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Copyright watchdog tightens regulation for music websites

Zhang Zhao
Updated: Jul 15,2015 9:27 AM     China Daily

China’s top copyright regulator announced stricter music streaming rules on July 9, asking online music service providers to remove unlicensed products by the end of this month.

Music websites that continue to offer unlicensed music after July 31 will be “seriously punished”, according to the official website of the National Copyright Administration.

It added that with strengthened enforcement and supervision on service providers, the administration hopes to better protect copyright holders and improve online music copyright order and market environment.

The measure is part of this year’s Jianwang Operation, an annual nationwide campaign against online intellectual property rights infringement, jointly launched by a number of agencies including the NCA.

This year’s campaign, which started on June 10, focuses on online music piracy, including unauthorized spread of music using cloud technology-based online storage and third-party apps on smart devices.

“Any work that contains original labor should enjoy the protection of copyright,” said Yu Cike, director of the copyright management department at the NCA. “Music websites must follow the principle of ‘spreading after being licensed’.”

Zhang Zhiyuan, chairman of Idol Entertainment, which runs several prominent domestic music websites, said the music business in China has been “almost stagnating” during recent years and that the paid service model will “to some extent break the deadlock”.

“However, it has been difficult for the model to be implemented, largely because of piracy,” he said.

The latest rule is in line with China’s copyright law and regulations, although it is out of sync with the way people have listened to music for years, as most are used to free music, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Many Internet users have concerns that people will have to pay to enjoy music online in the future, some even suggested downloading as many songs as possible ahead of July 31.

However, Zhao Hu, an IP rights lawyer and a partner of Beijing-based EastBright Law Firm, told China Daily that the rule will not necessarily lead to this.

“The music business is a long industry chain, and there is a huge intermediate market between the copyright owners and the final users,” he explained. “The service providers may adopt some innovative business models so that music streaming can still be free of charge at the user end.”