CopyrightsIntellectual Property

Can You Use A Copyright Song On YouTube?

Songs and music are often used in all videos, whether as background or to add to the content. Background music in Youtube videos is one of the most common requirements. It helps set the tone and the pace of the video and keeps the viewer engaged when no one is speaking. However, as a type of intellectual property, songs have strict copyrights. Therefore, not all songs can be used freely on Youtube in your video. This article provides a comprehensive overview of what copyright is and how to copyright your song.

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Copyright is a type of intellectual property right. Copyright generally includes all types of artistic works, including paintings, drawings, songs, cinematography, and so forth. However, the copyright of a song varies from that of others.

Under the Indian Copyright Act of 1957, any person is given legal rights over their creation or work. This is done to maintain originality and ownership of the work. In simpler words, the work cannot be used by any other person, industry or company without gaining permission (usually written) from the owner of the copyright.

Who holds the copyright of a song?

It is important to note that the creator and copyright holder may not always be the same person. For example, if a band creates the music, the lead singer may hold the copyright for the song rather than the songwriter or even the producer. For a song, the copyright can be held by one or more of the following parties:

  • Lyricist
  • Composer
  • Singer
  • Producer

The Indian Copyright Act has strict definitions for each of these four categories:

  • A lyricist is a person who makes a primary contribution while writing the song. As a result, he is considered the author of the work and can hold copyrights.
  • A composer is any person who provides music to the song. This can be the background music, adlibs, etc. As a result, he is also considered an author and can hold the right.
  • The singer performs the song and thus can hold the copyright. They can re-perform the song, distribute the song, make copies, re-record or issue them on other mediums (for example, on Gaana, Spotify, etc.).

The singer’s copyright is not the same as the lyricists and composers. They own the original idea of the song as authors, while the singer owns the right to distribute it.

  • The producer of the song is the person who records the song. The producer can be an individual entity, or they can be affiliated with a music brand such as T-Music, Saregama, and so forth. The producer is also defined as the person who takes responsibility for the song and, as a result, can allow others to use the song, for example, in movies.

Copyright laws are instilled to ensure copyright songs aren’t used without permission from the copyright owner. If you wish to use a song whose copyright is still valid, you will have to gain permission from the owner, without which your actions will be considered copyright infringement.


How long does the protection hold?

Copyright songs can be of two types:

  • The copyright can be valid for 60 years after the song’s first release.
  • The copyright can be valid for 60 years after the death of the author(s). This is especially counted for original songs and dramatics.

Other copyrights that remain are as follows:

  • The singer or performer copyright is valid for 25 years from the date of release.
  • The producer or broadcaster’s copyright is valid for 25 years from the date of release.

What constitutes a song?

The Indian Copyright Act does not have a strict definition of the term “song”. A song differs from a “musical work”. A musical work is defined as a song (or a collection of songs) with no words spoken. However, the act does provide different copyrights for each element of the song.

For example, as mentioned above, the lyricist and composer can receive author rights. As a result, more than one person can hold the copyright of one song, depending upon how many people have contributed to making the song copyrighted.

What is the process of copyrighting a song?

The process of copyright registration in India is simple. However, the process can be time-consuming. The steps for copyright registration are as follows:

  1. You can apply for copyright online by visiting the Official Copyright Office website and creating a new application or offline by visiting the Copyright Office at Boudhik Sampada Bhawan, Dwarka, New Delhi. You are required to provide a copy of the work and present your credentials (such as a PAN card).
  2. Once the application is submitted, the office will first conduct a formality check. Under the formality check, the office will determine if all requirements for copyright are met (in terms of documentation). If they are not met, you will be requested to provide all details.
  3. Once the formality check is complete, it takes approximately 30 days to decide. Once the office has decided, you will be informed of the same via email. The copyright is granted on a first-come-first-serve basis.
  4. If you have been denied copyright of the work, you can request a review of the application. After which, you will be invited to a hearing on the application.

If you do not wish to complete the online process for registration, you can use the portal.

  • Visit the official copyright portal
  • Select “Registration of copyright” from the left-hand menu. You will be redirected to an instruction page where you will find all details of the process.
  • On the left-hand side, you will see a login menu. Select “new registration”. Fill in all the details required and create a new username and password.
  • Select submit at the end of the page and your account will be created.

It is important to remember that the copyright act protects all songs, and therefore using them without permission is considered copyright infringement. The Indian copyright act protects songs made by all Indian citizens and also encompasses songs protected by international copyright laws.



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