RadioandMusic
| 21 Jul 2019
Agi Music CEO Agilan Lechaman - Ilaiyaraaja holds copyrights since 1980s, but labels assume producers are the owners

Music legend Ilaiyaraaja was in the news recently for warning defaulters with legal action for using his music without acquiring the requisite licenses. The maestro has entered into a deal with Malaysian music label Agi Music for his works created before 2000 - the deal is applicable to all areas and platforms, including broadcasting, radio broadcasting, synchronization usages, mechanical usages, mobile contents and Internet downloads.

Radioandmusic.com's Anita Iyer spoke to Malyasia based Agi Music CEO Agilan Lechaman about his plans to exploit Ilaiyaraaja's catalogue. Lechaman dwells upon issues related to copyright infringement in India, his plans of initiating legal procedure against defaulters and Agi Music's plans to venture into the online space with two portals- www. saayee.com and www.ilaiyaraaja.in.

Excerpts -

Was the recent press meet with you and Ilaiyaraaja a result of the proposed amendment to the Indian Copyright Act, 1957?

No. Ilaiyaraaja actually is the pioneer in applying and practising an international copyright system in India. Since the 80s, he has been practising this system, where he retained the copyright of his songs and didn't assign them to the producers.

He managed to do so because he dominated the entire south Indian music market in those days. So the producers agreed to his terms and let the copyright be held by him. He licensed this music to the record labels, but unfortunately, he didn'tá follow up all these licenses. The second generation of record labels is now assuming that the rights belong to the producers and that it is nothing to do with composers. This assumption comes from the general understanding in the way the music industry operates in India. When we entered into an agreement with Ilaiyaraaja, we found that he had documentations to prove his claims that he holds the copyright.

We wanted to make this clear to the music labels who are exploiting his work and hence the recent press meet.

What does your catalogue of Illayraja's music include, as you have entered into an agreement for songs prior to 2000?

Agi Music owns about 600 - 700 movie and non movie titles in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.

How do you tap usage of his creations in the digital and VAS space? Do you have a surveillance team in place?

We have a surveillance team in Malaysia, Singapore and India. In the US and Europe, we are iná discussions with a few companies and will update the news soon through our website www.agimusic.com.

How do to plan to initiate action against defaulters using Illayraja's music without obtaining the requisite license? Have you issued warnings to film, mobile and television industry against using his music without licenses?

We spoke to a few producers, composers and advertisement producers in India and are figuring out producers who have infringed on our rights earlier. We found that people are not much aware about the copyright issue or maybe they pretend ignorance, so we decided to approach it legally. The press meet with Ilaiyaraaja was our first step and then, we will initiate legal action. We are approaching radio and TV channels through our public performance license representative MACP, which is based in Malaysia.

Agi Music has lodged cases against five companies in India. Which are these companies?

These include some major record labels in South India and mobile operators in Indiaá But as it is a legal issue, I can't mention names.

Which distribution networks, music websites, and content aggregators has Agi Music entered into agreements with, for licensing Ilaiyaraaja's tracks?

Currently, we have entered into an agreement with CDBaby for digital downloads and are currently developing our own digital store at www.saayee.com for mobile content. We have entered into a license with MusiqMe in Malaysia, which is our subsidiary, Unisys Info in India, Zed in Singapore and are searching for the right partners in other countries.

As your label is based in Malaysia, how do you exploit Illayraja's content? What is the main focus for you- Indian market or international markets?

Our main focus is India. As I explained, we are developing our own digital store which will be launched by mid 2010 and we are planning to launch an official site for Ilaiyaraaja through www.ilaiyaraaja.in, hopefully by March 2010. This site will be the main source for Ilaiyaraaja content over the web, and we are also contemplating the idea of an online radio.

What sort of music would be hosted on www.saayee.com?

We are planning to make Saayee the best source for Asian music as none of the digital stores really focus on Asian music. Western music including popular music, derives great inspiration from Asian music especially Indian, Middle Eastearn, Indonesian, Tibetan, Taiwanese etc, but Asian music is not widely available at the existing digital stores. All the digital stores are mainly focusing on western music or mainstream music and the Indian catalogue is ignored. So, we plan to position Saayee as one of the best choices for Asian music lovers and will sell all kinds of music, including popular music from the western world. In India, Saregama and Times Music have currently signed with us for their contents.


What is the total catalogue of Agi Music, apart from Ilaiyaraaja music?

Currently, 95 per cent of our catalogue consists of Ilaiyaraaja's music; apart from that, we have our own production wing. Other artistes from India include playback singer VV Prasanna, carnatic singer Saashwathi, English rock band E Flat and some Malaysian artists like Jey Raggaveindra and Gaayathri Vadivel.

What would be the focus of Agi Music in 2010?

Our main focus for 2010 would be mobile platforms and music publishing. We have some plans for the mobile music platform, which is in great demand in all countries. Our plans are to create new trends in music listening and encouraging music purchases through mobile platforms.

What are your views on the exploitation of music by the electronic media?

Through music publishing, the first thing we should do is organise the usage of the music in essentially Indian electronic media as also electronic media in Malaysia, Singapore, Canada and other countries.

The song usage data including the telecast date, number of times of telecast, songs used, copyright owners are not properly recorded and submitted to the public performances societies and publishing houses. Electronic media are using any music without any consideration and approval from the owner of the music and they are totally unaware about copyright infringement. The same applies for advertisements, programme intro or theme music, music and dance reality shows use music blatantly without acquiring licenses.

On the GEC front, serials simply use background scores and songs, remixes of old songs in their scenes. I believe the copyright issue is well organised and respected in North Indian markets but totally ignored by Southern Indian industry. We would like to educate the market on these issues and hope that we can create a new revenue source for the music industry through this music publishing including mechanical, synchronisation, public performance etc.