Music could be a universal language as they say, but legendary music composer Ilayaraja has reinstated that it is definitely not universal property.
It’s just been a day since veteran singer S P Balasubrahmanyam put up a post on his Facebook page about receiving a legal notice from Shri Ilayaraja who is making copyright claims on the latter’s songs that were on singer’s list to be sung at the show in United States. Ilayaraja had also sent the notice to singers K S Chitra and Charan as well. And this has sparked a conversation among the prevailing systems of ensuring royalty on songs for composers and the lack of it in the case of singers.
Singer Jyotsna Radhakrishnan stated that while one cannot fault the composer for staking a claim on his songs, it leaves behind a lot of questions. “I’ve not idea how it’s going to affect people who thrive on music shows done by troupes outside the film industry. They cannot afford to pay the royalty; I know of people who exclusively sing songs of Ilayaraja, and I only wish they were exempted from it.” She added that she wasn’t sure of the legalities when the songs were placed outside the space of TV and radio, where royalty is already imposed. “There are labels that are very stringent about letting singers play their songs; it’s quite a bummer when it comes to live performances, nonetheless, one could say that this it is the right of every musician to defend his creation. It’s almost like a pension to the composer.” Singer Gayatri Asokan said that the royalties and copyright to music were already sorted.
“The IPRS (Indian Performing Right Society) is the legal body that ensures copyrights, royalty and payments to Indian composers and lyricists, thanks to the explosive speech made by Javed Akhtar sir in the Rajya Sabha (2012).”
However, that isn’t the situation with those who lend their voices to film songs, said Gayatri. “There has been discussions at various levels to ensure royalty to singers as well, but nothing has materialized. Perhaps the record companies, who don’t run on huge profits, are not keen on paying the playback singers.” I’m not fully aware of the legal intricacies involved in Ilayaraja sir’s case, but I hope they solve the issue,” said the singer. Sooraj S Kurup, the composer who recently composed songs for the Sunny Wayne-starrer Alamara, said that he’s quite the newbie even now, and he’s starting to slowly learning these things. “It’s not the case that I’m a big name in the industry, and I still think that once the Friday movie releases and the songs leaves everybody’s minds, music shows help rekindle their flavour after some time,” said the composer, who is not yet a member of IPRS.
Composer Prashant Pillai too isn’t a member of IPRS and he states the reason very simply, “My body of work is much smaller compared to that of Ilayaraja or A R Rahman, While I understand the sentiments of a composer, I don’t wish to hold on to my art, when it’s for films. If at some point it slips to the public domain, I’m okay with it,” he said.
“However, if it’s personal, or an independent piece, I try to secure the rights over it through a US company. And I honestly think that we need a governing body that has better surveillance systems. Who sits down and monitors how many times a radio station played my song, or who made a rip-off of the same on YouTube?”
“While I think that taking ownership is important to keep misuse at bay, the larger devil out there is that there isn’t an organization well-equipped to do this job diligently,” he concluded.