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September 19, 2017

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Songwriters & KTV owners seek to alter copyright regulations

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯), together with KTV operators and songwriters, held a public hearing yesterday calling for the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (TIPO) to revise Article 64 of the Copyright Law.

According to the Copyright Law, the "compulsory license" gives people the right to re-record and sell a musical work without the permission of the original composer. A user only needs to apply and pay a small license fee to the TIPO after the work has been published and made available for sale for a period exceeding six months. Yet, the present regulations are problematic and have harmed the livelihoods of KTV operators and songwriters, Tsai said.

Three well-known songwriters, namely Kong Qiang (孔鏘), Liu Fu-zhu (劉福助) and Guo Jin-fa (郭金發), attended the hearing yesterday, expressing their desire to narrow the restrictions covering compulsory license regulations. Some big record companies will utilize the regulations to lower copyright fees, or threaten not to publish composers' works; yet, "there is no stipulation that the compulsory license should not damage composers' rights to fair remuneration," Tsai said.

"Many songwriters refuse to compose anymore, because they have been deprived of their rights and interests," Kong added. In addition, the same threat exists if the songwriter wants to sell his work to small record companies. Guo noted that although the market is free, it still needs to encourage fair competition so that good musical works can be published.

However, KTV operators held different opinions to those of the songwriters. They appealed for the TIPO to cover karaoke music in the scope of protection of compulsory license regulations. Since the present regulations do not consider karaoke music to be musical works, KTV operators will have to pay copyright fees to record companies so as to re-record the music for karaoke purposes.  

  "Some big record companies will raise the copyright fees," KTV operators said. Moreover, some big record companies will refuse to sell songs or offer karaoke jukeboxes to operators who bought songs from other record companies.

TIPO Deputy Director Li Mei (李鎂) said although the backbone of compulsory license regulations is to facilitate the circulation of musical works and prevent them from being held in the hands of composers or copyright companies, the rules have thus far primarily benefited large record companies. Therefore, the TIPO will hold another public hearing to help review and revise it, she said.

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