NCAC Shields Creators’ Rights: Sword Net Campaign to Focus on Online Music Piracy

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

Last week the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC / NCA) let out a war cry of sorts against digital music streaming services that provide unlicensed content. Service providers have been given until the end of July to remove unlicensed music (sounds like one hell of an internship). The NCAC has taken to arms, stating that those who do not follow the order will be ‘seriously’ punished.

This seems timely considering back in February the “Online Legitimate Music Promotion Alliance” (中国网络正版音乐促进联盟) came together, breathing new life into the mission of developing a legitimate IP economy (well, making small strides toward that end game at least). In fact we’ll reproduce an excerpt from ChinaIPR’s coverage:

“Tencent which has a licensing arrangement with Warner Music, noted at the ceremony that the sustainable development of the music industry depends on copyright protection. Tencent urged legal steps, such as model cases to create deterrence, active administrative supervision, increasing damages for infringement, and increasing penalties.”

Given Tencent is positioning itself as an ambassador for the move toward legitimization here, it’s ironic that QQ Music (which is owned by Tencent) has been name checked by Xinhua as being one of the services forming the “streaming industry” which is in line for some kind of a shake-up.

There are a number of reasons why we’d be inclined to write this off as a load of hype. We’ll go through Xinhua’s release


First off – the regulator announced “stricter rules” on music streaming. As far as we are aware, there is one rule, and it’s fairly black and white: license your catalogue, or don’t offer the content up. That’s it; it doesn’t need dressing up. The NCAC says online streaming services must stop providing unlicensed music to users, which is about as useful as stopping a child half way across a road to tell them to look both ways.

Secondly, let’s imagine that every music service actually does trawl through their respective catalogues (checking along the way that unlicensed content isn’t being camouflaged by inaccurate meta data). How does one prove the legality of a catalogue of tens of millions of songs? Are the copyright regulators going to check them? Is there a magical program, or perhaps something like a graduated response system in the works (recalling Hadopi here), which will automatically flag when a user accesses an unlicensed song? Unlikely.

If anything, it will continue to be down to rights owners to assert themselves. Will the procedure for filing complaints and takedown notices be smoothened out? Will a regulatory body ensure that these notices are responded to in a timely manner? What about punishments? What does a ‘serious punishment’ look like? A fine? An injunction? Stand in a pond with a bucket on your head? Do the punitive measures vary depending on the work itself, or status of the artist?

There is an argument that pressure will come from the market itself, rather than a regulatory body. Consider the fates of, and, which were wiped from Apple’s App store due to a combination of online attacks and royalty disputes. In fact if you look back to the first moves by online video portals toward legitimization, you’ll find that it was the fear on the part of big-spending brands toward getting cast as contributory infringers (nothing says legit like a Coca-Cola banner), which obligated the portals to get their acts together. Speaking of the market, Facebook and Youtube have sophisticated automated systems for identifying copyright in video and audio content, by matching the wave forms (they aren’t infallible systems but they’re very efficient). The solutions exist but what chance is there of Chinese businesses getting access to them? More likely they’d have to build them from scratch, which means the use of different technical standards, mechanisms and ultimately, one giant headache floating in the midst of global IP reconciliation (which flies in the face of China’s aim of establishing a national Internet, wheeey).

What we’re saying here is that it’s really nice to read all this tough talk on crack downs, and to romanticize the regulatory bodies as artfully sparring away on behalf of the artists who are probably still not figuring digital revenue into their careers. But until we hear of more details, there’s little incentive to put much stock into this announcement. All shall be revealed at the end of the month.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 LinkedIn 0 Google+ 0 0 Flares ×