Sour note as karaoke operator in legal jam

Local | Sophie Hui 5 May 2021

A subsidiary of karaoke operator Neway faces being wound up.

The Hong Kong Karaoke Licensing Alliance filed a winding-up petition in the high court on Monday against Neway Music, a member of the group.

It is one of the largest karaoke operators in Hong Kong with more than 20 years of operating and 12 outlets across the SAR.

A hearing is scheduled for July 28.

But staff at the Jordan branch said it was business as usual yesterday.

There have been legal disputes before between Neway and the Hong Kong Karaoke Licensing Alliance - which has members including Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music - over copyright.

In 2010, Neway filed a lawsuit with the Copyright Tribunal, claiming that terms of the alliance's old song copyright charging plan were unreasonable.

The lawsuit dragged on for almost a decade before the tribunal dismissed Neway's claim in 2019. The karaoke company then appealed to the high court last year.

Neway filed another lawsuit against the alliance last year, alleging it failed to provide the number of music videos listed in their agreement and seeking a refund of what it claimed was an excessive fee.

Karaoke lounges were allowed to resume business on Thursday, but they were relatively quiet as all staff and customers were required to have had their first jab of a Covid-19 vaccine. Customers also need to use the LeaveHomeSafe app when visiting karaoke lounges, and only four people at most are allowed in a room.

Karaoke lounges have been ordered to close several times amid the pandemic, including a suspension of business for more than four months since December.

Neway had furloughed its 500 employees last month as the company's outlays were said to amount to between HK$10 million and HK$20 million a month.

Its branches in Mong Kok Centre and on Yee Wo Street in Causeway Bay were in December sued by the property owners for rents of over HK$33 million.

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