Singer opens roy­alty law­suit

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse - KHIN WYNE PHYU PHYU khin­wine­phyu­phyu@gmail.com

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.

Photo: Thaung Face­book/Jet Mya

Jet Mya Thaung poses in a Yan­gon ho­tel in 2015. The singer is at­tempt­ing to sue FM ra­dio sta­tions for copy­right in­fringe­ment.

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