China bans more exclusive copyright deals for digital music platforms

Deepak Gupta January 7, 2022
Updated 2022/01/07 at 7:44 AM

China’s copyright authority said on Thursday that digital music platforms cannot sign exclusive copyright agreements except in special circumstances amid a regulatory crackdown on monopolistic behavior in the country’s private sector.

China’s National Copyright Administration (NCAC) gave the order on Thursday at a meeting in Beijing with influential digital music platforms, as well as recording and songwriting copyright companies, according to a statement published in the official account from the NCAC WeChat.

The order comes amid a growing crackdown by Chinese regulators on the country’s technology sector, which has focused on issues such as monopolistic behavior, unfair competition and consumer rights.

Last year, Tencent Holdings announced that it had terminated all exclusive music copyright deals after it was ordered by China’s market regulator to do so. The regulator said the company owned more than 80 percent of the music library’s exclusive resources, which increased its influence over copyright parties and allowed it to restrict new entrants.

The NCAC did not mention which companies were convened on Thursday. In addition to Tencent, smartphone maker Xiaomi, telecommunications provider China Mobile and Internet technology giant Netease all have popular streaming services in China. Globally popular streaming services such as Spotify are banned in mainland China.

The NCAC said that while copyright practices have improved since 2015, when the authority banned the streaming of unlicensed music and ordered platforms to remove millions of songs, the industry still needed to be more standardized.

“The negotiations emphasized that record labels, songwriting copyright companies and digital music platforms must … settle payment according to a guaranteed amount plus a portion of actual usage, and must not sign exclusive copyright agreements, except in circumstances special,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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