Last month, that bastion of radio blogging, Radio Netherland’s Media Network, carried this story.

Methods and standards of paying royalties should be promulgated this year. A law about paying royalties has been on the books for six years, it says, but since there wasn’t a method in place…

In 2004, when I was a feature producer in China Radio International (CRI), I got a talking to for refusing to use James Bond theme music on an interview with Sir Roger Moore (Yes, it is far and away the biggest interview I’ve ever done!).

The interview was for Unicef, and made only one mention of Bond in the whole 23 minutes. But the main reason I didn’t want to use the music was because it’s very distinctive and I didn’t want to be held responsible if an angry Hollywood studio came along demanding.. well, demanding anything at all. Working in CRI encourages cowardice (at least in people like me, and party members. But not everyone…!)

So. For the second time that year, the features editor Li Peichun sat me down and explained earnestly: look, we had a meeting once, and “we decided, copyright doesn’t apply to us”.

I got away without using the music, as we were close to TX.

It’s going to be a huge shock to the system for Chinese radio stations to start reporting the use of music. However you can be sure the regulations won’t be enacted, or maybe enforced, until the main broadcasters have the “methods and standards” all sorted out — in other words automated into their audio databases and playout systems. I wish that were the case in the World Service! Still, it keeps me busy on admin shifts.

Some more stuff on royalties and copyright in China. In 2006, I believe CRI received a letter from AP‘s legal representatives, demanding they stop cutting and pasting AP stories onto their website. This would have suited some of the editors there: stories referring “the wrong way” to Chinese history, politics etc have appeared on the CRI website. (example) You can hardly blame the short-contracted and under-paid web staff, way down at the bottom of the pile there, for copy-pasting longer stories.
Of course if the editors don’t check it properly, that’s another matter.