Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Taiwan Dead Serious About Copyright On Funeral Music

Ralph Jennings reported for the Voice of America about two lawsuits of Taiwanese studios against funeral houses in Taichung. Mr Jennings writes: "Taiwanese funeral homes play pre-recorded music at traditional ceremonies, some of which also involve live bands and street parades to honor the dead." Read more here.

Lin Shu-hui previously wrote for the Taipei Times: "Music and Buddhist chants during funerals are usually provided by the funeral homes, mostly using a gadget called the Electric Buddhism Sutra Player or music CDs." Read more here.

A life band playing during a traditional ceremony can be seen as a public performance.
Article 7bis Taiwan's Copyright Law 2008: A performance by a performer of a pre-existing work or folklore shall be protected as an independent work. Protection of a performance shall not affect the copyright in the pre-existing work.
And relating to the CDs: according to article 5 (8) Taiwan's Copyright Law 2008, sound recordings are copyrighted works.

What about Buddhist chants that are played via a CD or an Electric Buddhism Sutra Player, which is a device that plays a sutra (teaching of the Buddha) continuously by going in a loop, and is often given away for free at Buddhist temples. Even thought the music and lyrics are not copyrighted (read more about Buddhism in relation to IP in Zen and the Art of Intellectual Property), the performance of the work is (article 7bis Taiwan's Copyright Law 2008).  

According to Wang Mei-hua, director general of the Taiwan government’s Intellectual Property Office these conflicts between studios and funeral companies signal that it is difficult to find a right compensation. She also pointed out that to collect copyright fees at the popular Karaoke bars is complex in Taiwan, because the island has five (I count 6) copyright collecting societies: 

  • Music Copyright Association of Taiwan (MCAT); 
  • Music Copyright Intermediary Society of Chinese Taipei (MUST); 
  • Music Copyright Intermediary Society of Taiwan (TMCS); 
  • Audiovisual Music Copyright Owner Association (AMCO); 
  • Association of Recording Copyright Owners of ROC (ARCO); 
  • Recording Copyright & Publications Administrative Society of Chinese Taipei (RPAT).  
This list I found in the interesting article that Professor Kung-Chung Liu wrote how the music CD business in Taiwan withered away and the online music industry in Taiwan flourished, and the rise and fall of P2P file-sharing services and how the copyright legislation responded to these developments. Read here.

Professor Kung-Chung Liu, who last year gave a speech at HKU on Cross-Strait Cooperation Agreement on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Protection, see here, is also a co-author of the excellent book called Intellectual Property Law in Taiwan which is edited by Christopher Heath, and part of the Max Planck Series on Asian Intellectual Property Law published by Kluwer Law International.

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