The copyright industry in Australia and China

Topics: Arin2610 Copyright industry  Social Media

The digital content industry is being evaluated as a new “gold mine” by forming a new multi-billion dollar industry in Australia and China. The internet has evolved into a vital platform for the distribution of digital material such as movies, music, videos, etc. The significance of copyright as a motivator for the development and diffusion of digital information. This article will analyze the situations of the copyright industry in Australia and China, specifically in the music industry. (2023). Music Copyright.

The concept of copyright and copyright law

Copyright is a type of intellectual property right (IPR) that allows the author of an original work to retain specific rights over the creation for a specified time (Leaffer, 1993). The copyright holder has ethical obligations in addition to economic rights, such as copyright, work integrity, credit, and publishing (Leaffer, 1993). Even if the copyright has been assigned to a third party, the author still retain these rights (Leaffer, 1993). Copyright applies to all original works, irrespective of their quality, techniques, methods of operation, and it also limited in time. According to the copyright laws of the World Trade Organization (WTO), copyright lasts for at least 50 years after the creator dies (Leaffer, 1993). The Berne Convention, enacted in 1886, was one of the earliest international accords on copyright (Ricketson & Ginsburg, 2022). The Berne Convention’s majority of provisions were integrated into the World Trade Organization’s TRIPS agreement in 1995 (Ricketson & Ginsburg, 2022). What is directly sold on copyright is the authority to use the intellectual property in question, not the right to possess that property. When a song is copyrighted, its transmission is the music CD. When we buy a music CD, we own the CD, but not the songs on it. 

In the context of extremely vibrant digital content distribution, the rapid development of television platforms and online music publishers has brought users to a new era of entertaining content consumption. As Manuel Castells observed, the internet was “the indispensable medium and the driving force in the formation of the new economy” (2002). The convenience of accessing music events directly on devices has transformed the way audiences interact with content. However, this digital revolution also brings unprecedented challenges in content security and copyright protection, requiring the creation of new solutions to protect content from a variety of copyright infringement.

The copyright situation in China

In different countries, there are different copyright laws, and this also depends on the underlying culture of those countries. As cultural theory focuses on the principle of copyright law, it pushes people towards a better and more equal society (Cohen, 2006). As in China, many components of their traditional culture are difficult to reconcile with the core concept of copyright law, which developed in Europe and is permeated with European philosophical thought (Päivi Hutukka, 2023). Clearly, common “knowledge sharing” within the community is not considered a fundamental foundation of copyright law. Meanwhile, Chinese culture always emphasizes the educational nature of Confucian thought – a key idea in this country’s traditional culture (Tang, 1995). According to this doctrine, spreading knowledge through allowing free use of the work becomes the author’s main and noblest purpose (Tang, 1995). Not only that, copying a work is a form of showing respect to the author, not a condemnable act like in European culture – which values the unique creativity. 

Despite these differences, China soon realized the need to recognize copyright. This new legal concept was included in Article 94 of “Basic Civil Principles” in 1986, in which the author was recognized the right to publish his work and the right to receive “payment” from this publication (Lazar, 1995). Not long after, in 1990, China’s first Copyright Law was introduced (Lazar, 1995). Among the three major internet corporations in China – Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu – Tencent currently dominates the digital music streaming market with more than 77% market share, and a music store of more than 17 million songs (Shen et al., 2019). While the world’s largest digital music service – Spotify (Sweden) – lost more than 600 million USD in 2017 (Sanchez, 2017), QQ Music was reported to be highly profitable (Tencent Holdings Limited, 2017). A part of the reason for the success of digital music services in China is the fee for purchasing music copyright is quite low. The cheapest service package on QQ Music costs only 5 yuan/month (0.74 USD), and about 70% of paying users use this package (Zhenqi, 2017). China is currently the world’s 10th largest music market. According to calculations from the International Phonographic Federation (IFPI), copyrighted music revenue in China reached nearly 170 million USD in 2015. But along with the huge numbers of profits, problems of copyright infringement still exist a lot in China, for example with the social networking platform TikTok. The mobile app allows users to create a short video that often has background music. They can also add their own sounds on the soundtrack. This also caused a series of lawsuits over music copyright issues. Tiktok mainly meets the needs of users, and in fact, up to now, the vast majority of users do not know that they are violating music copyright. Because for many people, songs are simply “free music”. It is also undeniable that Tiktok does not depend on musical works owned by third parties. So, in this situation, Tiktok needs to solve the problem of copyright issues in a detailed and clear way. The final decision is decisive and no one can predict because it depends on the two sides arguing, providing evidence, arguments, and more importantly, the decision is on the Court’s side.

TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images (2023). TikTok. 

Similar to the business model on e-commerce sites like Amazon or Taobao. Getting caught up in stories about fake and counterfeit goods is inevitable. But the problem here is that the main error caused is on the seller’s side. When discovered, the legal responsibility is for violating intellectual property rights. The scandal leading to litigation has consequences, because there are many issues related to not only the listing, but also a chain behind which fake and counterfeit goods can appear on the market.

The copyright situation in Australia

Music copyright regulations in Australia are quite strict. To use the songs in businesses such as restaurants, stores, a music license is necessary. Businesses in Australia can obtain this authorization by obtaining a license from the music copyright organization. Unauthorized public performance of copyright-protected music may constitute copyright infringement under Australian law. Many music creators in Australia are struggle to comprehend copyright legislation and how to handle it for their own projects.  According to a new research, copyright restrictions may discourage rather than encourage creativity. Interviews with 29 Australian creators looked at concerns such as whether they should apply for licensing to reuse copyrighted work, the time and money involved in acquiring such licenses (Pappalardo et al., 2017). Obtaining permission to reproduce copyrighted property, such as music in a film, was exceedingly stressful for interview participants (Pappalardo et al., 2017). The primary issues were time delays and budgetary expenditures. The research concludes that in order to encourage the development of musical compositions in Australia, copyright regulations must be made more flexible (Pappalardo et al., 2017).


Many issues that really make the law difficult, such as copyright protection, are a puzzle and a challenge. The most reasonable solution to this problem probably lies in awareness and awareness, and the correct and serious enforcement of music ownership rights for those who have inherited and are using music platforms. In the other hand, determining the serious implementation of copyright protection contributes to promoting and stimulating creative artistic labor. Through two analyzes of copyright laws in China and Australia, in general, copyright issues in each country have their own problems. Flexible law adjustment and a balance between the rights of both parties – the artists and audiences – is a necessary solution to increase people’s awareness of copyright issues in the new era. 


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Cohen, J. E. (2006, September 13). Creativity and Culture in Copyright Theory. Social Science Research Network.

Lazar, J. C. (1995). Protecting ideas and ideals: Copyright law in the People’s Republic of China. Law & Pol’y Int’l Bus., 27, 1185.

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Päivi Hutukka. (2023). Copyright Law in the European Union, the United States and China.

Pappalardo, K., Aufderheide, P., Stevens, J., & Suzor, N. (2017). Imagination foregone: A qualitative study of the reuse practices of Australian creators. In Queensland University of Technology.

Ricketson, S., & Ginsburg, J. (2022). International Copyright and Neighbouring Rights. Oxford University Press.

Sanchez, D. (2017, June 15). Spotify: 140 Million Users, $600 Million In Losses, No Profit In Sight. Digital Music News.

Shen, S., Liu, Y., Williams, R., Li, Y. & Gerst, M. (2019). Online Music in China. CREATe Working Paper 2019-04, CREATe.

Tang, Z. (1995). Confucianism, Chinese culture, and reproductive behavior. Population and Environment, 16(3), 269–284.

Tencent Holdings Limited. (2017). Tencent Announces 2017 First Quarter Results.; PR Newswire.

Zhenqi, X. (2017). Without piracy, is digital music a profitable business in China?; CGTN.