Ten KTV bar owners in Beijing received copyright access licenses on Friday after paying either six months' or a year's worth of royalties to the China Audio and Video Collective Management Association Beijing Office.
The development marks the latest step in the contentious effort to impose a royalty regime on the nation's karaoke bars.
Wang Huapeng, the association's vice-president, said KTV bars in Beijing has been granted a preferential rate of 8 yuan ($1) per room per day. The standard rate is 12 yuan ($1.6) per room per day, according to the announcement last September by the National Copyright Administration (NCA).
KTV operators can secure a copyright access license after paying royalty fees. The fees are levied according to a complex formula based on local economic conditions.
Wang Liwei, general manager of Club World, a KTV bar at the Tianlun Dynasty Hotel, is among the 10 operators to receive a license on Friday.
"We would have had to pay the fees eventually anyway, so better to do it early," Wang said. "As long as we are assured that we have access to timely authorized music and video products."
Wang said Club World will not pass the expense of the 87,600 yuan ($11,400) in royalties the bar paid for its 30 plus rooms to its consumers.
Meanwhile, nearly 600 KTV bars in Beijing have not yet paid any royalty fees.
Party World, a leading KTV operator in major cities across the country, does not have any specific plans to pay the fee.
A staff member surnamed Wang at the legal affairs department of the company's head office in Shanghai said: "We would like to pay, but how much and when is yet to be discussed."
Copyright holders have welcomed the new royalty system. Lyricist and composer Su Yue has some 20 pop songs that are frequently ordered in KTV bars.
"I hope this will raise the nation's awareness of the need to respect others' intellectual property rights and promote original composition of music," Su said.
To date, the association has established more than 20 local offices across the country. KTV bars in Yunnan, Shaanxi and Shandong provinces received licenses since late last month after paying fees.
Meanwhile, most of the KTV bars in South China's Guangdong Province have been resisting the fees. They made a collective decision in December to refuse to pay and have called into question the association's right to collect money.
However, Niu Yan, an official with the Video Collective Management Association, said on Friday a license-awarding event involving five local bars would be held in Guangzhou next week.
It is estimated that there are nearly 100,000 KTV bars in China, and royalties could amount to more than 1 billion yuan ($129 million) a year.
Feng Hongsheng, an official with NCA, described the Video Collective Management Association as a non-profit, non-government organization that had the authority to collect royalties on behalf of music and video companies under the Copyright Law enacted in 1990 and revised in 2001, and the Regulations on Copyright Collective Management, which was implemented on March 1, 2005.
(China Daily 04/14/2007 page3)