Ilaiyaraaja's legal battle over music rights: Industry people speak up - Hindustan Times

Ilaiyaraaja's legal battle over music rights: Industry people speak up

May 01, 2024 06:28 PM IST

Indian music industry expresses their thoughts as music composer Ilaiyaraaja fights for the rights to his songs with a music company.

Tamil musician Ilaiyaraaja’s legal battle with Echo Recording Company, that bought the rights to his compositions, has sparked the question — who owns a song? Is it the film producer who pays the music composer, lyricist and singer, the music director who composes a song or the lyricist who writes it? According to the Copyright Act 1957, the producer is the first owner.


On April 24, the Madras High Court came to the conclusion that the musician cannot claim the sole rights to his discography that includes over 4,500 songs, because lyrics are an integral part of a song too. The two-judge bench stated that the 80-year-old only has a right on the melody.

When we speak to composers and lyricists from the Indian music industry, they agree with the court’s decision, stating that a song is a collaborative effort and cannot belong to just one artiste.

Sameer Anjaan, noted lyricist, is happy with the mention of the contribution a lyricist makes to a song, "India has got Copyright Act, and each and every thing is written so clearly, there should not be any misunderstanding between the author, composer or producer. Rights belong to the producer. If somebody is claiming he has got 100 percent rights, I don't think this is the right approach. It's okay if Ilaiyaraja is ready to fight, but you have to follow the Act, you cannot not obey the law of the land. Whatever order the Court will pass, I will be satisfied with that."

Ehsaan Nourani, of the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy trio, is also a firm believer in what the law says, "When you are working on a movie, you have been hired to do music for it. You can, as the composer and lyricist, claim royalties. Unless there is a documentation to show you own rights, a producer automatically sells the rights of the song to record companies. Complete ownership of a song is not possible when doing a film contract unfortunately. Whether in India, or America, it's the same."

Lyricist Swanand Kirkire, who says he shares a good rapport with Ilaiyaraja, however doesn't have a take on what the court has said. He however says, "I cannot comment on who gave the companies the copyright in this case. I don't know thus what was happening before 2012. What the Court has done is reiterate the Copyright Act."

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