Home>News Center>Bizchina

Chinese karaoke bars may pay for music
Updated: 2004-03-04 08:38

Recording companies including Time Warner, Sony and EMI are launching a campaign to force thousands of Chinese karaoke bars to start paying for the tunes their patrons croon to, a lawyer for the companies said Wednesday.

Two Beijing-based law firms were entrusted by 49 music companies to start the legal action to claim damages from the karaoke bars.

"Because your company used the musical works of the complainants without permission, we demand your company stop infringing on their copyright and pay damages," said the letter sent to the karaoke owners by the two firms.

About 8,000 to 12,000 letters will be sent to karaoke bars scattered in more than 20 provinces, involving about 8,000 to 10,000 musical works, sources with the two firms said.

Fifteen Chinese music companies and 34 overseas music companies have joined the campaign, including Time Warner, Universal, Sony, EMI, Hong Kong's Emperor Entertainment group and smaller Chinese firms.   

Karaoke is hugely popular in China, where bars, hotels, restaurants and some homes are equipped with karaoke rooms. In bigger cities, karaoke parlors are neon-lit, multistory entertainment palaces with bars, private lounges and space for hundreds of patrons. Karaoke bars can be found in the tiniest provincial towns.

However, most of the Chinese karaoke bars use music without permission while only a few have paid royalties, said Sun Jianhong, legal adviser of China's recording industry association.

In recent years, music companies won several lawsuits against karaoke bars in China, and last year one case in Beijing resulted in the karaoke bar being ordered to pay about 10,000 yuan (US$1,205) for illegally using three MTV works.

If the problem can be settled without lawsuits, the damages will not be so high, about several thousand yuan (several hundred US dollars) to 100,000 yuan (some US$12,048) per bar, said a consultant of the Beijing office of an international recording industry association.

The karaoke bars in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu will receive the letters first, sources with the two firms said.

A spokesman for the Taiwan-based Cashbox Karaoke Group, which operates a well-known chain of karaoke bars in China, said it already was paying music fees through the China Music Copyright Association.

"We heard about the demand by the law firms," spokesman Zhou Gang said by telephone from Taipei. "But we haven't received any letters."

  Story Tools