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Posting of gig videos under the spotlight

By Cao Yin | China Daily | Updated: 2023-10-23 09:33


Concertgoers face legal risks when they ignore pop stars' copyright

Do concertgoers who take videos of pop stars' performances and upload them onto social media platforms risk legal repercussions?

That's a question being asked more frequently now that the concert market has fully recovered following the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In recent months, performance clips, entire songs and even full videos of concerts have appeared on the internet, sparking a public debate about whether such behavior infringes on copyright.

For example, on the evening of Aug 21, when veteran Taiwan singer-songwriter Jonathan Lee performed at the final Shanghai concert on his Those Songs Through The Years world tour, a few audience members discovered that a full video of his first performance in the city on Aug 17, which lasted 2 hours and 47 minutes, had been uploaded by unauthorized people on major livestreaming and video-sharing platforms, the Shanghai Observer reported.

It said the video angered those who had paid to watch the live show but was welcomed by people unable to attend the concert.

Full concert videos of some other singers, such as Jay Chou, May Day and Xue Zhiqian, were also discovered on the internet during recent tours, it said, adding that some of the videos had received more than 100,000 views online.

Lawyers said unauthorized full videos of concerts were a violation of copyright, even though some fans explained them away as a means of memorializing fabulous performances and sharing joyful moments with more netizens.

"Phone recordings or livestreaming of concerts will be potentially illegal, especially if the videos are put online for commercial purposes," said Liu Bin, a lawyer who specializes in handling intellectual property cases at Beijing Zhongwen Law Firm.

"No matter how long they are, such video clips that were filmed and uploaded without getting the permission of performers violate China's Copyright Law, damaging the legitimate rights and interests of the concert organizers and the singers," he said.

"Although some performers did not initiate lawsuits against those who used mobile phones to shoot videos and posted them online due to litigation costs, that doesn't mean such acts are correct and can go unchecked."

He said online views had potential commercial value in the internet era, meaning that they could bring financial benefits to video providers or filmmakers.

"So, sometimes it's a big difficulty for us to judge whether videos viewed thousands or even millions of times are just for remembrance and sharing," Liu said.

With enhanced awareness of copyright protection, a growing number of event organizers, such as those staging exhibitions, theatrical performances and concerts, have begun warning visitors or audience members not to take photos, audio recordings or videos.

Liu said such moves underscored "respect to performers".

Citing the Copyright Law, Li Deli, another IP lawyer from Allwell Law Firm in Beijing, told Legal Daily recently that people should sign a contract with performers and pay them money when producing audio or video recordings of performances.

Without the consent of music copyright owners, performers or concert organizers, audience members who privately shot videos of shows and edited them before posting or spreading them online would face legal risks and be held civilly liable, Li told the newspaper.

Depending on the circumstances of the breach, the violators needed to stop the infringement, such as by deleting the videos, making an apology or even paying compensation to the copyright owners, he added.

Given some netizens were found to have posted short videos of concerts on WeChat groups or WeChat moments, Li said such posts could have legal repercussions because many courts had "identified such instant messaging tools as an influential platform while dealing with copyright disputes".

Liu agreed, adding that "many videos posted on WeChat can be spread widely and quickly on other internet platforms, with a large number of online views, which may also constitute copyright infringement."

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