The king of southern cine music, 75-year-old Illayaraja, a Padma Vibhushan, is fighting a lone battle for royalty.
Arraigned against Illayaraja are music companies, light music troupes and singers and now some movie producers who have filed a case under the Indian Copyright Act against the music director challenging his right to demand royalty.
“Illayaraja is doing what the IPRS (The Indian Performing Right Society Ltd) is doing. Illayaraja exited IPRS couple of years ago as the amount he was given as royalty for his about 6,000 songs was meagre,” said E. Pradeep Kumar, the music director’s copyright consultant.
He said the IPRS itself is under the scrutiny of Enforcement Director (ED) on various charges.
On Illayaraja’s demand for royalty, Kumar said as per the copyright laws, a music composer is entitled for royalty when others exploit his works for commercial gains.
On the other hand, the light music troupes say that they are just paid contractors for playing various songs and it is only the event organisors who are liable to pay royalty to the composers as it is they who sell the tickets.
Reacting to that Kumar said: “The light music troupes when signing up contracts for music performance should also insist that royalty payment should be made to the composers. It is not possible for the composers to demand royalty payment from event organisors who are overseas and within India.”
“Illayaraja demands royalty on the fee charged by the music troupes and not on the songs. How can someone copy a song originally composed by music directors like Illayaraja and earn in millions without paying anything to the composer?” Kumar said.
Meanwhile, six film producers have filed a case against Illayaraja for a declaration that the music composer cannot assert himself as the owner of copyright over songs featured in movies produced by different producers.
Their contention is that the music director is paid a remuneration for composing the music for a fee by the producer and hence the copyright rests with the movie producer.
According to the producers, Illayaraja has his own music application with his several movie songs. Several producers have not entered into agreement with Illayaraja assigning copyright to the latter.
Reacting to that Illayaraja’s copyright consultant Kumar said it is not known whether the former has composed music for the movies produced by the producers who have filed a case.
Kumar said Illayaraja has filed a case against music companies like Echo Recording Company, Unisys Info Solution, AGI Music, SDN BHD and Giri Trading Company for non-payment of royalties.
As per Section 14(a)(iii) of the Copyright Act, the owner of a musical work has the exclusive right to perform or communicate his musical work to the public, or authorise any other person to do so.
A music industry official preferring anonymity told IANS: “The first author of a cine music is the movie producer and then come the composer and lyrics writer.”
He said after the song is recorded, it is called sound recording and then various rights kick in, like selling of cassettes, live music shows, instrumental music and others.
In the case of music rights, the movie producer assigns the rights to a music company also known as music labels for them to sell cassettes, records and others.
“Earlier the amount realised from sale of cassettes was not much and producers were focussed on getting their money mainly from their movies,” he said.
The movie producers sold their rights on lumpsum basis or on royalty basis.
He said IPRS gets the licence to collect the royalty on behalf of the owners when they assign the right to it.