Who Owns Music?

  • What is a musical work? “Musical work” means a work consisting of music and includes any graphical notation of such work but does not include any words or any action intended to be sung, spoken or performed with the music. A musical work need not be written down to enjoy copyright protection.
  • Who is the author of a musical work? The composer.
  • Who all have rights in a musical sound recording? There are many right holders in a musical sound recording. For example, the lyricist who wrote the lyrics, the composer who set the music, the singer who sang the song, the musician (s) who performed the background music, and the person or company who produced the sound recording.
  • Is it necessary to obtain any licence or permission to use a musical sound recording for public performance? A sound recording generally comprises various rights. It is necessary to obtain the licences from each and every right owner in the sound recording. This would ,inter alia, include the producer of the sound recording, the lyricist who wrote the lyrics, and the musician who composed the music.
  • What are the rights in a musical work? In the case of a musical work, copyright means the exclusive right :
  • To reproduce the work
  • To issue copies of the work to the public
  • To perform the work in public
  • To communicate the work to the public
  • To make cinematography film or sound recording in respect of the work
  • To make any translation of the work
  • To make any adaptation of the work.

The above given information are the summary of the copyright rules and ethics regarding music works, provided in the Hand Book of Copyright Law published by Government of India. The performances, cover songs, remixes and remakes that are being conducted in India are more or less in accordance with these copyrights. Still the controversies on this matter are getting accumulated day by day . Roshan Brothers and Ram Sampath Case, Infringement Against Dabang 2 Song, Barobax and Pritam Chakraborty, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and World War Z are some of the music infringement cases in Bollywood.


While coming to Tamil music industry, the spat that clashed between two elder musicians in the name of copyright hits a sudden blow to the listeners’ relishing sensation. The audience witnessed a messy legal tangle involving music composer Ilaiyaraaja and singer SP Balasubrahmaniam in 2017 , after the former served a legal notice on the singer when he was performing concerts in the US.

The notice stated that if they continued to perform his compositions, they would be denying the copyright law and would have to pay huge financial penalties with facing other legal action.

“As an Indian I feel very said. This legal notice could have been completely avoided. As a south Indian myself, I have grown up listening to both Shri Illayaraja’s music and Shri SP Balasubrahmanyam’s voice,” intellectual property rights lawyer Prathiba M Singh said.

This was and still a saddening thing for each and every music listener or art lover in the country.There arrived a high need for making the laws clear to the ordinary audience as well as the music industry people to avoid this kind of discrepancies. As in a commercialised era of music art, the concept of pure art is already at the point of death. The ambiguousness in these practices will only favour in constructing the art more exclusive.

Still the question remains, Who owns music? The music culture which dates back to centuries is the basis of all the musical works that are being produced today. The sapthaswaras are the primary foundation for all of the finely tuned as well as controversial songs ..It is true that the composer’s effort and talent have a great value but is it necessary to make these kind of competitions and enmity in the field apart from the popularity and acceptance that the composer is gaining? This is the way how the commercialisation trends are perfectly achieving the complete destruction of pure art sense from the audience minds…

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