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Hotel, restaurant asked to pay for background music
By Chen Jia (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-04-01 09:30

Hotels and restaurants in China could soon have to pay royalties when they play background music to keep their customers satisfied.

The Hangzhou Intermediate People's Court will hear a case in which the Hangzhou Hyatt Hotel and a local restaurant group named Jiubaiwan were charged with playing music in a public place for commercial use but refusing to pay copyright royalties to the Music Copyright Society of China (MCSC).

"It's hard to understand why we have to pay to play music in a restaurant for customers as we don't make money from it directly," a man who works for Jiubaiwan was quoted by Zhejiang News as saying yesterday.

According to Liu Ping, the legal department director of MCSC, public education is needed to make more Chinese realize that playing music in public places for commercial use is a violation of Copyright Law of the People's Republic of China.

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"It is the first charge of its kind, which aims to kick off a nationwide campaign to improve people's awareness of copyright law," Liu told China Daily yesterday.

"They didn't stop using the music after getting our notice, so we hope the trial makes them realize they are infringing on musicians' rights," he said.

"Copyright expires 50 years after the composer's death, and the commercial users are not only asked to pay for using Chinese popular music but also foreign music," he said.

The hotel and restaurant should stop using the music and pay compensation of 35,000 yuan ($5,100), according to the MCSC.

Founded in 1992 as a non-profit collective management organization for music copyright on the Chinese mainland, MCSC has also been cooperating with its counterparts in 50 countries and regions on music copyright issues since its establishment.

The MCSC has more than 10 million pieces of registered musical works, according to Liu.

Around 10,000 hotels and restaurants in China, the majority four- or five-star hotels in big cities have paid the association for music royalties, Liu said yesterday.

"If the local hotel association had appropriate regulation, we would prefer to pay music royalties," a woman who works for the public relations department of Hyatt Hotel, but refused to be identified, told China Daily yesterday.

In December last year, 200 hotels in Kunming, Yunnan province, stopped playing background music when MCSC demanded royalties.

These hotels were asked to pay 1.75 yuan per bed every month for using background music that was protected by law.

Xinhua News Agency earlier quoted Liu as saying 80 percent of the royalties MCSC collects go to musicians, while 20 percent is kept by MCSC for operations.