Date
23 January 2017
A person engaged in a public performance of songs is required to pay royalties to copyright owners. Photos: Facebook, CASH, IFPI, HKRIA
A person engaged in a public performance of songs is required to pay royalties to copyright owners. Photos: Facebook, CASH, IFPI, HKRIA

Singing a song at a banquet could cost you over HK$10,000

Much has been said about Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying performing a song by local band Beyond and having the video recording uploaded to his Facebook page.

It’s not just that some people think the two don’t go well together since Beyond is associated with last year’s pro-democracy protests. 

There is also a raging debate about whether his move would violate the controversial Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014, which is currently being discussed in the Legislative Council.

Under existing copyright laws, a person engaged in a public performance of songs is required to pay royalties to the copyright owners.

And the cost could easily go north of HK$10,000.

Ming Pao Daily reporters  called up the Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong Ltd. (CASH), Hong Kong Recording Industry Alliance (HKRIA) and International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (Hong Kong Group) Limited (IFPI) to enquire on the fees required for performing songs, say, during a company’s annual dinner in a hotel.

CASH said only open performance royalties would be required if there is a live band, and the fee would be around HK$1,000 for a performance of under 20 minutes. If karaoke music is used, the fee would be HK$500.

Fees to be levied by IFPI and HKRIA would amount to HK$11,000 and HK$2,500, respectively.

All the applications to the three copyright authorities can be approved on the same day, but it would take two weeks for the official licenses to be issued.

If the singers wish to upload their performance online, CASH said they must apply for permission from the relevant record company, before getting an online license from CASH or IFPI.

CASH would levy a fee of HK$800 for three months or HK$3,200 a year for performances using live bands. In karaoke music is used, online licenses from CASH and two other authorities must also be sought.

According to IFPI, online royalties for commercial organizations would amount to around HK$10,000 a year.

An IFPI staffer said there have been a lot of enquiries on copyright recently, but said record companies seldom pursue a case against people who did not apply for a license.

What if the music is played in a wedding ceremony? Would recording it and uploading it online be considered an infringement of copyright?

CASH said responsibility could be waived if the music is played inside the church as it would be for a religious purpose.

But a playback in other premises would be considered public use of copyrighted material and therefore would require users to seek permission from relevant authorities.

According to IFPI, many wedding venues and restaurants have applied for IFPI and HKRIA licenses to use musical materials on a yearly basis, so citizens need not worry too much.

Lawyer Chris Ng Chung-luen, spokesperson for the Progressive Lawyers Group, said copyright authorities should consider setting up an online platform for the public to apply for a license or clearance.

Online music could be a grey area because it is not covered by existing copyright regulations, Ng said.

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EL/AC/CG

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