'Ilaiyaraja right in battle with SPB, but royalty questions are vexed'

'Ilaiyaraja right in battle with SPB, but royalty questions are vexed'

 The music industry in throwing its weight behind composer Ilaiyaraja in his battle for concert royalties.

Velu, director of the Bengaluru-based Lahari Recording Company, would like to look at the maestro’s row with singer S P Balasubrahmanyam as a fight to bring concert organisers to account. In India, how to share the royalty pie remains a matter of bitter contention. Labels agree royalties are deserved for TV shows and live concerts, but argue they must be the rightful recipients, and not composers and authors.

“Audio companies pay for the creations of lyricists and composers. They are thus entitled to royalties when their songs are used by private parties and television channels,” he said. SPB has rendered many hits in Kannada, with Lahari holding the rights to them.

Velu says he will now sue concert hosts who don’t pay for licensing. “Till I moved the courts five years ago, TV channels were airing reality shows and violating copyright provisions. However, they are paying royalties every month now, thanks to a verdict in our favour,” Velu told DH. Audio companies are seeking no royalties if the songs are sung at free concerts, or by streetside orchestras. “But organisers of big events profit from our content. We want them to live and let live,” he said.

Anil Nayak of Akash Audio, said, “We will move the courts to protect our interests against concert organisers.” Composer K M Indra says musicians’ associations should do more to protect creative artistes’ rights when it comes to royalties.

According to Indian Copyright Act audio companies are entitled to 50% of all royalties while composers and authors get 25% each. Companies have approached the courts, saying they pay for creative services and hence own musical works. Composers and authors say the companies enjoy certain rights, but don’t own creative works. The case is pending.

How it all began

A row broke out on Sunday between Ilaiyaraja and legendary playback singer S P Balasubrahmanyam. The composer has served a notice, saying SPB, on a concert tour abroad, can't sing his songs without his permission. On a Facebook post, SPB said he was not aware of the law, and would now refrain from singing the maestro’s songs.

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