In a video message on November 27, 2018, acclaimed Indian music composer Ilayaraja announced that he would be taking “legal action” against anyone who violates the copyright of his songs.
He goes on to say,
“I’d like to inform all singers and musicians to get my prior sanction for singing my songs. Otherwise it is an offence under the copyright law. If they don’t conform to this I will take action as per law. This also includes people who play my music in instruments. And you all have to realise this is wrong. Since I am no more a member of IPRS (Indian Performing Right Society), the royalty that I get from singers and others who use my songs will go to ‘Cine Musicians Union’ henceforth.”
The award-winning composer was a member of the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) for a number of years.
“Ilayaraja had been a member of IPRS for at least 15 years but since 2017 he withdrew his membership,” said Pradeep Raja, Ilayaraja’s legal advisor.
When reached out to the IPRS Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rakesh Nigam to shed light on the discontinuation of membership, he clarified,
“Ilayaraja has withdrawn from IPRS saying that he wants to collect royalties by himself. Everyone has different expectations of what royalties they need to be paid. They think if they collect it on their own then they’ll receive more royalties than what IPRS can do for them. So that’s something we as an organisation respect. You can’t stop an individual from withdrawing from a society because that goes against the basic framework of the law itself.”
The long-standing debacle on royalties has never found a permanent solution. The constant battle for receiving their share of royalty has left artists, lyricist, composers and musicians in the lurch.
The music composer with more than 5000 songs in his kitty, Ilayaraja further explains in the video,
“Please understand that I’m not stopping you from singing. You are paying royalty for the money you earn and not for my song. If you’re singing my songs for free, then you won’t have to pay me. But, if you are earning money by singing my songs, what is wrong in me asking a share of it? When the song itself is mine, how can you deny my share? After all, it is a small amount and I do all these to legalise things.”
The Copyright Act, amended in 2012, states that music composers will be paid royalty during his or her lifetime, as well as 60 years after death. Societies have been formed to make sure that members including artists, musicians, composers and lyricists get their rightful royalties. However, the truth is far from what has been stated in the law.
That being said, some believe that the law needs streamlining and it will come as time passes by.
According to Nigam, there is so much confusion in the market. Unfortunately, the way the act is, either you can collect it through the society or yourself or the owner can collect it. Societies such as IPRS, Phonographics Performance Ltd (PPL), Novex Communications and Indian Singers Rights Association (ISRA) have been formed to collect royalties on behalf of their respective members. So the user is confused about the number of societies that he/she needs to pay up to.
“I do agree that change is required. India is currently going through a lot of change and development when it comes to copyright. Unlike the West, these kind of issues has been settled some 60-70 years ago. Copyright movement, royalties, licensing – is pretty new in India and there is a lot of churning that’s happening. It’ll take time to settle. Once all these kind of issues come up in the next one or two years, then there can be feedback to streamline the copyright act,” concluded Nigam.
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