Echo Recording appeals against Ilaiyaraaja’s special moral rights over his compositions

Echo Recording appeals against Ilaiyaraaja’s special moral rights over his compositions

Film music composer Ilaiyaraaja. File
| Photo Credit: K. Bhagya Prakash

Popular music label Echo Recording Company Private Limited has preferred an appeal before a Division Bench of the Madras High Court challenging a single judge’s 2019 order which held that music composer R. Ilaiyaraaja has a “special moral right” over 4,500 songs composed by him for more than 1,000 movies in his film career spanning over four decades.

Justices R. Subramanian and R. Sakthivel are slated to hear on Monday, March 25, 2024 the original side appeal filed by the recording company against Justice Anita Sumanth’s June 4, 2019 order. The appeal had been restricted to a part of the decree which recognised the composer’s moral right, in line with Section 57 of the Copyright Act, with respect to his compositions.

The decree was passed in a civil suit filed by the music composer in 2014 against a group of music labels including the Malaysia based Agi Music, Echo Recording of Chennai, Unisys Info Solution of Andhra Pradesh and Giri Trading Company of Mumbai. Then, he had sought to restrain the music labels from monetising the songs composed by him without his permission.

While disposing of the suit in 2019, Justice Sumanth had said, Section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957 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 acts if they were prejudicial to his honour or reputation.

Pointing out that the composer had reserved his right to initiate such proceedings for damages as well as other monetary relief against the music labels if they indulge in distortion, mutilation and so on of his work, the judge said, he holds the right to do so as and when he thinks fit.

In the same verdict, the judge had also held that Echo Recording, too, had the right to exploit the rights over the sound recordings obtained by it from various film producers, for whom Mr. Ilaiyaraaja had composed the songs, and was entitled to exploit the same “specifically and strictly in the form and manner as contained in the respective cinematograph films only.”

As far as the special moral right of Mr. Ilaiyaraaja over his compositions was concerned, she wrote: “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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