against infringement. But his performer’s right will not affect the rights of the author, i.e. the lyricist and composer of the song.
Section 2(d)(v) of the Act states that the person who does the sound recording is the author in respect of that sound recording. Section 2(uu) defines the producer of a sound recording as the person who takes the initiative and responsibility for doing the work. Since the producer of a movie or album undertakes the recording of a song and broadcasts it in movie or album, he is the author of the recording of the song. Thus, he can get the copyright for his recording of the song.
Copyright in literary and musical work will exist for sixty years from the date of its publication or for the lifetime of the author and sixty years from the date of his death. So, the copyright of the lyricist and composer of the song remain till the date of their death plus sixty years after they die.
The copyright of a sound recording is sixty years from the starting of the calendar year following the year in which it is published. Thus, the copyright of the producers will be sixty years starting from the next year of the publication. Performer’s rights or the singer’s rights in a song will be fifty years starting from the next year in which the performance is given.
The Copyright Rules provide the procedure of registration of a copyright. For registration of a copyright, Form XIV is the application to be filled along with its prescribed fee to the Registrar of Copyrights (“Registrar”). The Form XIV is to be signed by the applicant. If the owner applies for copyright, he should file the No Objection Certificate (NOC) by the other authors, i.e. lyricist or composer or producer, if any, involved in making the song. The application can be posted to the Registrar or filed online on the copyright website of the Government of India.
The applicant should give notice to every person who claims to have an interest in the subject matter of the copyright. When the Registrar is satisfied with the correctness of the particulars given in the application, and he receives no objection within thirty days of filing the application, he shall make an entry of the copyright in his Register.
When he is dissatisfied with the correctness of the particulars made in the application, he shall hold an enquiry. The Registrar can accept/reject the application based on the enquiry and after giving an opportunity of being heard to the applicant.
When the Registrar receives any objection to the application, he provides an opportunity of being herald to the parties. After making an enquiry and hearing to the parties, he may enter the particulars in his Register. The registration is complete when the Registrar signs the copy of the entry of the copyright in his Register.
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