The Hindu Explains: From the Ilaiyaraaja-SPB spat and Mumbai’s penguins

What the spat between Ilaiyaraaja and SPB is really about?

Ilayaraja during an interview with The Hindu.  

Last week, we were witness to a rather messy legal tangle involving music composer Ilaiyaraaja and singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, or SPB as he is popularly known, after the former served on the singer a legal notice when he was performing concerts in the U.S.

After he received the notice, SPB took to his official page on social networking site Facebook to announce that he and two other singers, K.S. Chitra and S.P. Charan, had been served a legal notice by Ilaiyaraaja’s attorney, asking them not to perform his compositions. The notice stated that if they continued to perform his compositions, they would be breaking the copyright law and would have to pay huge financial penalties while also facing legal action.

SPB is currently performing a series of concerts as part of the SPB50 world tour, which began in August 2016 in Toronto. The singer and his troupe have already performed in Dubai, Singapore, Russia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia as well as parts of India and are currently touring the U.S.

While he had already finished concerts in Seattle and Los Angeles, SPB, his co-singers, organisers of the concerts in cities there and venue management firms received the legal notices before the performance was scheduled to be held in San Jose. In his statement on Facebook, the singer said, “I am ignorant of the law. If it is a law, so be it and I obey it.” He also mentioned that despite having finished many concerts across the globe already, he had not been informed of these legal issues earlier and had only now got the notice from Ilaiyaraja. The Copyright Amendment Act, 2012 sought to introduce a level playing field, protecting the rights of all categories of players in the entertainment industry, not just the producers who earlier held all the rights.

The outcome of this legal spat will have an impact on the lives — and work — of every creative person in the film industry. While the composer himself is yet to react, social media has been abuzz with talk about a friendship between the composer and the singer, who have churned out several hit numbers for decades, gone sour. Copyright experts state that Ilaiyaraaja is within his rights as composer of the songs SPB is singing, to send him a legal notice over his live performances.

The copyright law states that there are two aspects to a composition: the musical aspect and the sound recording part. The composer holds complete rights over the musical aspect of the work and according to performance rights, the singer holds the rights only over the specific performance he gave while recording the composition.

This is, however, not the first time that Ilaiyaraaja has been involved in a copyright claim battle. In 2015, the Madras High Court gave an injunction against four music labels from monetising the composer’s works. Stating that he had signed agreements with labels back in the day, Ilaiyaraaja said that they were valid only for five years and that they had become void.

“Only I hold the right to all my songs. The money I would now get by selling the rights would be shared with the producer of the film, singers, and lyricists,” he said, after the injunction.

Since the composer said he holds the absolute copyright to his works, he further warned that action would be taken against television channels and FM radio stations if they play his works without permission.

With upset fans raising questions about whether the composer was right in having sent a legal notice instead of engaging in a conversation with the singer, this issue has highlighted the need for the Tamil film industry to understand the terms of the copyright law. Lyricist Madan Karky joined the debate and pointed out that the industry needs to discuss how royalties should be shared between musicians, lyricists and singers in future. Others in the industry said that those seeking to make a point about intellectual property rights in creative fields could probably take some advice from yet another popular composer A.R. Rahman.

S. Poorvaja

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2021 6:32:54 PM |

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