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Karaoke Bars Singing the Blues

Karaoke bar owners in Shanghai said Wednesday they will not accept "unreasonably high royalty fees" demanded by music companies and will instead charge the music groups an advertising fee or stop using their video discs.

Up to 30 karaoke bar managers met Wednesday to discuss how to deal with a growing number of lawsuits over video royalties.

"We feel like we are being blackmailed. If karaoke bars should pay 100,000 yuan (US$12,063) for each video, all of us would collapse instantly as we have to pay billions of yuan to music companies," said Zhou Jing of Shanghai Holiday Music Entertainment Co Ltd, operator of one of the largest karaoke bars in the city.

Wang Qiming, vice general manager of Shanghai Leader Culture Distraction Corp, operator of a popular karaoke bar in the city, said "if karaoke bars are forced to pay such royalties, it is also reasonable that music companies should pay a fee to karaoke bars as we contribute a lot to promote their singers and songs."

Music companies are complaining that mainland karaoke bars, unlike those in Hong Kong, don't pay any money for broadcasting music videos.

Zhu Nan, general manager of Gold Glorious Karaoke Center, said if music companies keep pushing for payment, they would stop buying video discs and start making their own videos.

This month, Shanghai Holiday was sued by Hong Kong-based Go East Entertainment Co Ltd for screening three popular videos without permission. Go East is asking for 350,000 yuan in compensation. A hearing in the case will be held on March 24.

Last month, Song Music Entertainment (Hong Kong) Co Ltd filed a lawsuit against Shanghai-based Partyworld karaoke bar for 350,000 yuan in compensation.

The two parties are still negotiating a settlement.

"We should unite and fight against such unfair charges. It is an issue key to the survival of every karaoke bar," said Mao Huigang, a lawyer hired by Partyworld. "In such cases, we have to voice several points."

Mao said video discs are basically music products so using them shouldn't cost any more than the 6,000 yuan local bars pay annually to Music Copyright of China, which acts on behalf of composers and writers.

(eastday.com March 18, 2004)

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