A Beginners Guide to Music Copyright, Part One


A few months ago, we hosted a Q&A over on our Facebook page with music copyright expert Jataneel Banerjee. Along with being a specialist on the Asian territory for PRS for Music, Jataneel runs an independent label, Music Mandi, and is an artist and performer. For those of you who missed it, or would like a recap of what was discussed, we have put together a series of handy blogs with Jataneel’s top tips regarding copyright. In this first edition, we demystify the first few questions from the Q&A.

Q: How do I protect the copyright in the music I’ve written?

A: Copyright protection is something which can prove tricky at times. It is advisable that when you write/compose a song you can either apply for a copyright certificate (quite common in India and in the US) which will confirm your copyright ownership. Or, you can post yourself a CD with the song and keep the envelope unopened until you need to.  This can be a proof of your work in case of any copyright dispute.

The most important document is your agreement with all the other parties (co-writers, co-composers, label, publisher, producers, etc). This is crucial for your copyright proof.

Q: How do you determine who owns the copyright in a piece of music?

A: Generally speaking, if you contribute to a song, you can potentially have a share in the copyright of that song. However this has to be mutually agreed by all the other contributors. Therefore as a rule of thumb if you have written the words or composed the music you can negotiate your share of copyright on it.

Q: How long does copyright last? Is this the same in every country?

A: The term varies from country to country. In India, for example, the copyright of a song will be valid for life of the author plus 60 years from the time of authors death. There are other countries where the duration is 50/60/70/75/100 years. In Mexico it is 100 years! Jamaica it is 95 years! So when you decide to write your next song, maybe book a holiday in either Mexico or Jamaica! The main takeaway from this is to check the copyright term in the country in which you are writing the song.

A Beginners Guide to Music Copyright, Part Two

Check out the next instalment of our Beginners Guide to Music Copyright. To be part of our future Q&A’s, make sure you like our Facebook page to be the first to know about our next events.