Chinese Music Law: New Broadcast Right for Sound Recordings on the Horizon


China’s copyright law presently gives the owner of the copyright in a sound recording a right of approval and a right of remuneration when a recording is communicated to the public through an information network. These are considered neighboring rights because they are not included in the rights comprising the copyright in the sound recording. They allow record labels to claim royalties for the streaming of their sound recordings in China.

Although there is a streaming remuneration right, sound recording copyright owners presently have no right of remuneration for the broadcast of their recordings.

The existing copyright law has been in place since 2010 and numerous proposals for amendments have been floated since then. The National People’s Congress recently released another draft amendment and solicited public comment. As far as I can tell, the 2020 draft would be the 5th since 2010. June 13 is the deadline for comment.

Under the 2020 draft amendment, a new article would give sound recording copyright owners a further neighboring right, being a right of remuneration when recordings are transmitted by wired or wireless means or communicated to the public by audio communication technology. The existing streaming remuneration right would remain.

The proposed new right of remuneration is being interpreted by the international recording industry as applying to radio and TV broadcasts, non-interactive online webcasting and simulcasting, and to performance in supermarkets, hotels and other such public spaces. There is even an expectation in some quarters that royalties from these kinds of uses will be easier for the local societies to collect.

The proposal is finding wide support in the international recording industry, although more cynical insiders say that even if the amendments are enacted in the near term,  getting royalties flowing from a new right could be like getting blood out of a stone.