Published 17:02 IST, May 15th 2024

Ilaiyaraaja Music Row: How Legally Valid Are The Veteran Music Composer's Claims?

Ilaiyaraaja recently slapped the makers of Coolie, with a copyright notice over the use of a song. How strong then, are his claims from a legal perspective?

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Illaiyaraaja | Image: X

Ilaiyaraaja has never backed down when it comes to making his stake on his songs known to the world. He first made this point back in 2017, when he took legal action against singer SP Balasubrahmanyam for singing his compositions without permission on a world tour. More recently, Ilaiyaraaja has sent a copyright notice to the makers of Coolie. While his intentions behind this move are clear, how far is the law of the land supporting him?


How legally valid are Ilaiyaraaja's claims?

The row over Coolie, incited by Ilaiyaraaja, is with regards to song Vaa Vaa Pakkam Vaa from the 1983 film Thanga Magan. As per a Live Law report, the Madras High Court was deliberating on whether Ilaiyaraaja could lay claims to the song, considering the lyrics were penned by someone else. The Judge asserted, that besides the lyricist and music composer, the singer too contributes to the making of the song - however, none of these parties can claims sole ownership of the same.

Moneycontrol, spoke to Swati Sharma, partner and head, intellectual property, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. She said, "In the case of musical work, the composer is the author of the work and, hence, the owner. The producer is considered the first owner of the cinematograph film. When a song becomes a part of the film, the first ownership of the musical work vests with the producer."


Are the makers of Coolie in the wrong?

The law states that the only set of exceptions to a copyright, are grouped under 'fair use'. This includes This includes songs being used for criticism, commenting, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research.


However, as the makers of Coolie have used the song in question for a promotional purpose, the case at hand, falls outside the box of fair use. This is still a developing story. 

17:02 IST, May 15th 2024