BEIJING, Aug. 30 (Xinhuanet) -- The Ministry of Culture has ordered domestic websites to halt playback and download services for 100 songs from other markets that were not officially approved before being uploaded to the Internet.
"A website that is engaged in the operation of an online music product must go through procedures with the ministry before providing playback and download services for the song on the Internet," Li Jian, an official in the ministry's department of cultural markets, told China Daily on Sunday.
The ministry, which is in charge of online music, reviews all imported online music products and operates a registration system for domestic ones.
"The procedure is a bid to strike out copyright infringement and refine the order of the online cultural market," Li said.
Domestic search engines and websites have been asked to review and cancel services dealing with the listed songs by Sept 15 or face investigations and penalties, according to a notice on the ministry's website.
The 100 songs are all from markets beyond the mainland such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Western countries. The list features music by Lady Gaga and Backstreet Boys.
Li said all music websites must follow the system of exclusive licensing of online music.
"If one website first registers a song with our ministry, other websites have to obtain authorization from this website before providing services for the song," he said.
"However, some break the law by violating copyrights or using pirated music. We are trying to fight this," Li said.
However, insiders at recorded music companies said the "dual review" is superfluous.
"All the lyrics and album covers go through official review by the General Administration of Press and Publication before production and release," said a woman from an exclusive licensee of EMI music in China, who declined to be identified.
"It might work for those songs that are not recorded on discs but are only for the Internet," she said.
Some insiders said the official approval procedure provides only slight protection for recorded music companies.
"Now, we bring a lawsuit against a website if it is found to be using our songs illegally. The official approval only provides evidence when we get the websites into court, but it plays little role in restraining lawbreakers," said a man from one of the world's four major recorded music companies who did not want to be identified.
"Also, the compensation we get from the lawsuits goes to us, but the fines imposed by the ministry, which constitute an administrative penalty, go to the country," he said.
He also said that in reality, no companies in the industry offer exclusive licenses for online music to websites.
"Even if we sell the online service rights for a song to a website, it does not have the right of resale. Other websites have to come to us to buy the song," he said.
"No company will sell a song, to which they devote a great deal of effort and money, to a website agency," he said.
The ministry in January and March ordered websites to stop providing services for 200 songs. Some websites face penalties because they have not deleted the unapproved music.