On February 3, 2020 Madras High Court’s single judge bench preceded by Justice M.S. Ramesh passed interim injunction decree against Symphony Recording Company from commercially exploiting the Tamil devotional songs and English nursery rhymes sung by Carnatic musician K. Shobana alias ‘Mahanadhi’ Shobana, now 39, when she was just a 13-year-old in 1996.
The court prima facia observed that "When the defendant themselves claim their rights through these two documents, which are prima facie illegal, any further act of the defendant in distributing, manufacturing or selling the songs rendered by the plaintiff, would be impermissible. Since the plaintiff has made out a prima facie case, there shall be an order of interim injunction, pending disposal of the suit."
Justice M S Ramesh noted in the interim order with submissions of her counsel G. Harihara Arun that the assignment agreements based on which Symphony was claiming rights were executed when Shobana was a minor, and were hence unenforceable.
Even otherwise, the assignment rights cannot be exercised beyond the period of five years as per Section 19(5) of the Copyright Act 1957, and hence the rights under the agreements stated to have been executed in 1996 came to an end in 2001, the Court added.
In her affidavit, the singer said that she was trained by accomplished Carnatic musicians since she was 5 years of age & became famous at the age of 11 when she acted as a child artist in a national award-winning Tamil movie Mahanidhi.
It was thereafter, the recording approached her for recording devotional songs such as Kandhashashthi Kavasam, Kandha Mugangal, Ninaikadha Neramillai, Azhagaana Pazhani & the popular English nursery rhymes in her voice & got 2 documents signed in December 14, 1995 & April 27, 1996.
In 2016, it came to her notice that the defendant had uploaded her songs in its YouTube channel, along with her pictures taken without authorization from her personal Facebook page. It was mentioned in the plaint that the songs have crossed more than 47 million views till October 2019, and made huge profits illegally.
"I requested the respondent to cease and desist from using my photographs and musical works both personally and through legal notice dated August 31, 2019. But the respondent has refused to do so and continued to exploit my rights until now without any justifiable reasons. I state that the act of the respondent would amount to infringement of my copyrights governed under the Copyright Act. Also, the respondent has published various video embedded with my personal picture in their You Tube channel against my will", she stated in the application seeking interim relief.
Author – Satwik Sharma