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Copyright Favored in MP3 Cases

The Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court yesterday announced verdicts for two cases involving MP3 music copyright.

It is the first time cases of this nature have been heard and addressed in the city, reported Wednesday's Shanghai Daily.

The plaintiffs in both cases won and they were awarded compensation. Judges said the verdict means music copyright recorded onto an MP3 is protected by the law in China.

In the first case, the court ordered the Beijing Central Press Union Digital Technology Co Ltd, the MP3 manufacturer, and the Anhui Culture and Audiovisual Press, the distributor, to pay 280,000 yuan (US$33,735) in compensation.

The Qibao outlet of Hymall Supermarket, the MP3 retailer, has also been ordered to pay 3,800 yuan to the plaintiff.

The money was awarded to Hong Kong-based Universal Music Limited for violating copyright.

Universal Music said that the case came about when its staff bought an MP3 at the city's Qibao outlet of Hymall in 2002.

There were 144 songs by Hong Kong pop star Jacky Cheung on the MP3.

"It was a serious violation of our interests in publishing, duplicating and selling MP3," said Zhuang Jianbing, lawyer for Universal Music.

The company sought 368,000 yuan in compensation.

The Beijing Central Press Union argued the plaintiff didn't prove the music on the MP3 came from Universal's original CD.

They denied the breach of copyright arguing the Anhui press had authorized the duplication.

Anhui press said it downloaded the songs from the Internet, so it is different from the common copyright violation by duplicating CDs directly.

The court ruled the difference between an MP3 and a CD lies in their different memory formats. Since this difference is a technical problem, it can't be used to deny the origin of songs in the two mediums.

In the second case, the same three parties were involved. Universal Music and Hong Kong-based Cinepoly Records Co Ltd instigated the legal action against the copyright violation.

In that case the MP3 products contained songs by Alan Tam and Faye Wong, who are both Hong Kong pop singers.

Universal Music was awarded 40,500 yuan in compensation. Cinepoly Records will receive 140,000 yuan in compensation.

In the third case, the plaintiff was Hong Kong-based Go East Entertainment Co Ltd. The same companies have been accused of the same copyright offenses. Go East sought 368,000 yuan in compensation. The court is still to determine the verdict in this case.

(Shanghai Daily June 30, 2004)

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