'Revenue from all 4.5k songs subject to appeal outcome': Madras HC in Ilaiyaraaja case

On the argument of Ilaiyaraaja’s counsel that the composer would continue to hold the rights over his songs, the court wondered if the composer could claim rights over the lyrics of the songs too since they were penned by others or restrict his claim only to the composition.
Music director Ilaiyaraaja
Music director IlaiyaraajaFile photo.

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Wednesday passed an interim order stating that all revenue accrued through commercial exploitation of over 4,500 songs composed by music director Ilaiyaraaja would be subject to the outcome of an appeal filed by Echo Recording Private Limited challenging his rights over the songs.

A division bench of Justice R Mahadevan and Justice Mohammed Shaffiq passed the interim order while adjourning the appeal filed by the company to June. On the argument of Ilaiyaraaja’s counsel that the composer would continue to hold the rights over his songs, the court wondered if the composer could claim rights over the lyrics of the songs too since they were penned by others or restrict his claim only to the composition. The bench observed that the songs would not carry much value without the lyrics.

Senior advocate Satish Parasaran, appearing for the composer, submitted that the lyricists of the songs would receive royalty irrespective of the songs being commercially exploited either by the composer or by the producer.

Echo Recording Private Limited had filed the appeal against the order of a single judge. According to the appeal, the order permitted Ilayaraaja to exploit the rights over his songs although such a right has not been provided under the Copyrights Act. The company argued that as per the legislative framework in India, music directors would lose their right over the songs once they receive remuneration for their work from the producer of the film.

The organisation had bought the rights of around 4,500 songs from the producers of all the movies concerned and had been commercially exploiting them until Ilaiyaraaja moved the HC against the company, the appeal said. Based on the order of the single judge, the music composer gave license to another music company for the 4,500 songs and was commercially exploiting them apart from receiving royalties from Echo Recording Private limited, the counsel for the company alleged.

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