Ilaiyaraaja has been in the news for the past few years due to his views on copyrights and royalties for his music. From quitting the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) to requesting radio channels to stop playing his songs, it has now reached a high point with the composer sending a legal notice to veteran singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam for not seeking permission to perform songs composed by him at a recent concert in the US.
This uncomfortable situation has shaken the music industry, and has once again raised the question of how regulated the procedure of copyright and royalties is, in the music industry. “This comes under the IPRS, which is the agency entrusted with getting composers the royalties they deserve. If it had been functioning properly, he would have millions in his pockets by now. It is unfortunate that he chose this way with someone he has had a bond with over so many years,” says singer Vijay Yesudas. He adds, “This is a legal procedure that needs to be clarified to everyone. IPRS is not a government body as such, and it has many irregularities. Although, I wish Ilaiyaraaja sir had sent SPB sir a congratulatory note rather than a legal notice.”
Ilaiyaraaja’s copyright consultant E. Pradeep Kumar, has said that the composer has been giving press meets on the issue and that SPB created a situation for a legal notice had to be sent. “We leave the decision of how much to pay to the payees. All they have to do is seek permission and pay a royalty fee. But no one is willing to pay even one Rupee. People want to utilise him free of cost,” he said.
Singer Sunitha Sarathy opines, “While the issue of composers and singers not being paid royalty is valid and justified, it is sad to see two legends, who complemented each other for many years, entangled in this issue.” Saying that the issue of royalties is something that should be the responsibility of event organisers, she adds.
P. Sanjay Gandhi, president of Intellectual Property Rights Attorney Association, says, “As per the latest copyright rule, everyone including the singers and music composers have separate royalty. A ‘performance production right’ should be brought into action to avoid such hassles. In this case, Ilaiyaraaja has got the copyrights to his songs and he can issue a legal statement to anyone who sings his songs without permission. But sadly, SPB was unaware of it.”
— With inputs from Merin James....