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Musicians paying price for popularity
2006-03-16 20:28:48 Xinhua English
BEIJING, March 17-- The Internet is often accused of illegal dissemination of music but many netizens are now using it as an instrument to protect musicians' interests.

One of their biggest successes has come by outing one of China's most popular songs,"Xi Shua Shua," as being similar to Japanese female duo Puffy AmiYumi's 2003 hit"K2G."

"Xi Shua Shua" was released last year by a band called The Flowers(Hua'er), on an album with the EMI label.

EMI revealed this week that it had reached an agreement with Sony, holder of the copyright of Puffy's"K2G," for each company to own 50 per cent of the copyright of"Xi Shua Shua."

Netizens were the first to point out that the chorus of"Xi Shua Shua" was almost identical to that of"K2G."

The song was included on The Flowers' album"The Blooming Season Dynasty," released by EMI in July 2005.

It sold some 200,000 copies in the first 40 days, considered a great success in the country's pop music scene.

The band, founded in 1998 when the members were still in their teens, then immediately won popularity among youngsters.

The Flowers appeared at the China Central Television's Lantern Festival gala show on February 12.

On February 20, the organizers of the Pepsi Music Chart Awards in China announced The Flowers was nominated for the prizes of the Chinese mainland's best arrangement, best lyrics, best composer, and best rock'n' roll band.

"Xi Shua Shua" was nominated for the best song.

However, their increasing fame brought closer scrutiny of their work.

As the media and netizens dug further, they claimed 13 of the 24 songs on the band's last two albums were suspected of plagiarism.

Netizens have found alleged"sources" of these songs and pasted them on the Internet.

They include: British trio Busted's"Losing You,?Canadian singer Avril Lavigne's"I Don't Give,Danish group Aqua's"Turn Back Time,?American Singer Hillary Duff's"Party Up,?Belgian group K3's"Heyah Mama,?Irish singer Samantha Mumba's,"Always Come Back To Your Love,?Romanian group O-Zone's"Dragostea Din Tei,South Korean singer Kim Gun Mo's"Swallow?and ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell's"Calling.?

Allegedly similar-sounding melodies appear on songs penned by The Flowers, under the credit of the band's lead singer Zhang Wei.

At the arrangement of a Hainan-based magazine New Century Weekly, Chen Qi, music director of the International Cultural Exchange Audio and Video Publishing House, analyzed four of the 13 songs and the corresponding"original works.?

After transcription, Chen, a pianist and composer, compared the scores.

He found that The Flowers in their songs used almost identical melodies to the international works. The imitated parts far exceeded"eight measures,?the common standard of judging whether a song is a plagiary.

"In the thousands of years of music history in the world, there has been practically no coincidence of identical melodies,Chen told China Daily.

"Music is a manifestation of composers personalities and experiences. It's impossible for two people to come out with completely identical melodies, except when something has been plagiarized.?

The result of Chen's analysis was published in the latest edition of New Century Weekly.

On Tuesday, representatives of EMI and The Flowers lead singer, Zhang, released an official statement on the matter.

While not saying that he had plagiarized those songs, Zhang said that there were some"flaws?in his music.

But he admitted he listens to hundreds of songs every week, and when he tries to write his own songs, some melodies come naturally, without manifesting their origins.

Steve Chow, a music director of EMI, said the notes that appear in a songwriter's mind are often similar to that of others.

Himself a songwriter, Chow said that his brother used to help him pinpoint any similarity between melodies of his and others.

He went on to explain the agreement reached with Sony over"Xi Shua Shua.?

EMI and Zhang's statement was far from satisfactory to most people who have been following the matter closely.

Discussions of the statement, mostly critical, can be found on many websites.

"If EMI and The Flowers don't admit'Xi Shua Shua?was a plagiary of'K2G,?why do they give half of the copyright of'Xi Shua Shua to Sony said Jiang Hong, an editor of New Century Weekly, who organized a special report on the matter.

"Even if those companies come to an agreement, consumers still have the right to know the truth,?Jiang told China Daily.

Thanks to the Internet, it is easy for netizens to listen to related songs, and make their own judgements.

According to a survey by www.Sina.com, 70.8 per cent of netizens believe that The Flowers plagiarized their songs from foreign musicians, and only 4.06 per cent believe that The Flowers did not plagiarize at all.

Chen Yan, a publicity officer for EMI, said that the statement released by the label and the band were their final comments on the subject.

On Wednesday, the board of judges of the Pepsi Music Chart Awards declared the cancellation of The Flowers qualification for the awards.

In the 1980s, when China's pop music began to redevelop after decades in the wilderness, many singers used melodies from foreign pop songs.

Due to lack of communications with the international music scene at that time, Chinese pop singers often left the credits of those songs blank, and it was impractical for them to pay royalties to the original authors.

Nowadays cultural exchanges between China and other countries have dramatically expanded and the Internet has offered music lovers immense resources to browse in the world of pop music.

Another song in focus

Netizens have now focused their attention on another very popular song,"The Sun, the Moon and the Stars?(Jixiang Sanbao).

Composed by Burenbayaer, an ethnic Mongolian singer, the song has sparked controversy over whether it plagiarized French composer Nicolas Errera's"Le Papillon,the theme song from the film of the same title.

However, it has turned out to be quite a different case. The similarity of"The Sun, the Moon and the Stars and"Le Papillon?mainly lies in their forms, both of questions and answers between a child and parents.

The melodies can hardly be regarded as very close.

Further more, Burenbayaer said his song had actually been originally released in 1998, much earlier than the release of the French film in 2002.

"In terms of the time frame, it's impossible for me to plagiarize'Le Papillon Burenbayaer was quoted as saying by China Radio International."Why do people have doubts about my work just because it became popular later than'Le Papillon.

Reports that the film's director, Philippe Muyl, was suing Burenbayaer for plagiarism appear to be unfounded.

Luo Keyun, Burenbayarer's publicist, told China Radio International:"We have not received any summons from France. Even if Philippe Muyl wants to sue us, we are not at all worried because we have proof that the song was made earlier. Buren's friends and relatives in France, who received the cassettes, can testify.

As for The Flowers, there could be more trouble ahead.

Jiang said that his magazine would try to work with overseas media to inform copyright holders of those foreign songs, which are claimed to have been plagiarized by The Flowers.

"It is the copyright holders choice whether to take legal action, but I believe media have the responsibility to publicize the fact,said Jiang."At this time of the Internet, no one can fool anybody.

(Source: China Daily)

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