Six film producers from the Tamil industry have moved the Madras High Court against music composer Ilaiyaraaja's claim that he holds the copyright to songs contained in their films. The plaintiffs have moved the court seeking a permanent injunction and to make them absolute owners of the copyrights of the film.
The group of six producers including, PT Selvakumar and R Chandrasekhar, submitted that Ilaiyaraaja cannot claim copyright ownership for songs he had composed. They have argued that the producer is always the first owner of all copyright of the film including audio and visuals in songs. They point out that it is the producer who in consultation with the director engages artists and technicians for a movie and that a fixed remuneration is given to them. The producers' group points out that this has been the practice in Indian cinema industry for over 80 years.
"He needs to understand that several producers are currently struggling. If he gives us a percentage of royalty, weâ€™ll let go of this. Otherwise we will protest," said producer PT Selvakumar to the media. "Over 100 producers are supporting this legal battle. Producers and their rights need to be protected. Producers are the one who they (composers) take salaries from. But they have been reduced to beggars. When these songs are sung in concerts or played on the radio, we should get royalty. 50% should be given to producers, who have allowed you (Ilaiyaraaja) to grow to this level," he adds.
The producers further contended that if Ilaiyaraaja was allowed to do this then all artistes including their hero, comedian, technicians and the art director would claim ownership over their contribution and scenes in the film, leaving those who are investing enormous amounts in the film 'high and dry'.
Recently, the music composer who is the brain behind over 5000 songs in the industry released a video demanding that his permission be acquired from singing his compositions.
"I'd like to inform all singers and musicians to get my prior sanction for singing my songs," he warns in the video, "Otherwise it is an offence under the copyright law. If they don't conform to this, I will take action as per law. The royalty is on the fee you're charging, not the song. If you sing for free, I want no royalty. But if you sing for money, why shouldn't I get a share when the song's mine?" he asked.
The issue has created deep fault lines in the industry between singers and the composers. And now with producers demanding a share too, Ilaiyaraaja's demand is under further legal scrutiny.