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Karaoke Piracy Crackdown Stirs Mounting Debate
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The Chinese government's clampdown on pirated music and unhealthy entertainment content in karaoke bars has stirred a mounting debate, with karaoke fans arguing the move could deprive them of their joy while singing and bar owners calling for a revision amid concerns of profit losses, the Henan Business Newspaper reported on July 20.

The Ministry of Culture ratified a move to regulate the songs karaoke bars provide their customers with , in a renewed effort to protect intellectual property rights and purify the environment in China's entertainment industry. Karaoke bars would be allowed to choose songs from a government-approved list. The move stipulates karaoke bars will have to pay for the copyright of songs, the Beijing News reported.

The move will start trial runs in Henan, Wuhan and Qingdao.

But the government's efforts are facing escalating pressure from the public, especially among youths, bar owners and China's fast-growing middle class.

"The ministry's latest move will confine karaoke fans to a narrower range of songs," Zhengzhou native Fang Li says, adding "some popular songs with 'not so good' lyrics will be deleted."

Fang is not alone in terms of concerns over the move as more and more Chinese youths and a surging middle class swarm karaoke bars at weekends to seek refuge.

"If this goes through, fans across the nation will have to sing the same songs," several citizens told the Henan-based newspaper.

"That will not be 'OK'."

China is widely criticized by foreign media for its weak intellectual property rights protection, with pirated DVDs and CDs rampant in the market. Some enter the market before legal ones.

The move, considered a renewed effort to convert the government's image, is far from perfect.

"How can you define an 'unhealthy' song?" an undergraduate student from Zhenzhou Zhang Chuan asks.

"There are various songs. Are there any criteria to say a song is unhealthy or not? Through lyrical content or other standards?" Liu says.

Some citizens deem the move will pose a threat to the karaoke industry.

"It is convenient for the relevant ministry to manage the industry but it is not in the interest in the customers and karaoke bars," they said.

"If Karaoke bars pay for the copyrights, they will pass on their losses to customers, which means consumers will have to pay more than before."

According to Zhengzhou Culture Bureau director Qi anqing, the question of how to define an unhealthy song is still under discussion.

(China Daily July 21, 2006)


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