Following Ilaiyaraaja’s legal notice to Smule, Pradeep Kumar, Raaja’s copyright consultant, said that other composers must claim copyright for their work as well.
We spoke to a few composers to know what they felt about Ilaiyaraaja’s move:
Vikram, music composer of Rangoon, said, “Recently in Smule, I noticed Ilaiyaraaja sir’s ‘Inji Iduppazhagi’ being sung by two foreigners. It went viral. The company would have earned a lot with this song. It is reasonable to share the revenue that you have earned out of somebody’s work. What Raaja sir is claiming is absolutely right. Only when legends like him raise their voice, young composers like me can follow in the future. In our system, people don’t take royalty schemes seriously.”
He added, “I had performed with my band ‘Staccato’ in London Olympics. Following that, I got opportunities to work with international musicians in some projects. When I told them about our royalty scheme, they were surprised to hear it. International musicians largely survive on royalties that they get for their work. If they release an album now, they will take three years to release their next album. They will be able to survive with the royalties that they get. But that is not the case with us. We have to work on many projects in a short span of time as we have poor royalty schemes. Smule charges users. When they make money out of someone else’s work, it is necessary to claim copyright. Raaja sir inspires us to stand for our work. Because of his continuous battle, if not us, at least the next generation of composers will benefit. ”
Ilaiyaraaja has been fighting a lone battle against copyright issues for a very long time. Last year, he won a judgment from the Madras High Court to prevent five music labels from continuing to sell his music. He also filed a complaint with the police requesting them to help stop sales of the CDs sold by these labels, and also served notice to the FM radio channel, Radio Mirchi, to cancel their Neenga Dhaan Raaja Sir programme. “I am being forced to seek legal recourse,” he had said in a press meet after the judgment. “I am not one to fight court battles, but I had to for the sake of creators. Nobody should use my name or likeness to make money without my written consent.”
According to composer Raghunathan, who is currently working on Kodi Veeran, the Music Union and the Producers’ Council should discuss this issue and come up with a proper system. “Raaja sir should have done this 20 years ago. We should definitely support him and join him in this fight. Though many experts are involved in making a song, the music director has an upper hand as he has to do a lot of work. Many music channels telecast the music repeatedly, many download it, share it… we don’t get credit for anything. So, when somebody uses our work for commercial purposes, it needs to be legally regulated. The Music Union should appoint a team to ensure that musicians get reasonable royalty and credit for their work.”
Music directors Prem and Leon James echoed Raghunathan’s views: “Not just music, nobody should make money out of other’s hard work,” said Prem, while Leon declared that the industry needs to be transparent about royalties like the West.
“This will definitely help the music industry in a big way,” said Thupparivaalan composer, Arrol Corelli. “I welcome Raaja sir’s move to claim copyright for his songs. This would guide young musicians to receive proper credit for their work. When Raaja sir talks about it, it will have an impact.”
Music director Imman, on the other hand, felt that while composers can claim copyright to an extent, in some cases, they may unknowingly disrupt a listener’s pleasure. Imman said, “We can claim copyright from FM stations and music channels who use our songs for commercial purposes. A music composer has the right to claim credit for his work or a share in the revenue. But beyond that, when we get into it deeply, we tend to disturb the fans, who appreciate our work. Many are inspired by our work. So, we should claim without disturbing a listener’s interest.”