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Copyright and World of Music Publishing – A Global and Indian Perspective



In the ever-evolving landscape of the music industry, one term that often gets overshadowed by the glitz and glamour of stardom is “music publishing.” At its core, music publishing is the business aspect of music, focusing on the management and exploitation of musical compositions and copyrights. It serves as the backbone that ensures artists, songwriters, and composers are adequately compensated for their creative endeavors. Music publishers play a pivotal role in this ecosystem, negotiating deals, protecting intellectual property, and collecting earnings from various sources, such as radio broadcasts, TV shows, and even streaming platforms.

Understanding music publishing is not just a legal formality but a strategic necessity for artists. It provides the framework for safeguarding one’s intellectual property and opens up multiple avenues for revenue generation. Whether you are an independent artist managing your own songs or someone working with a record label, knowing the intricacies of music publishing can significantly impact your financial and artistic success.

While the basic tenets of music publishing remain consistent globally, regional nuances do exist. For instance, in India, the Copyright Act of 1957 and its subsequent 2012 amendment have introduced specific provisions like the “right to equitable remuneration,” which aims to balance the scales in favor of artists. Such regional variations make it even more crucial for artists to have a comprehensive understanding of music publishing, both from a global and local perspective.

In this article, we will delve deep into the world of music publishing, exploring its various facets from a global standpoint while also shedding light on the unique characteristics that define it in the Indian context.

What is Music Publishing?

Music publishing is a multifaceted domain within the music industry that deals with the administration, promotion, and commercial exploitation of musical compositions. In essence, it is the business of protecting and monetizing the intellectual property of songwriters, composers, and lyricists. The scope of music publishing extends from securing copyrights to negotiating licensing deals and collecting royalties, thereby serving as a critical bridge between the creative and commercial aspects of music.

The role of music publishers is indispensable in this context. They act as intermediaries who manage the copyrights of musical works, negotiate licensing agreements, and ensure that artists are fairly compensated. Whether it’s a song being played on the radio, used in a movie, or covered by another artist, the publisher is responsible for making these transactions smooth and lucrative for the original creators.

The importance of music publishing in the music industry cannot be overstated. It provides the financial backbone that supports the creative endeavors of artists. Without effective music publishing, artists would find it challenging to navigate the complex web of copyrights and royalties, potentially losing out on significant income and legal protection.

The Two Halves of Music Copyright

Understanding music publishing requires a grasp of the two primary types of music copyrights: Composition Copyright and Master Copyright.

Composition Copyright: This form of copyright protects the intellectual essence of a song, which includes elements like lyrics, melodies, and chord progressions. When you write a song, you automatically own its composition copyright, unless you enter into an agreement that states otherwise.

Master Copyright: This protects the specific recorded version of a song, covering aspects like performance, arrangement, and production. Typically, the record label owns the master copyright, although independent artists who self-produce their work may hold it themselves.

Both types of copyrights are crucial for artists, as they dictate who has the authority to reproduce, distribute, and publicly perform a musical work. They serve as the legal foundation upon which the entire structure of music publishing is built.

The Artist-Publisher Relationship:

The relationship between an artist and a music publisher is akin to a partnership, where both parties bring unique skills and resources to the table. While the artist is the creative force, generating the raw material in the form of songs, the publisher serves as the business strategist, ensuring that these creations reach their maximum potential in the commercial world. Together, they form a symbiotic relationship that is essential for the successful exploitation of musical works.

Contractual agreements are the backbone of this relationship. These contracts outline the terms under which the publisher will manage the artist’s catalog, including the division of royalties, the scope of rights granted, and the duration of the agreement. They serve as a legal framework that defines the responsibilities and entitlements of each party, thereby minimizing disputes and ensuring a fair distribution of revenue.

The importance of a strong artist-publisher relationship in career growth is immense. A competent publisher can open doors to various opportunities, such as sync licensing deals for movies or TV shows, collaborations with other artists, and even international exposure. They can also offer invaluable advice on market trends and legal matters, helping artists make informed decisions that can significantly impact their careers.

Types of Publishing Contracts

Understanding the types of publishing contracts is crucial for artists to make informed decisions. Here are some common types:

Co-Publishing Contract: In this arrangement, the artist and the publisher share ownership of the copyrights. Typically, royalties are also split, offering a balanced approach that benefits both parties.

Administration Contract: Here, the publisher is responsible for administering the copyrights but does not own any part of them. Their primary role is to collect royalties and possibly audit income streams, taking a smaller percentage of the earnings as their fee.

Exclusive Writing Contract: Under this contract, the artist agrees to write exclusively for the publisher for a specified period. The publisher gains the rights to the artist’s compositions during this time, often providing an advance against future royalties.

Each of these contracts has its pros and cons, and the choice often depends on the artist’s career stage, the leverage they have in negotiations, and their long-term goals.

Rights and Royalties

In the realm of music publishing, the terms “rights” and “royalties” are often used interchangeably, but they represent distinct concepts. “Rights” refer to the legal permissions or entitlements associated with a musical composition or recording. These can include the right to reproduce, distribute, and publicly perform the work. On the other hand, “royalties” are the financial earnings that artists receive when these rights are exercised or exploited. In simple terms, rights are what you own or control, while royalties are what you earn from those rights.

There are various types of rights in music publishing, including but not limited to:

Mechanical Rights: The right to reproduce a musical work in physical or digital form.

Performance Rights: The right to publicly perform a musical work.

Synchronization Rights: The right to use a musical work in timed relation with visual media.

Similarly, there are different types of royalties:

Mechanical Royalties: Earned from the sale or streaming of music.

Performance Royalties: Generated when music is played publicly, such as in concerts, radio, or restaurants.

Synchronization Royalties: Accrued when music is used in visual media like movies or commercials.

Royalty Collection Bodies

Collecting these royalties is a complex task, often managed by Performance Rights Organizations (PROs). These organizations act as intermediaries between copyright holders and entities that wish to use copyrighted music. They issue licenses, collect fees, and distribute royalties to the rightful owners.

In India, several bodies are responsible for this role, each with a specific focus. The Indian Performing Right Society Limited (IPRS) is a registered Copyright Society that handles royalties for composers, authors, and publishers of musical and associated literary works. The Indian Singers’ Rights Association (ISRA) collects royalties on behalf of singers. Phonographic Performance Limited India (PPL) focuses on licensing sound recordings for public performance and broadcast. NOVEX Communications is another agency that licenses out sound recordings of film music.

Understanding the role of these organizations is crucial for artists to ensure they receive the royalties they are entitled to, thereby maximizing their income and safeguarding their intellectual property.

Music Publishing in India

The music industry in India is as diverse as the country itself, encompassing a wide range of genres from classical and folk to Bollywood and independent music. With a young population of over 1.3 billion and the rapid growth of online streaming platforms, India is emerging as a significant player in the global music market. However, the business aspect of music in India, particularly music publishing, is still evolving and presents its own set of challenges and opportunities.

The legal framework governing music publishing in India is primarily based on the Copyright Act of 1957 and its significant 2012 amendment. One of the most impactful changes brought about by this amendment is the introduction of the “right to equitable remuneration.” This provision aims to level the playing field between authors (composers and lyricists) and producers, ensuring that authors receive equitable royalties every time their work is exploited. This was a monumental step in empowering artists and safeguarding their financial interests.

Compulsory and Statutory Licenses in India:

Compulsory and statutory licenses are legal mechanisms that allow the use of copyrighted works under specific conditions without the need for individual negotiations with the copyright holder. In India, the 2012 amendment to the Copyright Act brought significant changes to this aspect. Earlier, compulsory licenses were limited to ‘Indian works,’ but the amendment expanded this to include ‘any work,’ thereby broadening the scope and making it more inclusive. This change allows for greater accessibility to a variety of works and ensures that copyrights do not hinder the dissemination of culture and knowledge.

The amendment also introduced a new provision for obtaining a statutory license for making cover versions of sound recordings. This allows artists to create and sell cover versions under specific conditions, further democratizing the music industry and providing avenues for creative expression.

Pros and Cons of Having a Publisher

Opting for a music publisher can be a pivotal decision in an artist’s career, and like any significant choice, it comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.


Expertise in Marketing: A seasoned publisher has the know-how and resources to market your music effectively. They can secure lucrative deals, such as sync licenses for movies or TV shows, that an independent artist might find challenging to negotiate.

Legal Assistance: Navigating the legal intricacies of music publishing can be daunting. Publishers bring legal expertise to the table, ensuring that contracts are fair and that the artist’s intellectual property is adequately protected.


Loss of Control: Once you sign with a publisher, you may have to relinquish some control over how your music is used. While publishers aim to exploit your work profitably, their vision may not always align with your artistic goals.

Revenue Share: Publishers take a percentage of the royalties earned from the exploitation of your music. While this is the cost of doing business, it does mean that you’ll be sharing a portion of your earnings.

In summary, having a publisher can provide valuable expertise and open doors to opportunities that might otherwise be inaccessible. However, it’s crucial to weigh these benefits against the potential drawbacks, such as loss of control and reduced earnings, to make an informed decision that aligns with your career goals.

The Future of Music Publishing

The advent of digital platforms has revolutionized the music industry, and music publishing is no exception. Streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and regional platforms like Gaana and JioSaavn in India have created new avenues for artists to distribute their music and earn royalties. These platforms have democratized access to a global audience, allowing even independent artists to gain significant exposure.

However, the digital age also presents challenges. The ease of distribution has led to an oversaturated market, making it more difficult for artists to stand out. Additionally, the royalty rates from streaming platforms are often criticized for being too low, raising questions about the long-term sustainability for artists relying solely on these platforms.

Future Trends and Challenges:

Blockchain Technology: Emerging technologies like blockchain promise to make royalty distribution more transparent and efficient.

AI and Data Analytics: The use of artificial intelligence and data analytics in predicting consumer behavior could revolutionize how music is marketed and monetized.

Importance of understanding music publishing for career success:

Understanding the intricacies of music publishing is not just a legal necessity but a strategic imperative for artists aiming for long-term success. From safeguarding intellectual property to maximizing revenue through various channels, music publishing serves as the financial and legal backbone of the music industry. This article has explored its various facets, from the types of copyrights and royalties to the role of publishers and the impact of digital platforms. We’ve also delved into the unique characteristics of music publishing in India, highlighting the importance of understanding regional nuances.

Whether you’re an independent artist or signed to a label, whether you’re operating globally or focusing on the Indian market, a comprehensive understanding of music publishing can open doors to multiple revenue streams and offer legal safeguards. As the music industry continues to evolve, staying informed and adaptable will be key to navigating the future successfully.

Success stories of successful copyright registration and implementation:

Bollywood Soundtracks:

Bollywood, the Indian film industry, produces numerous movies every year, each with its own original soundtrack. Songs from films like “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,” “Lagaan,” and “Gully Boy” have not only been commercial successes but have also been copyrighted effectively, generating significant royalties for composers, lyricists, and producers.

Classical Compositions:

India has a rich tradition of classical music, both Hindustani and Carnatic. Compositions by legends like Ravi Shankar and Lata Mangeshkar have been successfully copyrighted, ensuring that their legacies continue to generate revenue for their estates.

Independent Artists:

Independent music is a growing sector in India, and artists like Prateek Kuhad, Naezy, and Divine have successfully copyrighted their work. Their songs have been used in commercials, movies, and have even garnered international attention, proving the effectiveness of a well-managed copyright strategy.

Folk Music Adaptations:

India’s diverse folk music has often been adapted into mainstream music. Successful copyrighting of these adaptations ensures that original creators or their communities receive their fair share of royalties. For example, the Rajasthan Roots have successfully copyrighted their adaptations of Rajasthani folk songs.

Viral Hits:

Songs like “Why This Kolaveri Di” went viral on social media platforms and were monetized effectively through copyright mechanisms. The song’s rights were managed so well that it generated significant income through YouTube views, downloads, and even ringtone sales.

Jingles and Ad Campaigns

Original compositions created for advertising campaigns, like the famous “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara,” have also been copyrighted successfully. These compositions generate revenue through licensing for various adaptations and performances.

These examples demonstrate the potential for success through effective copyright management in India’s diverse and dynamic music landscape.

In case you need any assistance in copyright registration in India, feel free to contact us.

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