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CMU@TGE Top Questions: How can we enhance and enforce music copyright in China?

By | Published on Wednesday 25 April 2018

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With The Great Escape getting closer, we are currently considering ten questions that will be answered during the three CMU Insights conferences that are set to take place there this year: The Education Conference (16 May), The AI Conference (17 May) and The China Conference (18 May). Today: how can we enhance and enforce music copyright in China?

The record industry’s worldwide trade group IFPI yesterday confirmed that China has entered the top ten global recorded music markets for the first time. And in the trade body’s ‘Global Music Report’, Universal Music’s EVP Market Development, Adam Granite, remarks that “it’s impossible not to be excited at the opportunity” that the Chinese market offers artists and labels, although challenges remain.

Some of those challenges for Western rights owners in this new and exciting market relate to the country’s copyright regime. That means the rights that regime provides creators and their business partners, quite how you go about enforcing those rights, and how local copyright owners connect to global rights owners, especially when it comes to collective licensing.

In its report, IFPI notes that China is “a vastly different landscape compared to ten or even five years ago, having undergone a significant cultural shift in regard to the value and protection of copyright – a process driven by government regulation alongside the effort of record companies and other rights holders”.

However, it then confirms, “significant challenges to the continued development of the market remain”. In particular, on the sound recordings side, “China is still lacking the performance and broadcast rights which, if given, will significantly contribute towards greater investment in the development of the Chinese music market”.

On the songs side, Chinese copyright law does provide performing rights for songwriters and music publishers. However, income from those rights is still very low.

In its annual stats pack last year, CISAC, which represents song right collecting societies worldwide, said that only 105 of more than 2000 radio and TV stations in China currently pay royalties for the music they use. Collections there are currently 23 million euros. But if the entire broadcasting sector was paying in, tens of millions in extra revenue would be unlocked.

Obviously, from a Western perspective, the copyright regimes in many emerging markets still need ramping up. Though with China offering so much potential for the music industry, copyright reform there is of particular interest. But what influence can and does the Western music industry have on that process?

That’s one of the topics we’ll be exploring at our China Conference, with input from those leading on copyright matters in the UK – Ian Moss from BPI and John Mottram from PRS For Music – as well as IFPI’s Regional Director for Asia, Ang Kwee Tiang.

Of course, the copyright system – and how it is employed by the music industry – is hardly perfect in the West, especially when it comes to digital licensing and streaming royalties.

Which poses another interesting question: with the copyright regime in countries like China less evolved, is there an opportunity to specifically develop copyright in those territories in a way that makes more sense in the digital age? That’s a question we’ll put to some of our other guests, including Sentric Music CEO Chris Meehan and Outdustry MD Ed Peto.

The China Conference takes place on Friday 18 May – more info here. See more questions we’ll answer at The Great Escape here.