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NCS Music and its Impact on Copyright

NCS refers to No Copyright Sound. Billy Woodford, an Englishman, launched the record label NoCopyrightSounds, or NCS, in 2011. Following Alan Walker's launch of "Faded," which quickly became a worldwide hit, NCS gained significant popularity. He got the idea to start a record label with no copyright, composers/authors, or monetary remuneration as he himself faced copyright challenges when he posted gaming clips. Notwithstanding its intention to provide music with no copyright and without payment, NoCopyrightSounds gained considerable recognition in 2014 and 2015. In 2017, NoCopyrightSounds hit $ 1 million in operations.

It is Among the top renowned YouTube channels for music without copyright. As freelancer, anybody can utilize and also monetize music from NCS without being worried regarding copyright infringements, but an individual will require a commercial licensing to utilize the music outside YouTube like in its store or business. To understand the concept of NCS Music and its impact on Copyright it is essential to understand the laws relating to copyright with respect to Music.

With the increasing awareness of copyright amongst the creators involved in creating music, whether for a film intended for theatrical broadcasting, a program/show for an OTT site, or independent recordings, copyright law in our country is evolving fast. Just the authors of the musical composition were granted copyright within the terms of "the Copyright Act, 1957[1]". Copyright law for 'musical work' has been broadened to cover "work consisting of music and any graphical notation but does not include any words or actions intended to be spoken[2]" through a number of modifications.

What comprises under Musical Works and Sound Recordings
Copyright for music can be availed through different works like Literary, Musical and Sound recordings.
  • Copyright for literary works: Besides, periodicals, computer programmes, mails, poems, music lyrics, are examples of works of literature.
  • The term "musical work" refers to a composition that combines music with "graphic notations" that uses visuals to depict music.
  • Sound recordings that include speech from any individual and songs performed by any individual, whether or not there is music playing, such as podcasts or audio files. These are similarly copyrightable as musical creations are.

Copyright In Musical Work

Composers are granted complete lawful ownership of musical compositions and recordings because of copyright in musical works. In addition to the licensing right, which enables the copyright holder to collect royalties, this copyrighted work also contains the sole right to "distribute and reproduce" the work. "Master and composition" copyright are the two categories of music copyright. The copyright for a piece of music or text is immediately formed if it is recorded, printed, or else documented.

"Section 2 (P) of the Copyright Act of 1957[4]" defines a music work as one that is made of music and contains graphic elements[5].

Firstly, one must be aware that an original work is protected by copyright as soon as it is "fixed" in a material or tangible form. Fixation happens whenever a musical composition is transcribed in paper or digitally, or if a music is recorded in an aural format. Nothing else needs to be done in order for a work to be copyrighted. Copyright entitles the owner to perform or present the copyrighted work publicly and to produce and sell works, distribute that work or create new works.

The Two Types of Work
Two compositions that are covered by copyright may be created while recording a song: a musical work and a sound recording. A sound recording and any associated music, words, lyrics, or other material are independent, copyrightable works. These compositions are usually owned and licenced independently, and thus are subjected to distinct rules and regulations.

A musical work is the fundamental structure of a song and any associated lyrics together constitute the musical piece. A lyricist or composer is typically the person who creates music.
A sound recording- A "phonorecord" (a recording device like a CD or electronic disk) is what is used to save a collection of musical, spoken, or various sounds as a sound recording. The performer and the recording's producer, work together to make sound recordings.

Amendments In The Copyright Act

During colonization in 1847 is where the Indian Copyright Law got its start. Following a few amendments, a fresh Indian copyright legislation was enacted in 1914, and it remained in effect until new laws was introduced in the post-independence phase in 1957. The new law was called as the "Copyright Act of 1957[6]". The Act of 1914, which was essentially an adaptation of the British Copyright Act, 1911, was in effect prior to the introduction of the 1957 Act.

Subsequently, in 2012, "the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2012[7]" was enacted with the goal of raising the benchmark for Indian copyright laws internationally and ensuring adherence with WIPO treaties including the (WCT) and the (WPPT). The 2012 amendment made the following modifications:
  • Modifications in the rights of artistic works like cinematograph films and sound recordings.
  • Modifications that adhere to WCT and WPPT.
  • Modifications in the granting of licences and assigns.
  • Protections against online piracy.

In case of literary, dramatic and musical works, the author is the first owner of the respective works. However, nowadays different types of artists and their works are safeguarded by the laws as a result of increasing knowledge and laws[8].

Rights Available In Copyrighted Musical Works And Sound Recordings

  • To understand the impact of NCS Music, it is first important to understand the rights available in copyrighted musical works and sound recordings.

    Original literary, musical, and artistic creations are protected under the Act. Although the Statute does not describe the term "song," it does provide protection for the many components of the song overall, including the lyrics as literary, the music within musical compositions, the combination of the tune and lyrics, and the sound recording. In order to inspire writers, composers, and musicians to produce original creations for which they are given specific rights, financial rewards, and recognition, copyright of songs is crucial. Copyright protection establishes a shield of protection with legal support, and any breach of the protection is punishable. It guards against frauds and deceiving the original work's authors.

    An illustration might be used to demonstrate the bundle of rights that go into the creating a song.

    For instance, Pritam, Salim-Sulaiman created/composed the music for a Bollywood song sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in a film directed by. Imtiaz Ali. The lyrics was by Gulzar.

    The writings of Gulzar (the song writer) will be regarded as original literary work protected u/s13(1)(a) of the Indian Copyright Act. The composition of Pritam, Salim-Sulaiman (the composer) will be regarded as authors of the musical composition u/s 13(1)(a)[9]. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (the singer) will be regarded as a performer according to Section 38 of the Indian Copyright Act.

    Imtiaz Ali will the ownership of the song under the terms of Section 17 if the full song was created for a movie and the composer's services were contracted by the producer.

    As a result, the following ownership entitlements are possible in the instance of music:
    • Literary Works
    • Lyricist
    • Music Composition
    • Composers
    • Performer
    • Moral & Performing Rights
  • Composition and lyrics are legally safeguarded as a single song recording that could be claimed by the Music Label or the Producer.
Production companies often hold all commercial and contractual rights with regard to literary & musical works, as well as performers' and ethical rights with regar d to songs and any exploitation rights related thereto.

The Apex Court ruled in the case of "Indian Performing Rights Society v. Eastern India Motion Picture Association (AIR1977 SC 1443)[10]" held, that the production company of the cinematograph movie was the 1st proprietor of the copyright and that no right exists with the song writer or the composer except if there is an agreement among them and the production company.

The 1977 Apex Court verdict was substantially overturned by a proviso added to Section 17 of the Indian Copyright Act in 2021. This proviso makes it abundantly clear that the rights of the authors of the works included in cinematograph films are unaffected by clauses (b) and (c) of the aforementioned section. The aforementioned changes acknowledged the distinction between using a literary or musical work for a cinematograph as well as other autonomous usage of the same work throughout other platforms. Thus, although it may have been legally settled otherwise, the right to earn royalties that the creator of an artistic, musical, or literary work is entitled to under Section 14 as well as moral rights cannot be abandoned[11].

The Concept Of Open Access

Open access use of music could be defined as "digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.[12]" Even in Open access publishing copyright plays a vital role. The author providing open access in their work may requires people to agree with the terms and conditions of the usage policy.

Like in the case of NCS Music, the terms & Conditions implies that a person can freely use the music available in their platform and can even monetize their content from the same as long as they are using it in You Tube and are giving proper credits in the description in their video.

The idea of Creative Common also applies here, Creative Commons offers, beyond what is permitted by conventional copyright law. It offers licenses and techniques that assist authors in maintaining their copyright while allowing everyone else to utilize their work/creation in certain ways.

Impact Of NCS Music On Copyright

Giving an artist credit alone for their work is insufficient, even while it serves as a powerful motivator for them to improve however, since managing a studio needs more than just motivation. Additionally, artists must be eligible for financial perks or a cut of the producer's profits. The time and effort of the artists is protected by the law's preservation of original works, and in the event of violation, the artist has the right to pursue legal recourse and establish that the work was originally created by them. The right of artists to earn royalties and perks should be maintained, and anyone who takes unfair advantage of others' labour should not be permitted to profit from it. If an artist's work is lawfully exploited economically, they should be given recognition for it by being paid royalties.

NCS music is copyright free and can be used freely as long as it is used on YouTube alone. No licensing is required to utilize or commercialize any of the copyright-free music on YouTube. However, an individual will need to contact the company and seek permission if they wish to utilise NCS somewhere other than YouTube.
Usually, when a person has to use a copyright protected song, he/she has to take permission from the original author/composer:
  • Recognize and give full credits to the owners
  • The person must negotiate the payments or royalties
  • Beside economic rights, the user also must also keep in mind the moral rights of the owner.
  • A person can use the copyrighted song even without taking permission and without payment by claiming "Fair Use," which allows a person to use 10, 15, or 30 seconds of music without violating the copyright.
  • In another situation, a song can be used without taking permission and without payment by using songs which have fallen into the public domain.
A song/music may fall within the public domain due to a number of factors, including:
  • Because the composers/authors officially declared the work to be within the public domain;
  • Since they never possessed copyright;
  • Or simply because they were already produced before copyright was a concept;
  • As a result of these rights being lapsed after being subjected to copyright laws or as a result of their creators choosing to make them publicly available.
The NCS Music bypasses all the barriers of protection given by the law to the author/composer.

In contemporary times, the concept "royalty-free music" or NCS has practically become a common term. This is mostly due to the increasing popularity and prevalence of YouTube, which gives anybody the ability to create and share content.

Additionally, a growing number of small companies, eateries, and commercial establishments employ background music to draw and keep customers. Additionally, they avoid paying hefty royalties to well-known musicians by using royalty-free music.

There is a growing demand for additional royalty-free music as the business of music streaming grows globally. Also, the use of NCS is more convenient to people because they do not have to worry about the copyright infringement.

  3. Although India did not accede to the Rome convention which gave protection to performers, producers, of phonograms & broadcasting organisations in 1961, it did include phonogram (sound recording) as a subject matter u/s 13.
  5. Kakoli Nath, Music Industry and Copyright Law in India, Finology Legal, 18 Oct, 2020,
  8. Kanika Raheja, India Copyright Protection in Musical Work, Mondaq, 02 Aug, 2021,
  10. Indian Performing Rights Society v. Eastern India Motion Picture Association (AIR1977 SC 1443),
  11. Gaurav Bhalla, Know Your Rights Under the Indian Copyright Laws, Ahlawat & Associates, Lexology, 28 Sept, 2021,
  12. Prof. Dirk Visser, Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Leiden, Open access and copyright, open,

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