Copyright watchers back Illaiyaraaja; industry says it complies with rule

Tunia Cherian | | Updated on: Jan 15, 2018


Is music maestro and composer IIaiyaraaja right in sending a legal notice to singers SP Balasubrahmanyam (SPB), Chitra and Charan over performing of his compositions?

Industry watchers and legal eagles believe that the veteran music composer may be right in demanding prior permission and royalty for his compositions.

“If a song has been composed by an individual and does not have a common ownership then an individual has the right to claim copyright on the same. However, if the rights for the composition have been acquired by a music label or film producer, then the rights wrest with them,” Safir Anand, Senior Partner, Anand and Anand law firm, which specialises in copyright issues, said.

Lawyers dealing in copyright issues said there are two copyrights cases -- one for the musical work and another for sound recording. Hence, when a person composes a work, he owns the piece of music. However, when it is recorded, the music producer owns the recording. Interestingly, in the event of a live performance, consent is needed from the composer.

E Pradeep, Copyright Consultant to Ilaiyaraaja, when contacted said, “We have sent a notice to the event organisers and not to any one person. As far as copyright is concerned, we have been following such issues since 2015”.

In 2015, Ilaiyaraaja had warned radio stations and television channels of legal action if they played his songs without his prior consent.

However in this case, lawyers point out that while SPB may need to seek permission or pay royalty, technically he can perform since he has lent his voice to the song. In India, singers cannot be barred from performance for copyright infringement as the onus of paying royalty lies with the venue owner.

The event organisers of shows are supposed to have those legalities sorted out with PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd) or IPRS (The Indian Performing Right Society Ltd).

Academy award winning sound designer Resul Pookutty too believes that the ownership should be with the original creator. “The singer is only a tool. The original composer’s permission needs to be taken before any performance. The Copyright Act also protects the original creator and gives him his fair share,” he added.

A slew of industry watchers BusinessLine spoke to indicated that most singers “mint” money through shows; however, composers are deprived of their share of the profit.

Broadcasting firms and radio channels, however, insist that they pay royalty to Phonographic Performance Ltd, which, in turn, disburses the payout to the IP owner.

“We can’t comment on the SPB-Illairaaja issue. But as a company we pay royalty to PPL, which entitles us to use the songs or compositions,” Apurva Purohit, President, Jagran Prakashan said. The company runs the popular Radio City 91.1 FM.

In October last year, DIPP under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry had clarified that the PPL and IPRS's registration was over in 2013 post the enactment of the Copyrights (Amendments) Act. The Ministry said following allegations of malpractice against the IPRS, the Central government had constituted an enquiry against it.

“We are currently not registered. The Government may grant us the licence shortly as registration is under construction. Event organisers, hotels, etc, are required to take consent from us. For international events, organisers need to take permission from our international affiliates in those countries,” G G Prasad, Head, Western Region, Indian Performing Rights Society said.

He said charges for live performance and radio vary based on usage. For instance: A non-ticketed live performance with about 250 people, will entail a fee of Rs 21,000.

This is not the first time such an issue has cropped up. Noted lyricist Javed Akhtar had previously spearheaded the campaign for the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012 in India. The lyricist-writer’s efforts to ensure better treatment to the literary community resulted in the amendment to the copyright laws.

Published on March 24, 2017
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