Copyright

Is copyright of old songs possible?

calendar10 Apr, 2024
timeReading Time: 5 Minutes
Copyright of Old Songs

Copyright of Old Songs: The legal and cultural debate over old music and copyright is a complicated and fascinating subject. Although copyright aims to safeguard authors’ intellectual property rights, applying it to older songs frequently creates issues with duration, ownership, and public domain. The interaction between creative legacy, business interests, and regulatory frameworks becomes crucial in this situation. Many older songs may have entered the public domain as a result of their copyright periods having expired because they were written decades or even centuries ago. But this environment can get complicated by things like re-releases, legal amendments, and adaptations that come after. A thorough analysis of legislative developments, judicial interpretations, and historical circumstances that signify the evolution of intellectual property rights in the field of music is necessary to comprehend the complexities of copyright law as they relate to classical music.

Copyright Protection Period

Protection of Copyright of old songs is 60 years after the death of the author. If the song is recorded then the copyright for sound recording is for the term of sixty years following the year from the year in which the sound was first recorded. The right of the performer of the songs is 50 years following the year from the year in which such performance for first made.

Copyright Law on Copyright of Old Songs

Copyright protection of old songs is a very complex procedure since it involves tracking registrations done in the past, which is not an easy task. The copyright is governed by the Copyright Act of 1957. The law states that –

Duration

The duration of Copyright protection of old songs is the lifetime of the author and 60 years after the death of the author. In cases where the work was done anonymously, in posthumous publications, etc., copyright protection is given for the period of 60 years following the year from the year in which the work was published. 

Public Domain

In India as per the copyright act, songs or other works whose copyright protection period has expired are considered to be public domains, and their usage does not require any permission from the authorities. Anyone is free to use the work for their benefit without any repercussions.

Ownership

It is to be noted that even if the copyright protection of old songs has expired, certain arrangements, recordings, and adaptations of the songs are still protected and cannot be used without acquiring permission. For example, based on the performance of the songs or even their arrangements, they can still be protected under copyright law.

Legality

Before using any artistic work, it is highly advisable to look into the status of copyright protection of that art because if they are still protected under the law, there can be penalties and fines involved for copyright infringement. Permission from the original creator of the work should be obtained if you want to use the copyright-protected work and even lawful consideration can also be paid to the original creator.

International Agreements

India has signed an agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Berne Convention that may impact the copyright of old songs, especially the ones that are sung outside the country. A lot of scrutiny is done, and if found guilty of infringement, then heavy fines and penalties may be charged.

Challenges in copyright of old songs

Copyright of old songs poses a lot of challenges-

  • Copyright registration is the most important thing to claim copyright infringement and the case with these old songs is that the documentation of copyright registration is often hard to find, thereby, failing to maintain the claim as per law. Ownership rights also come into dispute since a lot of people are involved in the process like the composer, lyricist, publishers, and their legal heirs which makes the process more challenging.
  • Currently, technological advancement is posing the biggest threat to the copyright of old songs since it is very hard to find people on the internet who are digitally using the songs to their benefit. All the songs are digitally available nowadays, so it is very easy for them to use them for their own benefit.
  • Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and also the Berne Convention may impact the Copyright of old songs since all the legal terms are interrelated for promoting harmonization around the globe. There are a lot of terms, conditions, rules, and regulations to be followed, that are very challenging for the creators. 

Practices to Enhance Copyright Protection

The practices to enhance copyright protection are as follows –

  • The foremost thing an author needs to do is to get the copyright registration done as soon as the literary or artistic work is completed. This gives the original work the necessary protection under copyright laws, and there can be no infringements for the period of the author’s life or 60 years after his death.
  • The author should know the law so that it can be understood if something is a copyright violation or not.
  • The registered work should contain the copyright mark beside it to make it clear that the work is copyright protected, and infringing the owner’s intellectual property rights may lead to fines and penalties.
  • The owner of artistic work should take measures to protect the work from technological misuse.
  • If the copyrighted work is given for use to any other person, it should have a proper agreement or contract in place to avoid any discrepancies.      
  • After getting the copyright registration, the author must look into the copyright applications through online mode so that it can be checked if some other person is registering the same work under the law.

Landmark Judgment on Copyright of Songs

Super Cassettes Industries Ltd. v. Myspace Inc.

In this case, the plaintiff popularly recognized as T-series filed an infringement of copyright suit against Myspace Inc. (social network website). It was claimed by the plaintiff that the defendant made their copyrighted songs available for their users without obtaining proper licensing for the same. The court made the defendant liable for their actions and guided them to implement such strategies to stop making the users share and upload the plaintiff’s copyrighted songs.

Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd. v. Sri Sai Ganesh Productions

In this case, the plaintiff (Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd.) filed a suit against the defendant, Sri Sai Ganesh Productions, for copyright infringement. The suit was based on the offence that the defendant was involved in unauthorized copying of the plaintiff’s movies and distributing them through various channels. The court decided in favor of the plaintiff by granting an injunction against the use of the plaintiff’s movies and also ordered to pay damages to the plaintiff.

Conclusion

In summary, the copyright of old songs is a complex matter influenced by legal, technological, cultural, and historical aspects. Many old songs have become part of the public domain, but some are still protected by copyright, albeit in different ways and with varying levels of uncertainty. Understanding public domain, copyright law, and the difficulties presented by international treaties and technology improvements are all crucial for navigating this territory. Notwithstanding its complexity, the copyright of old songs reaffirms the continuing power and importance of music across generations by providing chances for artistic inquiry, cultural preservation, and cooperative activities. The old songs can serve as a motivation for cult classic music to the young singers; hence, apart from protection from copyright of old songs, these old songs can serve as a foundation for a piece of good new music.

Corpbiz excels at providing copyright registration services and any copyright-related problems. Corpbiz can help individuals in any copyright related work with efficiency and relatable lower costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is copyright law applicable to songs released in the 1960s?

    Yes, copyright law applies to songs released in the 1960s that have copyright registration. If the original author is dead and 60 years have passed since then, there is no copyright infringement while using those songs. The song can be used only if it has come under the public domain or after acquiring permissions and licenses from the original author.

  2. What are the ways to check the copyright status of a song?

    To check the copyright status of a song, you need to check the date of creation of the song and check for its registration under the law in the applicable jurisdiction, either from the copyright office or online. Apart from this, you should take the help of legal experts like Corpbiz who can help you by providing complete knowledge about the status.

  3. What is the duration of copyright registration?

    The duration of Copyright protection on copyright of old songs is the lifetime of the author and 60 years after the death of the author. In cases where the work was done anonymously, in posthumous publications, etc., copyright protection is given for the period of 60 years following the year from the year in which the work was published. 

  4. How is technological advancement posing a threat to the copyright of old songs?

    Technological advancement is posing the biggest threat to the copyright of old songs since it is very hard to find people on the internet who are digitally using the songs to their benefit. All the songs are digitally available nowadays, so it is very easy for them to use them for their own benefit.

  5. How can we use someone’s copyrighted song in a remix?

    To use someone’s copyrighted song in a remix you need to get the permission and necessary license from the original owner of the work by giving some royalty to him. If the original author denies the usage of his work and you used his piece of art in your creation then, you can be subject to copyright infringement and he can claim damages from you.

  6. What is the consequence of copyright infringement?

    The consequence of the copyright infringement is that you can be subject to imprisonment for a minimum term of 6 months or a fine can be levied from you of not less than Rs 50,000.

  7. How can we register a song for copyright protection?

    You can get the copyright registration through the application made in the Indian Copyright Office or through their online portal. To know more about copyright registration, you can connect with our Corpbiz team for a detailed process and assistance.

  8. When is a piece of music copyrighted?

    A piece of music is copyrighted as soon as it is made available in a tangible form like in writing or being recorded.           

  9. What is a copyright?

    A copyright is a legal protection given to the original, artistic, and new work of an author. The Copyright Act of 1957 provides protection and legal guidelines to the public who have made the copyright registration for their work

  10. Who can claim the copyright after the author’s death?

    After the author’s death, his/her legal heirs can claim their stake in the copyright for a period of up to 60 years from the death of the author.

Read Our Article: Copyright Infringement Cases In 2023

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