Ilaiyaraaja wins long-fought copyright battle

He is entitled to ‘special moral rights’ over his compositions, says Madras High Court

June 05, 2019 01:28 am | Updated 03:14 am IST - CHENNAI

Ilaiyaraaja. File photo: M. Vedhan

Ilaiyaraaja. File photo: M. Vedhan

For scores of fans of the much-celebrated film music composer R. Ilaiyaraaja, this could well be music to their ears.

The Madras High Court on Tuesday ruled that he was entitled to “special moral rights” over 4,500 songs composed by him for more than 1,000 movies in his career spanning over four decades.

Decreeing a civil suit filed by him in 2014 against a group of music labels, including Malaysia-based Agi Music, Echo Recording of Chennai, Unisys Info Solution of Andhra Pradesh and Giri Trading Company of Mumbai, Justice Anita Sumanth held that the composer was entitled to the moral rights in line with Section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957.

Right of composer

The Section protects the right of a composer to claim a right over his compositions even after assigning them wholly or partially to others.

It also entitles him to restrain or claim damages in respect of any distortion, mutilation, modification or other act in relation to his work if such distortion, mutilation or modification would be prejudicial to his honour or reputation.

Pointing out that the composer had already reserved his right to initiate proceedings for damages and other monetary relief against the music labels, the judge reiterated that he holds the right to do so as and when he thinks fit.

However, she also held that Echo Recording, too, had the right to exploit the rights over the sound recordings obtained by it from various film producers.

“The second defendant [Echo] has obtained rights in regard to the sound recordings comprised in the songs set out in Annexure-I to the written statement and is entitled to exploit the same specifically and strictly in the form and manner as contained in the respective cinematograph films only,” the judge clarified.

In so far as the moral right of Mr. Ilaiyaraaja was concerned, she said: “This entitles him to exploit such musical works in any manner that he may deem fit barring in the form of the connected sound recordings that are an integral part of the cinematic films for which copyright is held by the respective producers of the films.”

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