Apr 27, 2012 02:26 PM

Music Industry Sings Copyright Swan Song


Never before has a legal matter so deeply touched the lives of Chinese musicians, composers and singers – as well as the pocketbooks of entertainment and Internet company executives.

It's a proposed revision of the nation's Copyright Law, a draft of which was recently completed and released for comment by the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC), a ministry-level agency. No date has been set for a final version.

At conferences, musicians rallying to protect their intellectual property rights and company executives seeking to maximize profits have been butting heads with lawyers and legal specialists. Suggestions emerging from these meetings – along with plenty of complaints and objections – have been forwarded to the NCAC.

The China Music Association's Music Commission (MCCMA), a group that represents most of the country's recording companies and studios, and the China Musician Association's Pop Music Association held long meetings behind closed doors in April to discuss strategies for challenging the copyright proposal.

At an April 11 press conference in Beijing, representatives from each group vented concerns. Some said the revised law could turn the Chinese music business back to the planned economy era, when artistic creativity was discouraged.

Controversy revolves around the proposal's plans for copyright collective management organizations, online music copyright protection in the Internet era, and the potential for tighter government control over self-expression.

Fears have been voiced by regional associations of musicians in Guangdong, Hebei, Henan and Sichuan provinces. Each group has petitioned NCAC, requesting significant changes to the copyright measure before it becomes law.

Separately, certain sections of the draft proposal have come under fire from the entertainment industry. Some of the strongest opposition has been leveled against a clause that would allow anyone, for prices set by NCAC, to reproduce a copyrighted work just three months after its public release. 

The long debates and legal maneuvering have enlivened industry discussions but exhausted veterans such as Song Ke, founder of China's best-known and most commercially successful studio Rye Music Co. He's also a former music director at Warner Music China and famous for discovering several hit pop singers.

Song said the controversy has turned much of the music industry's attention away from artistic pursuits and toward the dry legal arena, forcing songwriters and composers into meetings when they should be crafting music.

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