Chennai: Music maestro Ilaiyaraaja on Tuesday won a major legal battle with the Madras High Court accepting his contention that he alone has the right over the songs composed by him over the years for various films.
Justice Anita Sumanth passed order on a civil suit filed by the composer in 2014 against a group of music labels while dismissing a suit filed against him by Malaysia based Agi Music in 2013.
Raja in his suit had moved the court for restraining Agi Music and some other music labels from monetising his songs without his permission. He said he had composed more than 4,500 songs in his long career and earned the reputation of being the only person to have scored music for over 1,000 films. But the fruits of his labour and love were monetised by music labels without his permission, he said.
Agi Music, on the other hand, accused Raja of having breached the terms of a 2007 agreement by which he had allegedly assigned the copyright of his compositions to his wife and she had entered into a 'Sound Recording Licensing Agreement' (SRLA) with Agi Music. This was countered by Raja's counsel saying the agreement was only for five years whereas Agi exploited it for much longer.
The then First Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice T S Sivagnanam had in August 2015 ordered consolidating of both the suits for joint hearing by a single judge. The Bench had also appointed retired district judge B Gokuldas to record evidence in the two suits so as to facilitate early disposal-the usual practice was for the Court Master to record evidence. Following this, Justice M Sathyanarayanan listed out eight points to be examined by the court in the Agi civil suit and 14 issues from Raja's suit. Those points included the question whether Raja was entitled to claim right over the songs composed by him for movies produced by others on payment of accepted remuneration to him.
Another issue to be resolved was whether Echo Recording was right in claiming the rights of the sound recordings from the concerned movie producers and that would eliminate Raja's rights over those compositions. After judge Gokuldas completed the recording of evidence, Justice Anita Sumanth took up the matter for final hearing. She took on file voluminous evidence through the elaborate arguments by both sides and reserved her verdict. In her orders passed now, Justice Anita Sumanth said Ilayaraja's compositions can only be used in movie halls and cannot be played on online music portals, radio stations and reality shows without his permission.
In his suit against Echo Recording Company, Raja had said he had sold the rights of his songs to this company in the 1980s for distribution of his compositions on cassettes but got no money as royalties. The court had given him temporary relief in 2017 whereas Justice Sumanth has now passed a final order on the issue.
Raja's lawyer E Pradeep said: "There were two cases, one in 2013 and the other in 2014. The 2013 case is related to AGI. AGI said whatever rights it has got, it got it for 10 years. They got the approval in 2007 but they have been exploiting after 2012 also.
We argued that the agreement with them was only a period of five years and it not valid after that. The court has accepted that the agreement the company and Raja sir signed is valid only for five years. With regard to Echo hearing, the court said that music that has been composed by Raja sir is only for theatrical purposes and not for any other medium."
The legendary musician has time and again said that legal action will be taken against those who use his composition without his permission....