The Madras High Court has barred record labels from utilising original songs by composer Ilaiyaraja. According to reports, the Echo and Agi Recording firms had reached an arrangement to sell Ilaiyaraaja’s works on CDs and cassettes.
Ilaiyaraaja filed a lawsuit in 2014 against music labels and others for allegedly infringing his licensing over the songs he composed. He claimed that the companies were not only infringing on his copyrights but also profiting from his music after the contract was terminated.
In 2019, the HC Judge Anita Sumanth, who heard the case, ruled in favour of the music labels Echo and Agi Audio. However, Ilaiyaraaja’s songs were prohibited from being monetised through TV reality shows, concerts and online radio channels without his permission. Films with music created by Ilaiyaraaja that have been released and shown in theatres were exempted from the order.
Ilaiyaraaja, on the other hand, appealed against this order. The ruling delivered by the single bench of the HC earlier was overturned by a two-judge division bench, on February 18. It ruled in favour of the music composer and said that the Echo and Agi Recording will not be allowed to distribute Ilaiyaraaja music after the termination of the contract. The next hearing has been adjourned until March 21, while allowing the music labels to present their side.
The HC bench comprising Justices Duraisamy and Tamilchelvi heard the appeal. “The particular judge failed to consider the definition of copyright in section 14 of the Act, which, in the case of music, is copyright,’ said Ilaiyaraaja’s counsel during the hearing. The sole right to replicate the work in the manner of any item, including storage in any electronic means belongs to the composer of the music, argued the lawyer.
In his appeal, Ilaiyaraaja submitted that he had composed a large number of songs in his four-decade-old career during which he had earned the reputation of being the only individual to have composed music for more than 1,000 movies.
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