Mainland court freezes 3 karaoke firms' assets for copyright abuse

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 July, 2009, 12:00am

A court has issued a landmark order freezing the assets of three karaoke operators sued by music companies for copyright infringement.

It was the first time a mainland court had taken such a tough stance on enforcement of copyright regulations in the mainland's huge KTV industry, Xinhua reported yesterday.

This month, Beijing Tianyu Tongsheng Information Technology and Zhongyin Media (Shenzhen) sued three KTV bars in Hefei, Anhui province. The city's intermediate court on July 20 froze part of the three venues' assets.

The amount of assets frozen ranged from 10,000 yuan (HK$11,400) to 150,000 yuan, Xinhua reported. The two music companies are members of the China Audio-Video Copyright Association, which was set up in 2005 to fight for copyright enforcement.

There are more than 100,000 KTV bars on the mainland, but association vice-secretary Lu Wenju said the three KTV operators were targeted because they refused to pay fees and appeared to be 'hostile' to the policy.

'It's hard to enforce court rulings to get compensation even after winning the legal battle,' Mr Lu said.

He said music companies always ended up losing money paying for lawsuits because they rarely were able to collect compensation.

Mr Lu said copyright infringement over audio and video products was prevalent.

However, he said the situation was improving after the National Copyright Administration and Ministry of Culture began collecting fees in 2007. KTV operators pay a maximum of 12 yuan per day per room, Mr Lu said.

The government collected nearly 30 million yuan in 2007, and so far this year approximately 90 million has been collected, Mr Lu said.

Li Yahong, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, said the 'major court gesture' was a step towards ensuring music companies would be compensated over copyright infringement.