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49 Music Firms Claim Damages from Karaoke Bars

Two Beijing-based law firms have been retained by 49 music companies to start legal action against thousands of Chinese karaoke clubs. The clubs are alleged to have been widely using the companies' musical works without permission or payment of royalties.


"Because your company used the musical works of the complainants without permission, we demand your company stop infringing on their copyright and pay damages," said the letter sent to the club owners by the two firms.


Fifteen Chinese music companies and 34 foreign companies, including Time Warner, Universal, Sony and EMI, have joined the campaign. Some 8,000 to 12,000 letters will be sent to karaoke bars scattered throughout more than 20 provinces, involving a total of 8,000 to10, 000 musical works, sources with the law firms said.


Most Chinese karaoke bars use music without permission and only a few have paid royalties, said Sun Jianhong, legal adviser of China's recording industry association.


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


If the problem can be settled out of court, the damages will not be so high, ranging from a few thousand yuan to 100,000 yuan (US$12,048) per bar, said a consultant to the Beijing office of an international recording industry association.


The karaoke bars in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu will receive the letters first, sources with the two firms said.


(Xinhua News Agency March 4, 2004)


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