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Updated: January 6, 2010 16:14 IST

Let the music play on

Nikhil Raghavan
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Ilaiyaraja enters into an agreement with Agi Music to prevent unauthorised use of his compositions

‘Video killed the radio star', sang The Buggles in their chart-topping release of 1979, which described how the salad days of radio was cut short by the advent of television. Music videos sounded the death knell for radio stars.

Today, digital formats and the Internet have already downed the shutters of most music companies, and affected performing artistes. “Piracy is another great threat to music and musicians. In India, most people are not aware, or are unconcerned about copyright laws. This has proved disastrous for the music fraternity,” says maestro Ilaiyaraja.

Irked by the rampant unauthorised use of his music, both in films and non-film recordings, Ilaiyaraja has signed a deal with Agi Music, a leading Malaysian record label and music publishing company. Says Ilaiyaraja: “I would like to inform the public that I have entered into a licensing agreement with Agi Music for manufacturing and distributing my songs in any format, and have also granted the license to distribute my songs on digital and new media formats, including mobile ringtones, caller tunes and online downloads.”

Ilaiyaraja holds the copyright, as the music composer/creator of the works, for almost all the songs that he has recorded for films and for private albums before the year 2000. These include the vast repertoire of songs and albums released on his earlier label, Echo Recording Company. Now, Agi Music will have the rights to administer all of Ilaiyaraja's works before the year 2000, including radio broadcasting, synchronisation usages, mechanical usages, mobile contents and Internet downloads.

Agi Music is owned by Agilan Lechaman, a Malaysia-based former Warner Music professional. Agi Musi was started in 2004, and has since released quite a few of Ilaiyaraja's music overseas, as well as a few albums in India. “We are in the process of establishing the label in India to honour our agreement with Ilaiyaraja for enabling him to benefit from his creativity. We have applied for membership to trade bodies such as IPI, IMI, PPL and IPRS for legalising the operations and protecting the copyright of his works,” says Agilan.

What prompted Ilaiyaraja to undertake this landmark step is the large misuse of his creations by various media, in the absence of a controlling body. “There are a few record labels violating the copyright of my songs by releasing them. especially in digital formats and new media formats, without my permission. The sound recording rights and music publishing rights (also known as intellectual property rights) of most of my music, especially those before the year 2000, belong to me. Contrary to Indian practice, these rights do no belong to film producers, and, consequently, no producer has the authority or right to distribute them,” says the composer. But, what about recordings post-2000? “Most of these works were sold outright to either the film producers or label owners for a fixed consideration. Consequently, the copyrights have also been transferred to them. These will not form part of the catalogue that is licensed to Agi Music,” informs Ilaiyaraja.

In the wake of this development, any end-user of the maestro's works, even for public performance or remixes and commercials, will have to get permission from Agi Music.

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