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    Singer Sues Idol Show for Illegally Using His Music

    Li Zhi claims hit all-male singing competition infringed his music rights twice.

    Popular Chinese talent show “The Coming One” perhaps didn’t see a lawsuit coming when its second season aired last month.

    Singer Li Zhi is suing the all-male show for performing his songs without authorization, demanding 3 million yuan ($450,000) in compensation, The Beijing News reported Monday. Li said the show’s producer, Wajijiwa Entertainment, and broadcaster, Tencent Video, had acknowledged the case but not accepted his terms.

    “One million for the infringement during season two, another million for [contestant] Mao Buyi using it earlier this year, and the remaining sum will be given to other artists who have had their music rights infringed,” Li said, explaining how he decided on 3 million yuan.

    Online singing competitions on the lookout for new talent — similar to Western shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice” — are popular on Chinese TV and online platforms. The first 15 episodes from the first season of “The Coming One” were viewed over 3.9 billion times by September of last year. The show also gave birth to a new star, Mao Buyi, who is named in Li’s lawsuit.

    Bao Shuang, a Beijing-based intellectual property rights lawyer, told Sixth Tone that while the plaintiff has the right to claim any compensation amount, the court will have the final say based on the nature of the infringement and the type of work.

    “If the evidence presented by the rights holder is sufficiently solid, they might be able to obtain the stated compensation amount,” Bao said.

    In China, the rules and processes around copyright are similar to the U.S. and other overseas markets: TV talent shows work with production companies who are responsible for securing rights for songs used on the air. They also provide a list of cleared songs that contestants can perform. Nonetheless, copyright violations occur.

    In recent years, China’s Ministry of Culture has been pushing for protection of intellectual property rights, both to improve its international image and to further monetize the music industry. Since stricter policies were introduced in 2014, Chinese consumers have also proved willing to pay for music.

    Amid stricter regulations, more artists are coming forward with lawsuits. Li had previously sued several other streaming platforms for infringement of his music, receiving nearly 200,000 yuan in compensation. The singer said that the 3 million yuan lawsuit is a protection measure: He is demanding a large sum, he explained, because smaller reparations allow such cases to occur time and again.

    Meanwhile, the producers of “The Coming One” told The Beijing News that they are willing to bear the responsibility and are open to “friendly negotiation” — though they’re not willing to accept Li’s proposed compensation amount. The company added that it will bear all legal responsibilities associated with the case.

    Previously, Bao said, courts rarely awarded a plaintiff’s full monetary claim. “But in recent years,” she said, “[compensation] has improved significantly, as China is trying to strengthen law enforcement around intellectual property.”

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: Li Zhi stands onstage during a concert in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, Dec. 31, 2017. IC)