How to Copyright a Song Recording in India?


A sound recording is a reliance on a series of sounds that does not go with an audiovisual work. Copyright in sound recording is more limited than copyright in other works- it includes the right to perform the work to the public, but only using a “Digital sound recording”. Performing the sound recording in public in an interchangeable manner does not involve the copyright in the sound recording.

When a sound recording is conditional on a musical work, several uses of the sound recording include the musical work. In such instances, if a license is required, it must be obtained from the rights holder of the work.

What is Copyright of a Sound recording in India?

In India and globally Copyright aims at securing the right of the owner over the original ideas. This gives the right to authors, producers and writers the right to earn or reap returns from their work. Copyright of an idea or imagination cannot be done, the law projects the expression or the manifestation of the idea. This leads to copyright of literary work like books, dramas, scripts, music, lyrics, computer programmes etc. Thus a musical composition, or a sound recording or an original composition can be granted copyright in India. Copyright also protects dramatic, cinematographic work.

The only criteria is that the work should be in tangible form i.e. the creation should be in such a medium that can be felt, heard or touched through ordinary senses. So musical work being expressed and written in musical notes is eligible for copyright protection.

What Qualifies for Copyright of a Sound recording and composition?

Copyright of a sound recording and musical notes can easily be copyrighted in India, the only condition is the musical work or sound recording must be original and must be reduced to a form that is printed, reduced to writing or graphically produced or reproduced.

In case of a sound recording and composition, as a general rule, the copyright does not exist unless the work is first published in India, or if the work is published outside of India Unless the author is a citizen of India. For unpublished work, the author must be a citizen of India at time of making of work.

Copyright of a musical work consists of other elements- such as lyrics under music can be protected a literary work, for sound copyright of musical work is to be done, however, two separate copyrights in same work can exist where each owner of the copyright work retains exclusive ownership over their specific work.

Benefits of getting copyright of a Sound Recording

At the onset, it must be clarified that in case of a musical work,- the copyright act considers the ‘Composer' of the musical work to be the author, capable of being granted the benefits of copyright protection. If the sound recording and composition are done under contractual terms, by commissioning a lyricists, singer etc. the employer who commissions the agent is considered to be first owner of the copyright. Following are the advantages of getting copyright of a sound recording-

  • Copyright is a legal protection of a bundle of rights, copyright in case of a sound recording exists for its various components such as lyrics of the song, musical composition, sound recording on tape etc.
  • Each of the rights for copyright protection can then be assigned, reassigned, licensed.
  • Copyright act also allows the owner of the copyright to reproduce the work, store it in any such medium such as electronic devices, web access etc.
  • The copyright owner can initiate a legal suit against the infringer of the copyright. The author of the copyright also retains a right to have his name published in all copies of his work, and also prevent alteration and distortion of his original work.
  • Expert evidence can also be obtained in order to establish differences between the two works.
  • The author of the copyright also retains a right to have his name published in all copies of his work, and also prevent alteration and distortion in his original work.
  • A voluntary license can also be granted whereby the copyright owner of sound recording in any existing work or the prospective owner of such copyright in any future work, may grant any interest in the right by license in writing.

Checklist to copyright of a Sound Recording an composition

  • First thing is the standard of originality in musical work or sound recording copyright India. For this the original work must be submitted.
  • The year and country of the first publication, along with the names, address and nationality of the publisher, and details of any subsequent publication needs to be furnished.
  • Copyright in a sound recording provides the owner of the copyright to assign, produce, license the work, and it also prohibits others to use his copyrighted work without his permission. If the author of the work is other than the applicant, it is necessary to obtain no objection certificate in original from the author of the work.
  • If the sound recording is being registered in the name of the entity, then the details of the person who has created the work has to be furnished.
  • Class and title of the work as well as the language of the work.

How to obtain copyright of a sound recording in India?

The procedure for registration of sound recording in India is as follows-

  • Application for registration is to be made in XIV form as prescribed in the first schedule of the rule.
  • Separate applications should be made for registration of each work and fill each details including statement of particulars.
  • After the receipt of the application, a 30 day mandatory cooling period begins, ueing which objections can be raised by the copyright department.
  • All such objections are scrutinized, a reply may be sought from the applicant and after hearing the parties, the registration certificate will be issued.

Documents required to do a copyright for sound recording

Following are the documents required for copyright of a sound recording in India-

  • A filled statement of particulars and statement of further particulars is required.
  • A copy of acknowledgement receipt is required
  • No objection certificate is required if the application is filed on behalf of the author of the original work.
  • Two copies of work irrespective of published or unpublished work
  • Details of fee payment
  • If the author is deceased, details of date of his decease, and submission of a notarized affidavit regarding inheritance of right/ NOC from all the legal heirs of the deceased author in favour of the applicant.
  • Power of Attorney if being filed by an attorney


Yes, India is a signatory to Berne convention, which is a global agreement on reciprocal protection of copyright in contracting countries. Thus the work is automatically protected in the countries that are signatories to the berne convention. There are 177 countries signatories to the Berne convention.
Copyright act defines cinematographic work to mean not just visual recording, but aso sound recording accompanying the film. Thus soundtracks which are incorporated in a film are protected as a part of the cinematographic film, and not as a sound recording.
If the work is protected under copyright act for protection of sound recording, it would not affect the owner of the copyright. However this can be varied through a contract between film producers and sound makers.
While there is no blanket prohibition on adaptation of existing musical or sound recording. A musical arranger will have to prove that in developing the music of a popular song by changing certain aspects, his work or arrangement is capable of being called an “original musical work”.

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