Fights for rights: Glimpses of music copyright disputes from the past
SP Balasubrahmanyam vs Ilaiyaraaja
The long-standing public bonhomie between legendary music composer Ilaiyaraaja and his frequent collaborator and singer SP Balasubrahmanyam has cracked and led to a debate about copyright infringement.
Ilaiyaraaja, through his lawyer, recently sent Balasubrahmanyam and other singers legal notices, asking them to stop performing his compositions in their live shows without his permission.
While copyright infringement related to plagiarism is well-known, ET Magazine takes you through other notable music copyright disputes from the past.
Music Publishers vs Streaming Services
In March 2016, Spotify, the world’s biggest music streaming service, agreed to pay music publishers over $20 million and $5 million in penalties, for unpaid royalties for songs. Google-owned YouTube has also been forced to settle disputes with publishers twice, in 2011 and 2016, by paying undisclosed sums.
ESPN vs Broadcast Music, Inc
It was fighting Broadcast Music, Inc., which licenses performance rights to a huge catalogue of songs on behalf of publishers and songwriters. They both reached a settlement in January this year, with ESPN reportedly agreeing to pay around $15 million a year.
Songwriters vs US Presidential Candidates
Presidential candidates in the US have always used popular songs to connect with their supporters at large public meetings and they are legally allowed to do so as long as the stadium or arena where the song is played has a licensing agreement. But the law also gives songwriters the right to demand the playing of their songs at such political rallies.
For instance, Bruce Springsteen had a problem with Ronald Reagan using Born in the USA as his campaign song and the Rolling Stones and Adele did not want Donald Trump to use their numbers. Neil Young also objected to the Trump campaign’s use of his songs without his permission.
The Verve vs the Rolling Stones
The Turtles vs De La Soul
Metallica vs Napster
Little did heavy metal legends Metallica expect many of their fans to turn against the band overnight but that is exactly what happened when they filed a suit against the illegal, peer-to-peer filesharing service Napster in 2000.
Metallica’s contention that it was a blatant copyright violation did not go down well with listeners, but the judiciary ruled in their favour, leading to Napster’s bankruptcy.
Hector Delgado and Jayson Musson vs Baaueur
Music Companies vs Nightclubs
Phonographic Performance Ltd, which holds the performance rights to over five lakh songs in various Indian languages, went to court late last year against certain nightclubs and restaurants alleging that they were playing its songs without paying for them.
The Bombay High Court ruled in its favour, with those failing to pay the license fee facing a penalty of up to Rs 2 lakh and imprisonment of three years.
Mike Love vs Al Jardine
Roger Waters vs David Gilmour and Nick Mason
Singer-songwriter and bassist Roger Waters, after leaving Pink Floyd in 1985, claimed that the remaining members of the band, guitarist David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason, could not continue using the name Pink Floyd and launched a legal battle in 1986.
After Mason and Gilmour released A Momentary Lapse of Reason as Pink Floyd, they settled the fight out of court with Waters.