Karaoke bars to face trials over copyright breaches

By Qiu Bo (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-09 06:52
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BEIJING - More than 100 karaoke bar operators in Beijing may be facing lawsuits over royalties for songs and music videos that they use.

A source from the China Audio-Video Copyright Association (CAVCA), who would not be named, told China Daily on Monday that they have hired a panel of lawyers and collected evidence, and the association is ready to take the case to court soon.

The source said those accused will be not only asked to pay high compensation, but also charged at the maximum royalty rate, or 11 yuan ($1.65) for each karaoke room's daily operation.

Chinese karaoke operators enjoyed free music videos and songs for more than 20 years before CAVCA started to collect copyright fees in 2008.

At that time, 15 provincial-level regions, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, were determined to take legal actions to collect royalties.

"Royalty collection has been proceeding smoothly nationwide," said the source with CAVCA, adding that particular attention has been paid to Beijing because the large number of bars makes it comparatively easier to collect evidence.

The National Copyright Administration issued a regulation at the end of 2006 on the collection of music copyright fees from karaoke bars.

CAVCA, which is authorized by the National Copyright Administration to collect the fees, delivered an ultimatum to about 300 Beijing karaoke bars in September 2008 and urged them to pay the money.

In December 2008, CAVCA sued the first group of more than 100 karaoke operators in Beijing after they turned a deaf ear to the warning and failed to meet the association's deadline.

Among the bars sued, 44 so far have been deemed to have violated copyright. Nine were ordered to pay damages of about 1 million yuan to the association.

A manager from a karaoke chain, surnamed Huang, whose bar is likely to be accused of infringement this time, said he had no idea about the upcoming lawsuit and his bar would like to have discussions with CAVCA.

Sun Jingwei, a Beijing-based copyright lawyer, said CAVCA, a non-governmental organization, is entitled to sue those karaoke bars and enough evidence is the key to winning the case.

"Filing lawsuits is not the best way to protect copyrights," said Huang Hua, a copyright expert with the Beijing-based Wowa Media Company.

"Karaoke bar owners should be aware it's their legal responsibility to pay the royalties."

CAVCA, established in 2008, currently has 74 members representing 150 copyright owners with more than 111,000 registered musical compositions.

Of the 170 million yuan in royalties collected as of this January, about 120 million yuan have been given to the copyright owners, according to the association.

"It took us about two years to give the first batch of royalties to owners, and we hope the process can be sped up in the future," the source said.

Cao Yin contributed to this story.

China Daily

(China Daily 11/09/2010 page4)