Musicians and experts react, as SPB and Ilaiyaraaja are at loggerheads over the issue of royalties.
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.” 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
‘The iprs itself has a problem’
Sonu Nigam, singer
In 2013, Sonu Nigam declined to sign contracts with music labels that refused to share royalties for the songs they sing. He also tweeted that he may give up singing in Bollywood because of this.
Sonu says, “IPRS doesn’t distribute money properly to music composers, lyricists and producers. For every concert, a sum of the money is supposed to go to the team of composers and lyricists, but I am not sure if it is distributed at all! I think there is a problem with the IPRS itself. I am only talking about how copyright for live shows works in Bollywood.”
‘Composers don’t often get royalty’
Ehsaan Noorani, composer
The copyrights are often with record companies, and composers don’t often get their royalties. During live performances, singers’ managers are supposed to give a list of songs that they will perform on stage, and then there is a process through which the royalty money can be distributed to the composers. But this system is not in place in India.
‘Ilaiyaraaja is in the wrong’
Madhura Sreedhar, director
Hotels, restaurants and music events pay a license fee to the IPRS, which it is supposed to divide and pay royalty to music companies, directors and lyricists. This will come twice a year and I get it too. With this case, the event organisers have to pay the license fee to IPRS people, for the music director to get his royalty. A music director sells his music to the film producer and then the music production company gets the rights, and owns the music. It is wrong of Ilaiyaraaja to still want to claim royalties for his tunes or songs.
‘Composers need to take matters into their own hands’
Katrik Shah, Part of Maati Baani, an indie music band and also a Youtube star
If Ilayaraja actually still has the rights to his songs and not the company that the singer and composer signed on with for the song, then he is well within his rights to ask for royalty from the concert. The problem in India is that the whole system of royalties is very skewed and composers hardly see any kind of royalties once the song is released. The IPRS system in India is intrinsically flawed and fraught with corruption. The music companies and labels that sign the composers and singers also insist that they sign away their rights to the song. We had to do it for the one song that we did for T-Series for David (the 2013 Hindi film), although we already had the song out previously.I would say that one solution to this would be for composers to take matters into their own hands and not sign away their rights for their songs.