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« MusicThinkTank Weekly Recap: Copyright In China | Main | Music Venue Maintenance: 4 Areas For Owners To Focus On »

The Enigma Of Securing Your Copyrights In China

Copyrights in China                                                                                                                                      
Once upon a time pirates ran rampant in China, today the pirates have turned into paying customers. The protection of copyrights are good for business as the wealth in China grows companies are more concerned about security as it is the main incentive for investment. This is written in the history of other wealthy Asian countries such as Japan and Korea. The dubious probability for creators to secure royalties from China is also history.                                                                                                                                                       
As the music-streaming market matures in China, the major players, Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu advocate ending piracy by pushing copyright protection. This action by the big players is quite the opposite tradition of individual Western artists fighting to secure their copyrights by suing the infringing party. Although there are legislative differences in how each country deems the best policy for their citizens, there is another more potent incentive for abolishing copyright infringement: Profit. The music industry will not survive if it is not financially lucrative and the profitability of distributing Western music to China  is obvious by the action taken by the big three (Sony, Universal and Warner), who now have distribution to China; They are not in it to test the waters but reel in the flow of royalties.                                                                                                                        
Business is generated when your customers are not getting free content elsewhere and you provide high quality service. In China customers are still enjoying free legal content but like other streaming services in the West must sit through ads. With multi-function social media applications such as WeChat with now over one billion monthly active users (MAU’s), it has become very easy to pay for entertainment, music and video subscriptions. Revenue from licensed digital music have increased 200% in 2017 from 2014, mostly collected from music streaming.                                                                                                                                      
If you are an artist signed to Sony, Universal or Warner you are bound to their servitude. Bonus for the independent music industry and even if your music is on itunes or other providers who distribute to China, you still have a possibility to use a service like, and get the most extensive reach to Chinese audiences with 33 providers. This is essential to control the illegal music still floating around in China. By securing your copyrights through official channels only then can your music be monitored and the pirated copies of your music be removed.
Be Informed                                                                                                                                                    
It is key to be proactive and informed on current trends and legislations that govern your rights as a creator. Everyone has an opinion and a duality of opinion can be confusing especially when it comes to deciphering legal documents and procedures. The recent debate of the EU Copyright Directive has left many unsure if it is beneficial or destructive for creators’ rights and free speech on the internet. It is important when considering any information its source and the incentive for sharing such information.                                                            
Opposition to the EU Copyright Directive is abundant mostly from large well established companies and people who use the system that is already in place for their own profit. However, the advocacy for the EU Copyright directive has a strong voice from the actual artists, musicians and creators who would benefit by gaining more control over the usage of their content. The passing of the directive has created a fear that our beloved memes would be squashed and that internet users won’t be able to share freely; In essence silence our internet voices. Though laws can limit they can also liberate. Loud people will always be heard whether you want to hear them or not. People will always find a way to be heard and if any limitations come from this it only forces us to be more creative in finding ways to make it work for us, from opposition comes innovation.                                       
YouTube enforces its policies based on DMCA’s copyright complaint system by user-generated flags which is thoroughly unreliable, often fueled by opinion and not by fact. This creates a huge hole in the dubious authenticity of flagged videos. A video may be flagged simply because someone doesn’t like it and tags it for copyright infringement and then videos that have real copyright issues can be left untouched for years until it finally becomes popular. This has led to upsetting prominent YouTubers who have relied on their content to return income, who are left shocked that their original content has been labeled for removal. Although the cases are few, it is an issue that holds enough weight to be given fair attention, to point out the pitfalls of the current system. The current system  needs a more robust way of identifying and removing material in violation of copyright and to reorient the accumulated income to the rightful owner.                                                           
As with “Fair Use”; the non-profit, non-commercial, educational usage of copyrighted material, the new directive allows users to govern their own usage of other’s material. It’s mainly the tech giants and publishing houses that would need to ensure that the usage of copyrighted material is compensated to the original creator. YouTube’s Content ID faces opposition because the users’ content gets taken down and stops generating income until the dispute is resolved. This would not be such a bad thing if there was an actual infringement, but this guilty until proven innocent protocol punishes the livelihood of honest users by falsely accusations and by the limitations of the identification capabilities of the software. It is not a perfect system and there will be some casualties, but with the new Copyright Directive in place, systems can be fine-tuned with regard to the difficulties users have had in the past and still keep the majority of the funds in the happy pockets of the original creators. Be informed and take a look for yourself the actual directive with particular attention to Article 11 on page 54 and Article 13 on page 56 and decide for yourself what it means to you.             
Your Rights                                                                                                                                                       
International legislation helps in recognizing copyright but the host country must then have resources to enforce the protection of copyright. If your country is a signatory of the Berne Convention or the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade)  you can be ensured that your copyrights and royalties will be recognized internationally yet many countries still don’t have the resources or incentive to implement proper copyright protection. The numerous conventions that govern international copyright is mind boggling but is useful to know for the individual who is fighting to secure their own copyrights in another country.                                      
Even though your work is essentially copyright protected the moment it is realized in the physical form it would still need to be registered if you would need to make a copyright infringement claim. Registering creates a public record of the copyright which makes it much easier to prove ownership.                                                    
When music is copyright protected the moment it is written down, published, or recorded. Sound recordings refer to a specific recording of a musical work so if you yourself would record your new song you would also own the copyright of that sound recording. Anyone who would want to use material from your song or perform your song would need permission from you or a license. You should be a member of both a Publishing Rights Organization: ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC; and SoundExchange to collect royalties from the usage of your song.          
Public Performing Right                                                                                                                                                 
This is the right of the copyright owner to grant the right for their copyrighted material to be performed or transmitted to the public.                                                                                                                                         
Public Performance License                                                                                                                                         
Is a license issued on behalf of the copyright owner by an organization to grant the right for copyrighted material to be performed or transmitted to the public.                                                                                         
Reproduction Right                                                                                                                                          
This is the right of the copyright owner to grant the right for their copyrighted material to grant the reproduction of a musical work into physical form such as CD, or record.                                                                
Mechanical License                                                                                                                                              
Is a license that grants the right to perform of record cover songs.                                                                           
Synchronization License                                                                                                                                   
Is a license that allows the copyrighted material to be used in conjunction with other media such as film or commercials.                                                                                                                                                   
Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings                                                                                                   
Controlled by Performance Rights Organizations to govern and collect royalties from digital consumption of music from non-interactive services such as internet radio and streaming services like Pandora.              
The debate about exclusive and non-exclusive services is rooted in the wide usage of each term and deserves clarification. Services who boast a non-exclusive agreement explain that this is the best way to acquire the highest royalty payout by creating competition for the usage of a desired song, so may state that you are free to use any other service. This is misleading on two parts: Every service achieves the highest payout possible because it is good business for the service to create more profit for themselves and for their customers; It is not true that you can use any service at the same time, you can’t use services that overlap each other’s territories at the simultaneously. Services are exclusive to the territories in which a service distributes. This will define the possibility to use one service in conjunction with another, there can’t be any overlap. However there are exceptions, be sure of the Terms of Rights you agree upon when using a particular service and the type of licensing that that is needed in each situation in which your music is utilized.                                                        
There is still a misconception of the history of piracy in China. It was not the individual users who were pirating, music was pirated on a corporate level. It was the music industry itself that had no incentive to control copyright, but that has changed. China has recognized the need to secure copyright if it is to gain approval and respect from the West and create a thriving music industry. China has achieved exactly what it set out to do and is reflected in the growth of EDM, a very new genre for China.                                                                       
Even now with Copyrights being policed on a corporate level the individual artist can still be proactive and monitor the usage of their own music. It is possible for an individual to use a channel such as the Music Copyright Society of China to try and enforce the removal of infringed material and the collection of royalties but this is a tedious process which also extracts a membership fee. Music is a business and a thriving one at that, a more efficient way of collecting royalties and securing your copyright is by using a digital distribution service such as to distribute, promote and collect from all your music. This is important because even the largest digital performance rights organization, Soundexchange doesn’t collect from China.                      
The current system is far from fault. The direction the music industry is headed is only becoming more complicated. Debate and discussion is necessary in making plans for the future but there comes a time when the issues are clouded by too much thinking and discussion and action needs to be made. With the pot is stirred we can taste the soup and add more spice if needed. Make your voice heard, listen to what others are saying, read from reliable sources and know where you stand.



The Enigma Of Securing Your Copyrights In China

Reader Comments (2)

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What happens after you upload your music to our platform?

We distribute your music to the top five major streaming providers: QianQian Music, QQ Music, Kuwo Music, Kugou Music and Netease, of which you will collect royalties. It typically takes 5 weeks for the music to be live. This is not without the possibility of extenuating circumstances that could lengthen the distribution process.

As well as these major Chinese music providers we send your music to be published on 28 more Chinese music promotion companies and Chinese radio stations. It is at the sole discretion of these providers that your music will be picked up and aired, however most of the music we send to them is usually selected and then published due to demand and interest for Western music. In the case that your music is aired on these services you will collect royalties from only these three: Migu Music, iMusic and Wo Music. The circumstances your music becomes live on these services could be considerably longer than the major distribution services.

If your music is not yet live in 5 weeks please know that once you have published your release from your platform, that it is in the process of being distributed. We check all the data is correct and that the music is not duplicated on the music providers. We then send the metadata with the music files to China where it is checked with the legal copyright before it is sent to the music providers. This requires manual work and greatly affects the duration of the sorting and distribution process.

The statistics are calculated on a quarterly base, so 4 times a year. Data is collected at the end of each term at which time the sorting and reporting period begins, which is done manually due to the lag in automation of these procedures. The sorting and reporting period takes 6 months due to the manual processes and the vast amount of data collected from all our music providers, this means that from the time your music is live it will take from 6 to 9 months for you to receive your first report and royalties. After your first report you will receive consecutive reports every 3 months.

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