Chinese musicians play the blues on piracy

Chinese musicians play the blues on piracy

BEIJING - Reuters
New music copyright rules proposed by China threaten to roll back protection for musicians and record companies and hand the government control over royalties, moves that have sparked an outcry from the local music industry and among legal experts.

The draft rules from the National Copyright Administration partly aimed at reining in rampant piracy would, if they become law, also apply to foreign music distributed in China, which has long been a frontline in battles over intellectual property.

Under the proposal, certain music rights would only have a three-month limit, allowing others to use, record or distribute songs after that period at government-set rates. Rights’ holders would also lose veto power over who can use their work.

“It’s as if I had a house for rent and somebody else is telling me who the tenant must be and how much to charge for rent,” said Zhan Hua, the chief executive officer of Taihe Rye Music, a well-known Chinese label.

Some lawyers say the draft represents such a significant rollback in protections enjoyed by producers of creative works in other countries that it is likely to be revised.

Copyright terms in many Western countries extend rights 70 years or more beyond an artist’s death. China offers 50 years. While the draft rules would not negate that 50-year right in name, critics say they provide a workaround that essentially turns private intellectual property public.