Draft copyright law enrages China's music industry

Updated: 2012-04-12 16:05


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Chinese songwriters are enraged over a draft amendment to the copyright law as they believe it would diminish their professional rights if passed.

The National Copyright Administration published the draft amendment at its website on March 31 to seek public feedback.

Article 46 of the draft stipulates that sound recording producers may use a music work from another record product, which has already been published for more than three months, in their own records without having to obtain the consent from the music copyright holder, as long as they report to relevant government authorities and pay fair compensation.

Moreover, the draft provides that if the copyright holder does not state otherwise, the royalty for such use will be collected through copyright collective management organizations.

"The draft is a possible deprivation of songwriters' copyright interests as well as our rights to dispose our own properties," Gao Xiaosong, a famous songwriter, wrote on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging site on Wednesday.

Gao also posted online a petition signed by more than 20 popular songwriters and singers, including Xiao Ke, Zhang Chu, Han Geng and Sandee Chan, urging authorities to revise relevant provisions in the draft.

"songwriters' creations are put at the mercy of others and they don't even have the right to price their works. If the provisions were passed, that would undermine the songwriters' enthusiasm and even China's music industry," Song Ke, chief executive officer of Taihe Rye, a renowned record company based in Beijing, was quoted as saying in Tuesday's China Youth Daily.

A "grace period" of three months for the musicians to exercise their exclusive rights is believed too short to encourage creative work.

It may take a period much longer than three months for a good song to become popular, said music critic Li Guangping.

Industry insiders also worry that the provisions will cripple record companies' willingness to invest in music record promotion.

However, Xu Chunming, a professor at Shanghai University specializing in intellectual property rights, said songwriters might misunderstand the draft amendment.

The use of music works in published records without the authors' consent is part of a system of copyright statutory license already in effect.

It is already provided in the current copyright law, and the only difference is that the draft has deleted the provision in the current law that songwriters may stop such use by explicit statement, Xu wrote in an article published on his blog site.

Xu suggested that the draft maintain the objection clause in case a music work is used against the author's will.

However, the Music Copyright Society of China, a music copyright collective management organization, argued that a statutory license system is an international common practice that prevents monopoly attempts of record companies.

A provision that allows the copyright holders' veto may undermine the entire statutory license system, the organization said in a statement posted on its website.

The National Copyright Administration said the musicians' opinions will be respected but it will also listen to people from other circles.

An anonymous official of the administration told the newspaper Beijing News that the administration will reply to the public comments later this month.