Singer opens royalty lawsuit
SINGER Jet Mya Thaung said in a press conference on September 2 that he will sue FM radio stations, singing competitions and the Myanmar Music Association (MMA) for using 15 of his songs for commercial use without his permission.
The singer claims his songs were used by radio broadcasters, in singing competitions and for downloadable ringtones nearly 4600 times, from 2012 to 2014, without his permission and under a separate agreement with the Myanmar Music Association.
Myanmar’s copyright infringement problem is hardly new. In fact, some would argue it is not even a problem but rather the reality of the entertainment business here in Myanmar.
With pirated DVD and CD shops lining every street-corner and the latest copyright law dating back to 1914, musicians struggle to make a profit without radio stations and music competitions ripping off their tunes.
“Even though the Myanmar Music Association offered to pay a royalty [for broadcasting songs], I didn’t accept because they have no right to do so. How does this measure the success of my songs? Each time the broadcast a song, radio stations are paid K150 and it was just K75 before. They fix the fees by themselves,” Jet Mya Thaung said.
The singer said he would not accept any negotiations and will continue to sue 15 FM radio broadcasters and companies for using his songs in singing competitions.
“I warned them two times through newspapers, once in mid-2015 and once on April 3, 2016. In June, I discussed this issue with the music association but they didn’t do anything. I told them I would prosecute and send notification as I have irrefutable evidence against. They just don’t care.”
When The Myanmar Times spoke to the MMA on September 5, the association’s officials said they had been instructed to stop running the singer’s songs since he came to a negotiation in last June, a statement in clear opposition of what Jet Mya Thaung claimed.
U Zaw Tuu Aung, a secretary from the MMA’s copyright management committee, said that since the launch of the Mandalay FM radio station, the committee now pays K1200 per song, dividing the loyalty payment among five groups: 25 percent for singers, composers, and producers, 15pc for bands, and 10pc for music engineers.
This was an executive decision, the secretary says, made only after holding 27 rounds of meetings with each of these groups.
Still, loyalty prices continue to fluctuate. Originally radio stations paid K400 to broadcast a song for two years, U Zaw Tuu Aung said. But now, out of respect for the artist’s craft, the return was negotiated and increased to K750.
“If he can find evidence of a copyright for his music,” U Zaw Tuu Aung said, “then his music albums will be compensated accordingly.”
Under the terms and conditions of agreement with radio stations, the Myanmar Music Association only guarantees the rights to a song’s lyric as many melodies floating around Myanmar’s sound-waves are not original pieces. As a result, FM radios have ceased using a musician’s song if the artist has filed a complaint.
Jet Mya Thaung poses in a Yangon hotel in 2015. The singer is attempting to sue FM radio stations for copyright infringement.