In the midst of a regulatory crackdown on monopolistic behavior in the country’s private sector, China’s copyright administration warned on Thursday that digital music platforms are not allowed to establish exclusive copyright deals unless there are unique circumstances.
According to a statement posted on the National Copyright Administration of China’s official WeChat account, the decision was given on Thursday at a meeting in Beijing with influential digital music platforms, as well as record and songwriter copyright businesses.
The ruling comes as Chinese officials tighten their grip on the country’s technology sector, focusing on monopolistic behavior, unfair competition, and consumer rights.
Tencent Holdings said last year that it has terminated all exclusive music copyright agreements after being required to do so by China’s market regulator. According to the regulator, the company controlled more than 80% of exclusive music library resources, giving it additional clout over upstream copyright partners and allowing it to limit new competitors.
The NCAC did not specify whose businesses were summoned on Thursday. Apart from Tencent, Xiaomi, China Mobile, and Internet tech behemoth Netease all hold popular streaming services in China. In mainland China, prominent streaming services such as Spotify are prohibited.
While copyright procedures had improved since 2015, when the NCAC banned illegal music streaming and forced platforms to remove millions of songs, the NCAC stated the industry really needed to be regulated further.
It says, “The talks emphasised that record companies, songwriting copyright companies, and digital music platforms should … settle payment according to a guaranteed sum plus a share of actual usage, and should not sign exclusive copyright agreements except under special circumstances.”