One of China’s largest music-streaming platforms is embroiled in a dispute with over 90 songwriters following a failed collaboration campaign.
According to an article Wednesday by pop culture media account Hedgehog Commune, music producers have been protesting this week outside Kugou’s headquarters in the southern megacity of Guangzhou, claiming the company owes them over 100 million yuan ($14.5 million) in songwriting fees.
The Dream Project — launched in April 2018 by Kugou’s livestreaming platform, Fanxing — was intended to bring music producers and aspiring singers together to collaborate on new and innovative work. According to the terms of the project, the producers were to be paid by Kugou — which would maintain exclusive rights to all music — after the songs were approved by the platform and had registered copyrights under the International Standard Recording Code.
However, Kugou abruptly shut down the Dream Project in March, deleting all of the completed songs that had yet to be approved or registered and leaving many songwriters saddled with debt from production costs.
Music producer Zheng Bingbing, who wrote 121 songs for Fanxing beginning in April 2018, told Sixth Tone that Kugou still owes him around 2.3 million yuan. “My first song was published on their platform last September,” Zheng said. “It’s been eight months, but Kugou still hasn’t paid me 30% of what I’m owed.”
In a statement Wednesday on microblogging platform Weibo, Fanxing said the Dream Project had been shut down after numerous musicians complained about the low quality of the songwriters’ work. The statement also claimed that the producers had been inflating the prices of their music and that this constituted unfair competition.
“By shutting down the platform, Kugou has already breached its contract,” Xu Xinming, an intellectual property lawyer at Beijing Mingtai Law Firm, told Sixth Tone. Music producers who have already invested their resources into creating songs should be compensated for their economic losses and have the rights to their music returned to them, he added.
In recent years, China has taken strides to protect musicians’ intellectual property rights. In July 2017, the Music Copyright Society of China took livestreaming platform Huajiao to court for providing access to songs it was not paying royalties for, prompting Huajiao to later sign a licensing agreement for legal use of the music. And in July 2018, Chinese singer Li Zhi sued a talent competition for using his songs without authorization: A court awarded him 200,000 yuan in damages earlier this year.
Editor: David Paulk.