While Super Girls mania continues to grow with their current tour, the Music Copyrights Society of China (MCSC) has filed a complaint against the concerts' sponsor, demanding a large sum for the use of music copyrights. It has been learned that both sides have yet to reach an agreement.
"We never thought we should pay more than 100,000 yuan, but we are still in friendly negotiations with MCSC. I believe we can settle this before it goes to court," Mr. Nie, whose China International Culture & Arts Company (CICAC) sponsored the Super Girls concerts, told Beijing News on October 11, 2005.
Actually, on October 9, just before Super Girls' Beijing concert started, the negotiation between sponsors and MCSC collapsed. On October 10, MCSC's lawyer sent a strongly worded letter to the sponsors, charging them with infringement of music copyrights during concerts and asking for 500,000 yuan in compensation.
MCSC offered a song list, which included famous Chinese folk songs like Liuyang River, some Mongolian songs and several English pop hits, such as I Believe by Mariah Carey and We Will Rock You by Queen. The theme Sing as You Like is one of the few original songs by Super Girls, who mostly perform covers. Most of these covered songs are under the administration of MCSC, even the English songs – MCSC has signed agreements with foreign music copyright administrations and societies.
Super Girls was initially an "American Idol" style contest hosted by Hunan Satellite Television, which later became an unstoppable cultural phenomenon in China. It was reported that 400 million Chinese people watched the finale, setting a new record for Chinese television history. Currently, the winners have started their own music tour in several Chinese cities to maintain the frenzy.
According to Mr. Zhu, a deputy from MCSC, they had sent letters to China International Culture & Arts Company and Beijing Yitong Culture Co. Ltd., telling them to get permission from MCSC and pay for the copyrights before September 30, the date of the first concert, but they did not reach an agreement until October 9. The main problem was that CICAC couldn't accept MCSC's price.
"They initially wanted near 200,000 yuan. This is a price we have never encountered in the industry since we started our business. Based on our veteran experience, this price was much higher than what we estimated. For example, the Taiwanese pop band S.H.E. used the same stadium to hold a concert, which cost them only 20,000 yuan for copyright use. There has never been a concert requiring such high copyright fees, even those singing many covers," Mr. Nie said.
But Mr. Ma, a director from MCSC explained that the 100,000-yuan quote was based on a national standard that MCSC should take 2.5 percent from total box office sales. Regarding CICAC's question, Ma said they want so much because of the high ticket price and large attendance of Super Girls concerts. Nie countered that the Police Department only permitted them to sell 40,000 tickets, which is not much more than similar concerts.
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the country to the authors of "original works of authorship," which includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. Copyright holders have exclusive right to authorize any individual or company to reproduce and distribute the work in copies or recordings by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. Public performance of the work, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic and choreographic works, pantomimes, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, also requires authorization.
According to the second article of the Provisional Regulations on Performance Payment Standards, issued by China's National Copyright Administration on August 1, 1993, copyright owners have the right to take 7 percent of gross ticket sales at the box office for each concert, which shouldn't be lower than 2.5 percent of the anticipated ticket sale. If a performer plays covers in concert, they should pay the copyrighter holders for any and every song performed.
China News Service reported a similar case on October 22. Another Super Girls contestant Shao Yuhan is going to release her first album "I'm Super Girl" under Feile Records, which will include a cover of Two Butterflies by singer Pang Long. Zhou Yaping, the president of Birdman Arts Records which holds the copyright of the song, said he had also filed a lawsuit against Shao Yuhan and her label, demanding 200,000 yuan as compensation.
Some experts noted that music performance requires special permission. Without it, people are infringing on the rights of copyright holders, which could lead to lawsuits or settlements. It is said that MCSC preferred to hold negotiations for a remedy due to loose administration, faulty laws and mass pirating in China.
(China.org.cn by Zhang Rui October 26, 2005)