KUALA LUMPUR - MCA has set up a team of lawyers to help shop operators from 50 associations who have allegedly been harassed to pay exorbitant copyright fees by certain groups.
Party deputy president Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong said the companies hired to collect the fees had demanded as much as RM30,000 (S$11,800) a year from shops with television sets including coffee shops, karaoke joints and electrical appliance outlets.
"These operators respect the intellectual property of the artistes but it must be a reasonable sum," he said after meeting representatives of the associations at Wisma MCA here yesterday.
Dr Wee, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, said MCA's legal team would help each association to hold dialogues with the Malaysian Intellectual Property Office (MyIPO), a division under the Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry, to seek a solution.
The ministry has said it will initiate talks with the music licensing bodies to find a way to exclude small businesses from having to pay copyright fees.
Businesses have to pay RM800 per year separately to four music licensing bodies authorised by MyIPO - Music Authors' Copyright Protection Bhd (MACP), Public Performance Malaysia Sdn Bhd (PPM), Recording Performers Malaysia (M) Bhd (RPM), and Performers Rights & Interest Society Bhd (Prism).
Dr Wee also claimed that the companies hired to collect the fees had sent letters which seemed to threaten the shop operators to pay up or be fined, jailed or both under the Copyright Act 1987.
"It also does not make sense as the copyright fees are more expensive than the Kuala Lumpur City Hall's business licensing fees of only RM200," he said.
Golden Mic Family Karaoke in Wangsa Maju here was one of the shops asked to pay a total of RM30,000.
"I was sent a final reminder and told that the assets in the outlet will be seized if we do not pay up," said its operations manager Noor Azri Safri.
"In countries like Japan, there's only one collection body to regulate the industry," he added.
There are also calls for the bodies to come under one roof to prevent double charges and harsh collection methods by agents.
Ace Fong, a veteran in event management, said apart from an annual RM3,000 fee to the PPM, those involved in broadcasting music at events had to pay a separate fee to MACP.
"There is also a 15 per cent surcharge which goes to Prism," he said.