Ilaiyaraja-SPB row ignites royalty debate

Ilaiyaraja-SPB row ignites royalty debate

Ilaiyaraja-SPB row ignites royalty debate

The creative community in the city is agog over music composer Ilaiyaraja’s copyright battle with singing legend S P Balasubrahmanyam.

Everyone agrees Ilaiyaraja is justified in asking for royalties from concerts where his songs are performed, but questions of collection and distribution are vexed. In Chennai, the maestro’s consultant told a news site that celebrity singers “mint money” from shows while composers don’t get even “one rupee.”

That sentiment was broadly endorsed by industry insiders in Bengaluru, but they pointed fingers at audio companies rather than singers.

“Ilaiyaraja is correct as he holds the intellectual rights to his creations. A singer renders a song, while the lyricist and composer create it. Intellectual rights don’t belong to audio companies, but they are now making money,” said Rakshith Shetty, hero of the latest Kannada hit Kirik Party.

At least on paper, creative people are in a better position since 2012, when the Indian Copyright Act of 1957 was amended. The law now empowers composers and lyricists to receive half of all royalties, but audio companies have blocked it in court.

There is no doubt the law is on Ilaiyaraja’s side. It vests no right with SPB, according to Sriranga Subbanna, advocate, Just Law.

“The Indian Copyright Act is vague. We need a clear and well-definited law,” he told DH. For Anoop Seelin, who scores music for films, the battle between Ilaiyaraja and SPB, two long-time friends and stalwarts, indicates the gravity of the royalty-sharing problem.

‘What about fans?’
Composer and singer Gurukiran agrees Ilaiyaraja is right, but suggests the maestro take into account fans keen to hear SPB live. “The Indian Copyright Act is vague and the IPRS is not transparent. We need a law like in the West to help us,” he told DH.

Who oversees it?
The Indian Performing Right Society is in charge of collecting and distributing royalties, but many are unhappy with its functioning.  V Manohar, who has written lyrics and composed music for hit Kannada films such as Janumada Jodi, says audio companies dominate the IPRS, and deprive creative people of their dues.