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Shanghai Hotels to Pay Royalties for Background Music

The Music Copyright Society of China has reached a deal with 14 four- and five-star hotels in Shanghai on charging royalties for the music they play, which is "for commercial rather than home entertainment purpose," said Fang Fang, an official with the society's Shanghai bureau on Friday.

"We'll sign the same agreement with all the 60 four- and five- star hotels in the city by the end of this year," she said.

According to Fang, royalties for the background music will be charged at 2.8 yuan (US$0.34) per hotel room each month. The price has been agreed upon between her organization and the hoteling division of Shanghai Tourism Association, in line with relevant regulations set by the National Copyright Administration.

A hotel with 439 guest rooms, for example, would have to pay about 1,300 yuan (US$157) of royalties each month, she explained.

"Background music has been played for free at Chinese hotels and restaurants for many years," acknowledged Fang. "It's not that their management are reluctant to pay royalties -- most of them have no idea at all that they've got to pay."

As a result, Fang said many hotels had denounced her organization as collecting unreasonable, even illegal, fees. "We have to step up with publicity work to increase the public awareness of intelligent property rights."

It was in compliance with China's copyright law to charge royalties for playing musical works in public facilities, said Prof. Jiang Po with Shanghai University's school of law. "It's infringement of copyright to play others' music for commercial purposes without their assent, and hotels and other public facilities can be brought to the court for that."

Fang said her organization would distribute the royalties they were to collect to music makers, according to checklists the hotels would submit to detail the actual pieces they played.

China Music Copyright Society is a non-profit-making body dedicated to protect the legitimate rights of music makers. Founded in December 1992, it was cosponsored by National Copyright Administration and China Society of Musicians.

In recent years, music companies have won several lawsuits against karaoke bars in China, and last year one case in Beijing resulted in the karaoke bar being ordered to pay about 10,000 yuan (some US$1,205) for illegally using three MTV works.

In March this year, two Beijing-based law firms were entrusted by 49 music companies to claim damages from karaoke bars that were found to be using their musical works without permission.

Fifteen Chinese music companies and 34 overseas music companies joined the campaign, including Time Warner, Universal, Sony and EMI, to claim compensation from karaoke bars in more than 20 provinces, involving anywhere from about 8,000 to 10,000 musical works.

(Xinhua News Agency June 19, 2004)

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