Cover songs on YouTube: Where legality meets lyrical creativity (and copyright claims meet ear-bleeding renditions)

A cover version is the performance of a song that already exists, has been previously recorded, or has been commercially published by someone other than the original performer. This new recording is referred to as a cover version. The cover version has also been defined as a sound recording in relation to any abstract, sensational, or melodic work, when the sound recordings of that work have been recorded by or with the consent or agreement of the owner of the right in the work under Section 31 C of the Indian Copyright Act. With the advancement of new technology, it has become more easier for individuals to create and post cover versions online.

Before Section 31C, song covers were made under Section 52(1)(j) of the Copyright Act, which was a “fair dealing” provision that supplied the defendants with a defense that the cover version they made was fair and non-encroaching because it agreed to the pre-conditions set out in Section 52(1)(j). These recordings were known as “version recordings” throughout the business, and the term was used by the Delhi High Court in a few rulings in lawsuits. Aside from its casual use, the term “version recording” does not appear in the new Act. Section 31C has omitted and brought back as a Statutory License provision with certain amendments; thus preserving to a large extent.

Since the time of Bards this field has been profitable market, various producers for version recordings have emerged, as the statutorily recommended order under previous Section 52(1)(j) required them to send only notice and pay the agreed upon royalty to the writers of original works when a sound recording of the same original work was simply allowed to exist in open space. Which is why today you can enjoy ‘Sanam’ make a medley of your favorite 90’s songs.

The mechanical license on YouTube only covers the audio element of your YouTube cover.  Synchronization license, sometimes known as a “sync” license, is required to publish video alongside the song. A sync license must be negotiated with the copyright holder. While copyright holders are required to grant mechanical licenses, they are not required to grant you a sync license, and there is no set fee for the license. The good news is that many music publishers have already entered into deals with YouTube that enable their songs to be utilized in exchange for a percentage of the ad money produced on YouTube. By contacting the music publisher directly, you may find out if there is already an agreement in place for the song you wish to utilize.

In general, novice producers make recordings of cover versions in order to obtain recognition; nevertheless, the majority of these recordings are broadcast without the permission of the original author of the work, which may land these new talents in copyright infringement proceedings. The repercussions of uploading a cover song without a music license are determined by the owner of the copyright. Some copyright holders don’t mind YouTube covers since they improve a song’s visibility and may introduce composers or original performers’ music to a new audience. One of the best ways to ensure that your video does not get flagged for copyright infringement is to put a disclaimer in the description making your intentions with the video extremely clear and crediting the original creator. This may look like “I hereby declare that I do not own the rights to this music/song. All rights belong to the owner _____________. No Copyright Infringement Intended. ”




Baskaran & Associates is a well established law firm managed by Adv. H.B. Keshava. We specialize in multiple areas of law such as Intellectual Property Rights, Technology Laws, Labor Laws, Business Laws, ADR, Criminal Laws and Cybersecurity Laws. We are based out of Pune and Chennai, but have been handling clients from all across the country. We have a team of the best individuals comprising of Advocates, Patent Agents, Charted Accountants and Company Secretaries. We aim to serve, provide and help businesses grow.

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