Record Labels, Internet
Warner Music Group may appeal against a court penalty on a Chinese website that offered illegal song downloads because it says it is too lenient to deter piracy. Shanghai Rongshuxia Computer was ordered to pay 15,000 yuan to Warner Music Taiwan by the Shanghai Intermediate People’s Court on Monday, less than 10 per cent of the 250,000 yuan the company had sought. Rongshuxia is a partner of Bertelsmann, Germany’s biggest media company. Music companies have stepped up legal attacks on unauthorised downloading over the internet after piracy caused global recorded music sales to slump 7.6 per cent to US$32 billion last year. Warner Music and Bertelsmann’s BMG unit were among five companies that warned Chinese websites against piracy in March, the Beijing Times reported on April 15. Warner Music, sued Rongshuxia for offering 10 songs by Chinese female singer Na Ying for free download on its website from April 2002. Rongshuxia, mainly an online publisher of Chinese literature – it has more than two million texts on its site – withdrew the music files after Warner complained in March last year. Warner Music’s compensation claim was felt to be too high because it was based on the 99 US cents per download that the New York-based company charged in the United States market. China had more than 7,200 websites that allowed free downloading of songs, only about 10 of which had paid copyright fees, state-run China Central Television reported on its website on April 5. Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi agreed last month to clamp down harder on piracy of US music, movies, software and other products during trade talks in Washington. US companies say counterfeiting and piracy costs US$200 billion a year in lost revenue, with China the biggest offender. Warner Music won a lawsuit in March against a Beijing-based karaoke operator accused of illegally playing music videos and threatened to sue more violators.