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Copyright of Folk Song Under Protection
The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court ruled Saturday that the music of "Wusuli River Chantey", a popular folk song in China, is an adaptation from traditional melodies rather than a new composition.

The case arose from the '99 Nanning International Folk Song Festival, at which Guo Song, a prestigious folk song performing artist, sang the chantey. Afterwards, an anchor from China Central Television (CCTV) interviewed veteran singer Guo and announced that Guo and his partners had composed the popular song.

The broadcast of the program stirred the ethnic Hezhe people, one of the smallest ethnic groups in China and some Hezhe folks in Raohe County of northernmost Heilongjiang Province filed a charge against singer Guo and the China Central Television (CCTV) in March 2001.

The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court first heard the case on April 3 this year.

Veteran singer Guo claimed the music was created in 1962 on the basis of their long-time study in the ethnic Hezhe areas to collect folk songs, and there was only one sentence of the melody identical to the folk song "Missing the Beau", but the keynotes of the two songs had nothing in common.

Wu Hui, director of a research society on ethnic Hezhe folks, said the plaintiffs had collected a book of Red Songs published in 1964, which proved the music of Wusuli River Chantey was an adaptation.

The court appointed three professionals to investigate, who concluded the song was adapted from several traditional folk Hezhe songs including "Missing the Beau".

The court passed the judgment that the song shall carry a notice saying that it is adapted from the folk music of the Hezhe people when used in the future.

As a nation with a 5,000-year history, China will go all out to promote the protection of ethnic traditional culture and art especially after its entry into the World Trade Organization last year, said Wang Fanwu, the judge in charge of the case, late last week.

The ethnic Hezhe people, with a tiny population of only 4,000, are living far and wide on the plain areas around the Heilong, Songhua and Wusuli rivers in north east China.

(Xinhua News Agency December 30, 2002)

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