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Songwriters say copyright draft doesn't protect

Songwriters say copyright draft doesn't protect

Updated: 2012-04-06 07:19

By Tang Yue (China Daily)

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The newly released draft amendment to the Copyright Law has aroused great controversy among famous local songwriters as it allows sound recordings to be used by others without the owner's permission.

According to the proposal, three months after a recording is released it can be used by non-copyright owners as long as they apply with the State Copyright Bureau, pay remuneration to the owners via the Music Copyright Society of China, and clearly state the copyright owner.

The existing law claims "no such work may be used where the copyright owner declares that use is not permitted".

"Dear musicians, we are done! Who will protect our rights? The draft is really ridiculous," Li Guangping, a renowned songwriter, said on his Sina micro blog.

"I know a lot of songwriters are not members of the copyright society, so it doesn't have the rights to give any permission and receive money for the copyright owners without being authorized," Li said.

Gao Xiaosong, a famous singer-songwriter, also blasted the draft.

"A new song may not be widely known within three months. Allowing it be sung by others in such a short time is de facto encouragement of piracy," Gao said.

"Songwriters will feel very hurt and be less motivated to write songs. This will harm the singers, too," Gao wrote on his Sina micro blog, claiming he would call for a boycott of the draft among musicians at next month's Fengyun Music Awards ceremony, where he chairs the judging penal.

Qin Hua, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property from Beijing-based Jiahe Law Firm, said copyright ownership is a private right and authorities can't give permission to anyone to use it without the nod of the owner.

The copyright society defended the proposal, saying the new version will lead to better protection of musicians' interests.

"Some argue three months is too short but the current law has no time limit at all. Those who want to re-record the songs can do so on the day following its release," Liu Ping, head of the law department of the copyright society, told China Daily on Thursday.

Liu said copyright owners can claim that their works can't be used without their permission according to the existing law, but it turns out to be invalid.

Feng Xiaoqing, an intellectual property expert at the China University of Political Science and Law, backed Liu.

"Previously, it was hard for the users of sound recordings to find the copyright owners and pay them. The draft makes it much clearer and easier," Feng told China Daily.

"If the new version is passed, the focus should be on whether the copyright society can fully take advantage of the law and protect the interests of the musicians."

Meanwhile, the drafters of the proposal said they've noticed the comments and will stay open-minded to different opinions.

"We are collecting public opinions until April 30 and we will take every suggestion seriously. It is still too early for us to make any comment," said Xu Wei from the law department under the General Administration of Press and Publication, which drafted the proposal.

"We are prepared for different opinions and that was the purpose of the opinion-collecting process," Xu told China Daily.

The draft, which was released on March 31, also increased the compensation standard for copyright infringement to 1 million yuan ($158,000) from the original 500,000-yuan limit.