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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Pop stars protest piracy in Taiwan
Protesters in Taiwan
Taiwan's music industry could disappear in five years
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By Michael Bristow
In Taipei
Pop stars from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore have left their glitzy lifestyles behind and staged a street protest in Taipei to demonstrate against music piracy.

Piracy is stealing. Your mother would teach you not to steal, so why would you?

Pop star CoCo Lee
They were joined by other music industry workers for a march on the city's presidential palace in a bid to persuade the Taiwanese Government to clamp down harder on pirated CDs and tapes.

Taiwan-based music companies claim piracy has halved revenue to around US$150 million on the island over the last three years, undermining a once booming market that was until recently the second biggest in East Asia.

Industry under threat

Music bosses say that only half of all sales are now legitimate and, unless the government tightens the law, the local record industry in Taiwan could disappear within five years.

CoCo Lee
CoCo Lee: Flew from the US to take part

CoCo Lee, who was born in Hong Kong but now lives in the US, flew in specially to take part in the demonstration, which began at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in central Taipei.

The singer, who has released 12 albums since her debut in 1994, said: "We're trying to make a statement to the Taiwan Government. I think it's about time they did something."

She added: "No one's really listening because people just see that they're saving US$6 when they buy a pirated copy. They don't see that it's a long-term loss for Taiwan.

"Piracy is stealing. Your mother would teach you not to steal, so why would you?"

Another singer delivering the same message was Taiwan's A-mei, who sells millions of records across the Chinese-speaking world.

She was previously banned from appearing in China after agreeing to sing Taiwan's national anthem at President Chen Shui-bian's inauguration.

The Taiwan branch of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which organised the demonstration, wants the government to take action before it's too late.

Spokesman Robin Lee said the authorities should assign more police officers to help track down on counterfeit music traders and tighten copyright laws.

Internet role

He also said the government should look at ways to counter technological developments such as the internet, which allows people to download music into their homes.

Karen Mok
Karen Mok: 'We won't have enough money to promote new people'

The Taiwanese Government has recently shown signs of clamping down on all kinds of counterfeit goods, partly in response to criticism from the US that it doesn't do enough to protect intellectual property.

Taiwan's Premier Yu Shyi-kun spoke at the music industry demonstration, promising to do more to protect the sector in the future.

But with pirated CDs selling for just US$1.50 in Taiwan, compared with around US$10 for those bought in shops, persuading people to stop producing and buying counterfeit music is not going to be easy.

Even one of the stars at the protest, Hong Kong's Karen Mok, admitted she had bought pirated music when she was a student.

She said she doesn't do it now because she's involved in the industry, and it would mean less money to develop new bands which would eventually be bad for listeners.

"There'll be fewer and fewer new acts, new singers, and new blood in the industry. If we're not making enough money then we won't have enough money to promote new people, and we need new blood all the time," she said.

See also:

14 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan: Sold on Seoul
24 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
China bans Taiwan's Madonna
26 Feb 02 | New Media
Piracy blamed for CD sales slump
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