March 28, 2023

Intellectual property rights and music video

This Article has been written by Aakriti Singh, a 3rd Year student of LLB (Hons.) from Amity Law School, Amity University Noida


Music has the incredible power to inspire and connect people from all walks of life and cultures around the world. From Cheb Khalid’s Didi to Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s Despacito and the international phenomenon of South Korean boyband BTS, music knows no language and can unite us all.

In the entertainment industry, creatives rely on intellectual property rights to secure their rights to their creations and to prevent the unauthorised use, reproduction, or distribution of their works. Musicians, singers, and producers make money through sales of their music, merchandise, and live performances. Unfortunately, piracy is rampant in the music industry and without proper protection, their hard work could be stolen.

Intellectual property rights are made up of copyrights, trademarks, and patents. For music, patents are not relevant, so the focus is on copyrights and trademarks. Copyrights protect the original expression of ideas, while trademarks protect the brand name and logo associated with the music. This is why it is so important to protect and conserve music, as it is a powerful tool for connecting us all.

Technology has made it easy to create and share videos with the world. But while videography can be incredibly powerful, it’s also important to be aware of copyright laws. Navigating the world of copyright and videography can be tricky – and it’s easy to mistakenly violate laws without even knowing it. That’s why it’s essential to be informed about your rights and responsibilities when it comes to copyright.


Music, compositions, and sound recordings all deserve copyright protection. A musical work is a combination of notations and symbols that represent music. The composer is the author of this work. Meanwhile, sound recordings refer to audio or podcasts that feature a person’s speech, singing, or other sounds. Copyright applies to these recordings too, so they can be protected. As a musician, having your work legally protected is essential. That’s why copyright protection is so important. It provides security for the owner of the copyright for their lifetime plus an additional sixty years after their death (or after the last owner’s passing, in the case of groups). Copyright protection covers books, songs, poetry, sound recordings, videos, and more. It’s proof of ownership and prevents your work from being stolen. With intellectual property rights, you can be sure that your creations will not be copied without your permission. That permission must be obtained for broadcasting and distribution, which can then be a source of revenue. It also needs to be granted for the use of the composition in things like movies.

How to stay away from copyright trouble? Make sure you create 100% original content, its not easy, or convenient, but its the most foolproof way to go about it! But what about sound effects and music in your video? It’s vital to ask yourself: “Am I inhibiting the original creator’s ability to earn money from this work?” Whether or not the creator is making money from their work, you cannot inhibit their ability to do so. For example, using an entire Taylor Swift song as the soundtrack for your video, is not allowed! That could allow someone to copy the audio without buying her record. That’s a definite no-go when it comes to copyright. Therefore, music makers are vigorously tackling copyright disputes as it threatens to cause mayhem over their creative works


It is a common misunderstanding that ‘Royalty Free’ music is free to utilize, which it is not. Put in straightforward terms, ‘royalty free’ implies that when permission is acquired from the copyright owner, the user need not pay compensation or ‘royalties’ for recurrent utilization of the copyrighted work. Unfortunately, India’s Copyright Law does not characterize the term ‘royalties’, rather gives guiding parameters to the Copyright Board for computing the sum of royalty to be paid for using a copyrighted work. 

In general, if a copyrighted musical work is used in a home video, it should not evoke any legal liability, and be considered fair use, except if the material is being used for commercial viewing. This is where royalty-free works become helpful for content creators who look for platforms to provide them with inexpensive and hassle-free musical content. A lot of these platforms, such as Audio Jungle, Soundstrip, AUDIIO, and Ben Sound, operate on an annual non-exclusive license fee. Freeplay Music, LLC. (“FPM”) is one such platform that permits users to access copyrighted musical works by obtaining an automated license agreement for private and commercial use. It is a clever advertising technique to lure users with ‘free’ content, but no copyright owner would actually allow someone to make money off their intellectual property without appropriate compensation. 

In April 2020, Ford Motor Co. (“Ford”) found itself embroiled in a copyright infringement dispute with FPM. The lawsuit, filed in the State of Michigan, alleged that Ford used multiple songs in its promotional ads in April 2017 without obtaining a license or paying royalties. FPM asserted that it became aware of the infringement when the audio recognition company TuneSat identified 54 songs from its 50,000 song library being used in 74 advertisements. Accordingly, FPM sought statutory damages of USD 150,000 per infringed work, which totaled USD 8.1 million. Ford, on the other hand, accused FPM of false advertising through its trade name and deceptive marketing communications. It alleged that consumers would presume the music content was free to use, when in fact the payment terms were buried in lengthy terms and conditions, and the license fee was only published on its website in 2018.

However, now the question arises as to what is the extent of liability in using free music in a copyrighted work?

Lets take the example of FPM’s policy, it allows you to download their songs for free, with a few conditions. For personal use on YouTube, you’re given the right to allow FPM and YouTube to insert ads. If you need to use the song for commercial purposes, you must have a license for business use. Education-wise, FPM content can be used for educational projects and learning. National Television Broadcasters operating on a national basis can also use the content for free. When you download songs from FPM, you’ll be given a non-exclusive, revocable, non-assignable, personal, and non-transferable license. This grants you the right to view, display, and print the content one time for personal, non-commercial use only. It’s important to note that you don’t have any rights of copyright ownership or any other intellectual property rights – meaning FPM can revoke the license at any time.

Overall, it is clear that the use of copyrighted music in music videos requires prior permission of the artist. Without this permission, the artist risks violating intellectual property rights and facing legal consequences. Furthermore, the laws and regulations governing the use of copyrighted music in music videos remain unclear and need more clarity. As such, it is important to be mindful of these laws and regulations when using copyrighted music in music videos. By doing so, artists will ensure that their work is legally compliant and that their rights are protected.


Aishwarya Says:

Law students often face problems, which they cannot share with their friends and families. We have started a column on our website Student’s Corner. In this column we are talking to several law students about the challenges that they face. Students who are interested in participating in the same, can fill this Google Form.


The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems to

Join our  Whatsapp Group for latest Job Opening

Related articles