Warner Music Hong Kong has won a copyright suit against a Chinese karaoke chain which had been playing tracks owned by the label without permission.

Warner Music Hong Kong has won a copyright suit against a Chinese karaoke chain which had been playing tracks owned by the label without permission.

WMHK was awarded 12,000 renminbi ($1,485) on Oct. 14 by the Kunming Intermediate People's Court in a suit against Haoledi Music & Entertainment.

The court also ordered Haoledi, a Karaoke chain based in Kunming, in China's Yunnan province, to immediately stop playing Warner Music's songs in its karaoke parlors.

At least 15 karaoke parlors operate in China under the Haoledi name.

Although the fine was small in monetary terms, winning the case was important "because it confirms that the record companies are entitled to royalty payments for the use of their karaoke videos," says J.C. Giouw, the IFPI's Asia regional director. The IFPI filed the lawsuit on Warner's behalf and represented the label during the court proceedings after Warner gave the IFPI power of attorney.

Of the court-ordered compensation, 2,000 renminbi ($247) was for royalty losses, while the remainder was awarded to WMHK for legal costs.

The case was the first of its kind in the city of Kunming, according to Giouw. "It sets a precedent in that makes it easier for the negotiation of the payment of royalties," he adds.

The IFPI's Hong Kong branch coordinates lawsuits against karaoke parlors in various local courts throughout China for a total of 52 domestic and local record labels. Warner Music, EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group are the most active litigants.

Industry observers say action by labels is vital because of the popularity of karaoke parlors in China and their widespread abuse of music copyrights. More than 90% of China's 100,000-odd karaoke parlors use music videos without record labels' permission, according to the IFPI.

WMHK is currently pursuing other suits across China and already has won cases in a number of major cities, including Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenyang. Earlier this year, the label was awarded 30,000 renminbi ($3,714) by a Beijing court, marking the label's largest court-ordered settlement to date in China.