Musicians win reprieve in copyright revision

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 July, 2012, 12:00am


A contentious clause that musicians say will violate their intellectual property rights and undermine creativity has been deleted in an official about-face over a controversial amendment to the Copyright Law.

The National Copyright Administration (NCA) made the revised amendment public on Friday and submitted it for public consultation until the end of the month. Among other revisions, the controversial 'Article 46' was dropped.

Under the article, those who did not hold the copyright of a recording would have been allowed to circumvent copyright holders after just three months of the recording being released, as long as permission was obtained by the National Copyright Bureau.

The copyright owners would still have been paid for the use of a recording, but they would not have been able to prohibit its use, as the amendment had removed a key sentence stating that 'no work can be used if the copyright owner refuses permission'.

Payment for use of recordings would have come through the Music Copyright Society of China, a non-profit organisation representing copyright holders.

Many mainland musicians decried the March 31 amendment to the 2001 Copyright Law, warning that it could have dealt a fatal blow to an industry that has been hit hard by rampant piracy.

They also said it undermined artists' creativity by giving bureaucrats and recording studios too much power over other people's works.

Under the revision to the controversial amendment, only textbook publishers and print media will be exempt from the need to get copyright clearance from the rights' holders, after three months from when the works are published.

Musicians and recording industry players hailed the change as they said it showed that regulators were heeding widespread concerns.

Zhang Hongbo, deputy director general of the China Written Works Copyright Society, said that the revision upheld the rights of copyright holders to their property at a time when protections were increasingly being challenged, particularly by online file-sharing.

But he also said few individual copyright holders had the resources to take on recording companies or radio and television stations if works were infringed upon.

'Copyright holders should either unite as a group to push for greater copyright protection or should work with collective organisations such as the Music Copyright Society of China for better protection,' Zhang said.

But Professor Li Shunde , who specialises in the study of intellectual property rights with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the role of organisations such as the Music Copyright Society of China, which were tasked with collecting royalties on behalf of copyright holders, also contributed to the controversy.

He said that under the March 31 amendment, copyright holders would have had no choice but to go through the organisations for rights protection, which would have forced the owners to hand over their rights, regardless of whether the owners were members of them.

'The new revision has gone some way in addressing the controversy, by requiring such organisations to seek authorisation from rights holders before representing them,' Li said.