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Bold Guidelines for Music Copyright Protection in China Announced

3 May 2011 — R2G

At the 2011 Beijing Music Copyright Protection and Industry Development Forum and Copyright Owners’ signing ceremony on 28th April, a guiding framework in accordance with the Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China and Regulation on the Protection of the Right to Network Dissemination of Information for the purpose of regulating and maintaining the normal order of network communication works (including audio/ video products) was formulated.

At the forum, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Press and Publication (Copyright Bureau) brought together Copyright Owners including representatives of record labels, publishers, composers, music distributors and industry associations amongst them Taihe Rye, Dong Music, Music Copyright Society of China and R2G who voiced their opinions and support for the guiding framework.

It was noted that the law needs to objectively state what defines Copyright Ownership, as currently there is a heavy burden of proof upon Copyright Owners and the balance is tilted in favor of Service Providers. Copyright Owners have an inordinate amount of work to not only prove their ownership but also to issue take-down notices whilst Service Providers seek sophisticated ways to perpetuate music piracy, most commonly abusing Safe Harbour Laws and using their technology platforms as a cover to facilitate users’ uploading of copyrighted content.

The Beijing Copyright Bureaus has recognized that the law can be seen as a polarizer as in practice - it is an arduous task to prove Service Providers’ subjective intent even as their actions contribute to copyright infringement. As such a new framework of guidelines to complement the existing laws have been proposed by them.

The most significant of the guidelines are the following:

  • The Beijing Copyright Bureau will set up a publicly accessible website for Copyright Owners to register their works and Service Providers who provide file-sharing services, search, links or act as channels are then automatically required to  take down links to these known copyrighted works or prevent users from uploading these works to their properties
  • Service Providers are thus effectively required to automatically take down copyrighted works that they know of or should have known that users do not have the right to upload or disseminate
  • Service Providers are required to remove infringing content immediately or latest within 24 hours upon notice by the Copyright Owner

In support of this proposed regulatory framework, an initial batch of 10 record labels, producers and distributors signed this new copyright agreement.

Zhang Yadong, CEO of Dong Music and one of China’s top music producers lamented that music composers are neither copyright nor legal experts and if they have to turn themselves into professional anti-piracy experts, this will be at the cost of composing music. Yadong also appealed to Service Providers to respect the efforts of music composers as they continue to engage in high-tech piracy. As it is impossible for artists and composers to undertake what is often a long process to establish their legal rights, Yadong welcomed the relevant authorities like the Beijing Copyright Bureau establishing an integrated copyright protection system, thus freeing music composers to contribute more to culture in our society.

Song Ke, President of the Taihe Rye label observed that digital music is a challenge but also presents unprecedented opportunities as the mode of transmission has changed. After the initial pain of music piracy, the music industry should now calm down and reflect on how to take concrete and effective measures as currently it is mainly individual labels fighting alone but with limited overall industry collaboration.

Song Ke highlighted that even though digital music provides hope for the music industry, without sufficient parameters for copyright protection, the music industry will not recover towards prosperity. Song Ke reiterated his support for the Beijing Copyright Bureau’s new initiative

Wu Jun, CEO of R2G echoed the others that the new framework will complement current Copyright Laws and it will serve to close subjective grey areas that were exploited by Service Providers particularly with regards to the Safe Harbour Law. He noted that the healthy development of the music industry requires copyright protection but the current difficulties faced by copyright holders include

1)   Complexity of establishing and proving rights ownership
2)   High cost of providing burden of proof whilst in comparison, infringement carries little cost
3)   Difficulty in informing infringing companies (to take-down content)

He agreed that the music industry and the Copyright Bureau should join hands to launch an authoritative platform that clearly displays copyright information available publicly to all Service Providers so that there will not be any infringement or piracy loophole for them to exploit or claim ignorance.

The Music Copyright Society of China’s Director-General Qu Jingming also presented at the forum and stressed that the revitalization of the music industry should involve the full cooperation of the music industry institutions, industry associations and joints efforts with government departments instead of going it alone as it was in the past.

In conclusion, the forum organizer, Beijing Copyright Bureau represented by Deputy Director Wang Ye Fei in his keynote address with the theme of "actively exploring new ideas of music copyright protection and new initiatives," sought to seek the views of the music industry as part of this year’s latest copyright protection policy to address the copyright problems.

He hope that the music industry would unify and undertake positive action to establish a centralized commission and unified collective rights platform so that both businesses and the government can join forces to actively promote the healthy development of the music industry.

The first batch of music Copyright Owners then signed on to the Beijing Copyright Bureau’s Beijing Resources Information Center platform providing their copyright information to kick-start this new initiative.

The full list of the Guiding Framework on the Protection of Copyright are available here.

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