Musicians blast new copyright changes

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


Mainland musicians and music associations have criticised a draft amendment to a copyright law, saying it will harm their interests and stifle originality.

Their response comes after the proposed amendment was issued last week for public consultation.

The changes that have attracted most criticism are articles 46 and 48. Under article 46, one does not need consent to record another person's works if three months have passed since the work was published. The non-copyright holder only has to comply with article 48, which states users must apply to the State Copyright Bureau, pay the owners via the Music Copyright Society of China and state the copyright owner, according to the draft published on the National Copyright Administration's website on March 31.

Critics were quick to note that a key sentence had been removed from the existing copyright law: 'No work can be used if the copyright owner refuses permission', Musicians complain that the amendments would undermine originality and creativity in the industry by making official organisations more powerful than the original artists.

Musician Gao Xiaosong wrote on his Sina Weibo microblog account that article 46 was 'like killing the geese [songwriters] that lay the golden eggs'.

The new article amounted to 'a shameless move to exploit songwriters' interests rather than protecting them,' said Zhang Tie , Beijing-based singer-songwriter of rock 'n' roll band Push.

It was difficult to popularise a new song within three months, Zhang noted. Only songs sung by popular and well-known singers were likely to be successful before the original release returned significant gains, he explained.

'The source of good songs will shrink because songwriters' efforts might not be properly remunerated, so they will be less motivated to create,' Zhang said.

'And when creativity is not encouraged, that eventually hurts all singers too in a vicious spiral.'

Zhang's outcry was echoed by the Guangdong Popular Music Association, which issued an open letter on Friday.

'The serious flaws of the previous copyright law damaged musicians' interests,' the letter said.

'This amendment is such a disappointment because the interests of copyright owners are not further protected and the existing interests are in danger of being deprived in the name of national legislation, which is intolerable.'

It said private rights are in danger of being turned into 'public interests' where privately-owned works are converted into 'public assets legally'.

The head of the legal department of the Music Copyright Society of China defended the revision. 'The amendment will better protect copyright owners and ensure they are paid by the people who used their work,' Liu Ping told China Central Television. The draft law also doubles compensation for copyright infringement from the current upper limit of 500,000 yuan (HK$612,000).


The maximum amount, in yuan, which can be awarded as compensation for copyright infringement under the new proposals