When someone complaints on the social media, he becomes the hero, and the appellee becomes the villain. This forms the crux of the issue between Ilaiyaraaja and SP Balasubramanhyam
- Ilaiyaraaja sent notices to SPB asking him not to sing his songs
We don’t know whether the notice was sent to the singer or the organisers. The notice would have been forwarded to the organisers. The organisers who collaborated with SP Charan organise are not small media houses. Indus Entertainment, who is hosting the show in Dallas and Garland are a big media group who have done enough shows to understand the copyright laws. The show ticket costs a minimum of $30 and a maximum of $250. The majority of the show is sold out and let’s say they will get an average of $100/seat. The Culwell Center in Garland seats 6800 people, and you do the calculations.
The media groups that are doing the shows in other cities 8K Miles Group (they released Bairavaa in the US) or 6Strings Productions all seem to be well equipped to know about copyright laws. Being in the US, it’s nearly impossible to do a concert without getting such permissions. One of the shows has VVIP tickets that cost $249. These are over and above the sponsorships that the shows would receive in each of the cities.
They could have talked to Ilaiyaraaja’s company and made a deal. I have been part of organising committees that had done shows in Chennai, and we got last minute calls from big audio companies asking for huge sum two days before the concert. We had to negotiate and finalise a deal. Later, we came to know that the singers who were performing sent the list of songs to the audio companies.
2. Why this greediness Mr Ilaiyaraaja. Why can’t you be magnanimous?
He was magnanimous. When he started as a composer, he didn’t know anything about copyright. He composed songs, made music, and the record labels made money out of it. When the digital revolution began, and the companies that he gave rights were exploiting his work to make money for themselves – Agi Music and Echo recording company are the major benefactors. Every music channel, FM Radio stations and light music troupes were using his music without providing any royalty money. He opined about this at a light music troupes association meeting. It was about how IPRS (Indian Performing Arts Society) is doing a bad job with respect to procuring royalties for music composers and singers.
He fought a case against five recording companies and won the case to get the rights for his songs. It wasn’t an easy battle. The producer’s council supported him because he was one music composer who helped the producers.
(Listen to what Kalaipuli Thanu’s last words in this video, “Appave vangiruntha, ivaru Bill Gates aagirukkalam)
There are references in books about how he refers to the movies based on producers and not actors or directors. In fact, he promised an amount to the producer’s council from his earnings through rights. He has done many movies without even getting a penny – the latest being Onayum Aatukuttiyum and that’s why Mysskin released the score for free on the internet.
All he stated was, ask his permission before performing. He hasn’t taken down YouTube videos, Dubsmash videos and stopped wedding bands. When he won the case, the media houses towed the line, they started getting permission before performing in reality shows or stage shows, pay the royalty, etc., The event organisers of SPB50 could have done the same.
And he is magnanimous enough to give all his songs for free on his app for us to listen. The app charges you only for downloading the music.
3. Why haven’t other music directors done it?
The Yesteryear music composers like MSV died with bad credits. Ilaiyaraaja collaborated with MSV in few movies, so that he can help MSV financially. After MSV’s demise, he did a show and gave the proceedings to the family (people criticised even that). Post AR Rahman, the music composers are quite shrewd, and they hold different levels of rights for their songs. Whenever a tv or reality show uses any of AR Rahman songs, they either get permission or have long-standing deals/contracts with his company to use his songs.
AR Rahman has allegedly rejected projects as he didn’t get the rights for the music. Eg: Om Shanti Om. Ilaiyaraaja woke up late to the party and establishing his legally obtained rights. I don’t know why it’s a criminal offence when someone establishes his legal right in this country. In fact, his case stands as a precedence for many young music composers who are stifled by the music companies.
If Ilaiyaraaja had enforced this right long back, he would become multi-millionaire just by using the rights of his songs. Why do you think western singers who haven’t made an album for years still earn money? It’s through their royalties.
4. The copyright law should have given provisions for co-creators. How come the singers and lyricists don’t have any rights.
The Indian copyright law puts the “author” as the first owner of a musical recording. The author in the case of a musical recording is the composer of the song. The copyright handbook says that the lyricist and the singers also have rights to the song. But the composer is the first owner of the copyright.
The copyright act of 2012 (amended from 1957) clearly states that the broadcasting organisation (in this case the event organisers) should get prior permission from all the owners of the copyright. The onus is on the event organisers and not by the copyright holder.
So even if SPB (who is the singer in this case) part owner of the rights, the event organiser should have got prior permission from Ilaiyaraaja. It’s the same for Vijay TV’s Super Singer that he is currently part of as a judge.
But llaiyaraaja has claimed that he is the sole owner of the songs, and the court has awarded him the same. In that case, he is legally entitled to enforce his right of royalty. If the singers and lyricists want to have royalty, let them go with a separate litigation and get the proper compensation.
Every time a singer performs a song, he/she doesn’t do it for free. There have been times when SPB asked for an enormous amount of remuneration and Ilaiyaraaja used upcoming singers to run his show.
4. Can I not listen to Ilaiyaraaja’s song? Can I not sing his song in the bathroom?
There are countless memes making fun of this issue, and they are nothing short of stupidity. People need to understand public performance, commercialised public performance and private performance. When you receive money for your performance, you need to pay some royalty to the original composer or at least ask permission to use the song.If the composer allows you to do a commercial public performance, you are not violating any copyright issues.
Let me give an example if you do a YouTube video of an Ilaiyaraaja song but not opt for ads, you don’t have any problems. But if you do a Youtube video and make money out of ads then you are liable to pay the royalty to the composer/audio company or whoever owns the original copyright for the song. YouTube itself will start taking down your videos if you make any violations.
That’s the reason why you don’t see any Hollywood movies free on YouTube. Ilaiyaraaja hasn’t stopped any wedding bands or local orchestras which thrive on his songs. He has sent notices to big concerts who will make good profits out of these concerts.
5. Is Ilaiyaraaja completely right on this issue?
The only thing that irked me is the timing of the notices. But they have already completed two concerts. Again, I am reiterating the fact that it’s the responsibility of the event organisers to get permission. The argument that Ilaiyaraaja could have called SPB and solved this issue is a valid argument, but SPB could have done the same on this matter. He brought the news to public light through a Facebook post and made it sensational.
6. Do ragas have copyright? How about using Bharathi’s songs?
Ragas don’t have copyright. If someone owns them, let them come and sue Ilaiyaraaja. Let him face the consequences. Oh, by the way, according to the new copyright law, the copyright expires after 60 years from the death of the composer. Do you know who owned the copyright for Bharathiyar’s songs? AV Meyappa Chettiar acquired the rights from different people, used the songs in his movies and Bharathi’s family gave up the rights for Rs.9500 at that time. It had taken years before Bharathiyar’s songs got nationalised. And anyone can make a composition with Bharathiyar’s songs as they are nationalised.
The problem with Indian music fans
The idea of copyright and paying for music might be an alien concept to Indian music fans. In every country, this is how it happens, and nobody makes music for free. It’s so ironical for people to comment about copyright issues when all they do is download illegal music even though they have the option to pay for them legally. The other set of people is those who complain that their memes and Facebook posts are copied by others comment about that Ilaiyaraaja shouldn’t copyright his songs. It is the hypocrisy of the highest order. Can you see one meme without the original creators’ logo on it? Why can’t be you magnanimous and share your memes without a logo?
Why India needs a stronger copyright law?
The Indian Copyright Law is still grey on various issues. For instance, there are no specific provisions for copyrighting Carnatic compositions. The handling of cover versions is still confusing and many other such provisions. I am not saying the US copyright law is the best but at least it protects the interests of all parties in one way or the other.
Ilaiyaraaja is one of the greatest creators that this country has ever seen. And it’s a pity that he is being bullied for exercising his legally obtained right. I have two songs for all those haters. Listen and enjoy.
As far as my Projekt Ilaiyaraaja is concerned, I don’t make any money out of the posts as I don’t run ads on them. The posts link to youtube videos or official jukeboxes and all the posts to spread the music of my favourite composer.
Update 1: On the rights owned by the producers
- Originally, there were only LP records and Columbia records used to buy the audio rights from the producers. They give a standard Rs.10,000 and get the rights from the producer. The producers were unaware of the consequences and transferred the rights to the audio company. In fact, even now, many producers transfer rights to audio companies, DVD companies and TV channels – they don’t get the royalty whenever the movie is being played.
- When the audio cassette revolution started, Ilaiyaraaja got one of his friends to start the Echo Recording company and started getting the rights from the producers. The producers obliged because Ilaiyaraaja was an integral part of the movie.
- Later, rights were sold to other record companies like INRECO. So legally, the audio companies were owning the rights and not the producers. The copyright law is so murky that they were using legal loopholes without paying any royalties – IPRS that has to govern this were paying pennies in royalties to the producers, composers and lyricists.
- When the digital revolution started, it became even murkier because there are multiple ways of distribution and some of the companies were misusing the audio rights as they were selling them on iTunes and other digital formats without prior permission.
- Ilaiyaraaja filed a case against these businesses and reclaimed the rights to his songs through a court verdict.
- In the below video, Dhananjayan explains how royalties should be shared among the stakeholders. As Pradeep Kumar (consultant to Ilaiyaraaja) stated, they have claimed their rights to the organisers (note – organisers and not SPB) and the organisers could have settled the issue amicably. Lakshman of Lakshman-Sruthi troupe talks about why Ilaiyaraaja wants to regularise the rights and he refused to take money from the music troupes because he doesn’t want the money but the copyright law should be regularised. He also mentions that they pay royalties to other music composers.
Update 2: The singers also have rights in the song according to the Copyright Law Amendment of 2012. But this amendment doesn’t give rights retrospectively to all the songs in the past but to the songs recorded in the future.
Update 3: Julian Karikalan, who recently made an Indie English movie with Ilaiyaraaja has written a blog post on his experience with the copyright act. Although he is governed by the laws of Australian Copyright Act of 1968, the post clearly explains how movie copyrights work. Here is an excerpt and the link to the blog post.
As the maker of the sound recording, I hold the copyright for the sound recording. As the composer who wrote the melody and the complete score for the movie, Raaja sir holds the copyright for the Musical work. I can communicate the sound recording to the public, make copies, sell the music as the soundtrack of the movie and use it for any promotional purposes for “Love and Love Only”.
However, if I decide to run a commercial stage show (selling concert tickets) with a Symphony orchestra playing the complete score of my own film, I would have to seek separate permission from Raaja sir
Read the complete post in the below link