Supermarket pays for background music

The Music Copyright Society of China (MCSC), an organisation formed for the collective management and exploitation of music copyright on behalf of copyright owners in China, sued Beijing MerryMart Chain Stores for playing the song “Mother in Candle Light” as background music in its supermarket without the copyright owner’s authorisation.

The Beijing Haidian District Court held that the use of the song as background music during business hours by the defendant amounted to mechanical performance of the song. By using it without the copyright owner's authorisation, the use of the song infringed the copyright owner’s right of performance. As MerryMart had indirectly benefited from using the song in the supermarket, it was obliged to pay royalties to the copyright owner.

Although the MCSC had claimed Rmb10,000 as loss resulting from the defendant’s unauthorised act, the court awarded it only Rmb500 on the basis that MerryMart had only operated the supermarket for one month, as well as considering: 

  • the scale of the infringement; 
  • the popularity of the song; and 
  • the royalty rate usually charged by the MCSC.

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