Composers CASH in

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 January, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 January, 1995, 12:00am

THE Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong (CASH) must have expected its $30,000 royalty demand for Leon Lai's United Nations Children's Fund benefit concert would be controversial. A group with the insensitivity to charge charities for its services is an easy target for public outrage. The concert proceeds went towards a polio campaign in China and the composers' cut would have bought a lot of vaccine. The fund, UNICEF, was bound to cry 'greed'.

CASH, however, is not a charity. It exists to ensure its members earn a decent living from their work. It has a legal right to demand any royalties due to it under the Copyright Ordinance, and would be failing in its duty to the 1,362 local and 1.3 million international composers and authors it represents if it failed to do so every time their music was played in a good cause. Some causes may be better than others. The society could choose to support certain charities on behalf of its members either by reducing its charge or waiving it altogether. But it has to draw a line. The problem is CASH has not drawn the line clearly. Its laxity led charities to assume they were exempt.

The society should now develop a consistent charities policy - perhaps publishing a list of those it is prepared to support, or setting a special tariff for registered groups - and stick to it.