On Saturday night (IST), veteran playback singer SP Balasubrahmanyam, who is currently in the US, as part of a grand world tour celebrating his 50 years in the film industry , put up a post on his Facebook page where he revealed that Isaignani Ilaiyaraaja has sent the team a legal notice asking them to stop performing his songs as they are breaking copyright laws by performing them without his permission. Soon enough, opinions started pouring in on social media that took sides with the singer or the music director. This controversy has once again put the spotlight on the copyright and royalty conundrum that has been plaguing the industry for the last few years. Chennai Times talks to people on the various sides of this debate:
According to the Supreme Court, the creators of a song hold the rights to it. It considers music directors and lyricists -and not singers -as the creators. However, if these creators choose to sell their rights to a right holder, like a music label, then the label holds the entire rights and the creators cannot claim any right.An organiser of a performance a song needs to get a license from the IPRS (and the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), if the show is going to be televised or broadcast) to hold a show. In fact, the performing hall will ask for clearance from the IPRS.This process is the same world over. The IPRS collects a license fee based on the capacity of the hall, the stature of the performers, and so on. Usually , the minimum amount for a regular orchestra performance comes to Rs 5,00010,000, though an or ganiser can ask for a reduction in this amount. The IPRS takes the administrative charges from this amount and splits the rest of the amount between the rights holder, music director and lyricist in the ration 5:3:2. The money that has been collected for the performance of a creator’s songs is paid yearly to the creator. And world over the performing rights societies (PRS) function in the same way .
There are allegations that the IPRS hasn’t been ensuring that the payment reaches creators and there are a few cases of administrative malpractices that have been filed in the courts. The board of directors are only involved in policy decisions, so we are waiting for the courts to decide on these charges. In this case, Ilaiyaraaja cannot ask a singer to not perform his songs because this is not a single person’s right, but a collective right. Tomorrow, can I ask a singer to not sing any of the songs that I have written because I’m their creator? They can reach a solution to this dispute only through the courts or by coming to an understanding between themselves.
ROYALTY HAS TO BE PAID, SAYS E. PRADEEP KUMAR, ILAIYARAAJA’S LAWYER
Ilaiyaraaja sir has been talking about this issue for the past couple of years and he was forced to take action in this case. The IPRS doesn’t collect any money for concerts that are conducted outside India.In the US, nobody pays for it; even across the world, nobody pays for their performances.But, royalty has to be paid, and it is the composer who should take care of it. Ilaiyaraaja is the absolute owner of many of the songs he has composed, and people have been utilising his songs for so many years.They charge in lakhs per day , but don’t pay the creator anything. That is why the notice has been sent, and this applies to other musicians as well.
Whoever wants to perform the music director’s songs should get his permission first and then perform. He might choose to not charge any money, but his permission is a must. There is already a stay in the court which says that nobody can use Ilaiyaraaja’s songs without his permission.He has also been talking about this for the past two years and stressing repeatedly in his press meets that his permission should be taken.
Our notice to the organ isers of SPB’s tour insists that royalty has to be paid to the composer as per copyright laws.We may take up the issue of royalty on a caseto-case basis. And we are applying this condition across all areas, and not just for singers. Radio stations, television or whatever medium…they should hereafter seek Ilaiyaraaja’s permission.
There were intimations earlier for the past two years regarding his approval, and though he wasn’t told so specifically, SPB knows that permission needs to be taken from Ilaiyaraaja. He has started this as a tour with a lot of shows -maybe 30 or 40 -happening across the world, and he has covered some countries.When it comes to overseas tours, everyone knows the value of money that they collect.So, why can’t they pay the cre ator? Ilaiyaraaja was not se rious about it initially , but when he realised that there is going to be a series of performances, he decid ed to step in and stake his right.
SP Charan, who is the organiser of the singer’s tour and is also currently in the US, could not be reached at the time of going to print.
SRINIVAS, PLAYBACK SINGER AND MEMBER OF INDIAN SINGERS RIGHTS ASSOCIATION
Singers cannot definitely be considered at par with composers. I have also done composing, so I know a composer works much more than a singer on a song. Having said that, in the Indian context, the singer is so important for a song.Ours is not like the western band set-up where four of them write the music and lyrics. Here, it is the producer who signs the music director and gives him the money. Then there is the director who asks for the song based on the situation in his film. And a lyricist writes the song. So, a lot of people are involved in the making of a song. Composers like Ilaiyaraaja and RD Burman are in a different league.
The 2012 copyright amendment, in fact, gives singers some royalty, but in India, it is difficult to implement the law. It is the frustration of the composers that the IPRS is not paying them properly that makes them take such moves. This is an unfortunate incident, because for me, both SPB and Ilaiyaraaja are gods. I cannot imagine Pani Vizhum Malarvanam or Ilaya Nila or Mandram Vandha Thendralukku without SPB. Ilaiyaraaja made some great music but without SPB’s voice those songs are nothing to me, and I wouldn’t be inclined to sing them on stage. I think a singer is also identified as part of a song. How can you take Lata Mangeshkar or KJ Yesudas or Kishore Kumar or TMS from their songs? Take reality shows, for instance. We have Super Singer or Star Singer or some singer. Why aren’t there shows for composers? Singers hold a special place and justice VR Krishna Iyer had said this.That is how the 2012 amendment was made in favour of singers. But it is five years now, and we singers have not got a sin gle rupee.
I don’t think anybody can stop anyone from singing their song, which is already in the public domain. There are laws and bodies by which the copyright of the creator is protected. IPRS is supposed to pay royalty to the com poser. If the composer does n’t get paid by the IPRS, how is it the singer’s problem? I don’t know what the actual problem is and I think they should solve this amicably.
SPB sir should have gone ahead and sung Ilaiyaraaja’s songs. If SPB is paying the license fee, the IPRS will have to pay royalty to Raaja sir. In foreign countries like the US, the copyright laws are really strict and venues themselves have to ensure that. Whether the royalty comes to the composer is a different thing. This system has to get streamlined. Maybe Ilaiyaraaja is doing this to highlight this issue, but this is not the right way to do it, and according to me, he has been illadvised. He has set the ball rolling and so many people are talking about it. The point is IPRS is not paying the royalty properly. Their board is supposed to be reconstituted properly. That is the problem that needs to be highlighted. Ilaiyaraaja should be asking royalty from the IPRS and not SPB.
ILAIYARAAJA’S ALLEGATIONS AGAINST THE IPRS
THE IPRS HAS BEEN PROVIDING FALSE ACCOUNTS TO ITS MEMBERS ON THE ROYALTY AMOUNT THAT THEY COLLECT. I DO NOT GET EVEN 10 PER CENT OF THE AMOUNT THAT THEY COLLECT AS ROYALTY FOR MY SONGS. IN FACT, NO MUSIC DIRECTOR GETS HIS ACTUAL SHARE.MANY EVENT ORGANISER S TELL ME THAT THAT 80 PER CENT OF THE SONGS THAT THEY USE IN THEIR SHOWS ARE MY COMPOSITIONS, BUT THE IPRS GIVES ME ONLY 5-10 PER CENT OF THE AMOUNT COLLECTED AS ROYALTY AND TAKES THE REST CLAIMING SOME EXPENSE OR THE OTHER.THEY ALSO DO NOT HAVE ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS LIKE WHAT AMOUNT DO THEY CHARGE AS ROYALTY TO SONGS FROM A PARTICULAR YEAR OR A PARTICULAR COMPOSER. WE ARE EXPECTED TO GET WHATEVER THEY GIVE US WITHOUT ASKING ANY QUESTIONS. I HAVE LOST MY FAITH IN THEM AND I AM LEAVING THE ORGANISATION AS A MEMBER.
-ILAIYARAAJA, IN JULY 2015, WHILE ADDRESS ING LIGHT MUSIC ORGANISERS