The ruling comes as Chinese regulators tighten their grip on the country’s technology sector.
China’s copyright authorities warned on Thursday that digital music platforms are not permitted to establish exclusive copyright agreements unless there are exceptional circumstances, as part of a regulatory crackdown on monopolistic behavior in the country’s private sector.
According to a statement released on the NCAC’s official WeChat account, the directive was issued on Thursday during a meeting in Beijing with influential digital music platforms, as well as record and songwriter rights businesses.
The ban comes amid a broader crackdown on the country’s technology sector by Chinese regulators, which has focused on issues such as monopolistic behavior, unfair competition, and consumer rights.
Tencent Holdings said last year that it has terminated all exclusive music copyright agreements after being required to do so by China’s market regulator. According to the regulator, the firm possessed more than 80% of exclusive music library resources, increasing its leverage over upstream copyright partners and allowing it to prohibit new entries.
The NCAC did not specify whose companies were summoned on Thursday. Aside from Tencent, popular streaming services in China are owned by smartphone maker Xiaomi, telecommunications company China Mobile, and Internet tech behemoth Netease. Popular global streaming services such as Spotify are prohibited in mainland China.
The NCAC stated that, while copyright procedures have improved since 2015, when the authority outlawed illegal music streaming and ordered platforms to remove millions of songs, the industry still needed to be standardised further.
“The negotiations emphasised that record labels, songwriting copyright corporations, and digital music platforms should… settle the payment based on a guaranteed sum plus a portion of real consumption, and should not sign exclusive copyright agreements except in exceptional circumstances,” the statement stated.