July 14, 2014

IP Champion in the News: Rocker Tells Chinese Musicians: Fight For Your Rights

By Ashley Mergen

In case you missed it, GIPC 2014 IP Champions continue to make the news. Last week, musician David Lowery’s (of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven fame) recent effort to empower and educate Chinese musicians to fight piracy was profiled in the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Lowery toured China this week both to play shows and urge Chinese artists and officials to avoid the pitfalls that U.S. musicians have faced at home. The U.S. Embassy worked to bring Mr. Lowery to China to speak publicly on intellectual property rights, aiming to reach the ear of Chinese authorities drafting the new laws. The U.S. is also looking to protect the interest of U.S. businesses that sell goods in big consumer markets like China’s. Piracy in China has largely undercut the U.S. film and music industry’s business in the country…

“Now’s the time to talk about these issues in China,” Mr. Lowery said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in Beijing. According to Mr. Lowery, music-makers around the world haven’t been proactive enough about fighting illegal downloads online, nor have they successfully fought for more compensation from expanding music-streaming companies.

Mr. Lowery’s efforts come as China’s music industry is evolving rapidly with web tech and innovation and as lawmakers grapple to keep up with the changes. A draft of the Chinese copyright law released several years ago hit a bad note with musicians, who claimed that it stripped their rights to their music and gave it instead to bureaucratic copyright administrations, insiders say.

And if you think piracy is dismal in the United States, Chinese rockers face an even tougher environment. In a recent interview with the GIPC, University of Oregon professor Eric Priest found that piracy has squeezed out most opportunities for Chinese musicians to make a living. China’s music industry as a whole is contingent on one source of revenue: “About 90% of [music] revenue amazingly comes back from caller ring-back tones… music industries are reliant entirely on one revenue stream,” says Priest, making Lowery’s mission to empower musicians an uphill—but all-too-necessary— battle.

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