Midifan, a top music portal and online magazine in China, has received notice from Behringer, threatening legal action over stories by Musicfan that called Behringer a “copycat.”
Midifan is a Chinese-language site, but evidently a significant one for that market. And Nan Tang, CEO and founder of the site, is also co-founder of 2nd Sense Audio, the software developer behind the WIGGLE synth and ReSample software. Nan, also known at musiXboy, contacted CDM with the news.
Nan has provided CDM with Midifan’s own English translation of the legal letter, as well as a statement in English. Translation is an important factor here, given we’re talking about libel, but Midifan’s English translations here for what they wrote are “shameless” and “copycat.”
Here’s the statement from Midifan:
Behringer sued Chinese media Midifan for saying them COPYCAT and shameless
Chinese portal website Midifan has received a lawyer’s letter from Behringer last week. Behringer claimed the fact that Midifan repeatedly reporting news about Behringer without any factual basis and using insulting words such as “copycat”, “shameless” has caused the reputation of the four clients (Uli Behringer, MUSIC Tribe Global Brands Ltd, Zhongshan Behringer Electronic Co., Ltd and Zhongshan Ouke Electronic Co., Ltd) to be seriously damaged.
The law firm worked for Behringer also claimed that they have reported to its local public security agency and plans to pursue legal responsibilities through criminal way.
A manufacturer taking legal action against music press for being critical or even calling it names is as far as I know fairly unprecedented. I’d almost call it shamel– actually, let’s just stick with “unprecedented.”
But it appears the letter is threatening criminal libel proceedings in China, not just civil charges. Criminal libel can carry more serious consequences; as reported in 2013 by The Guardian and Bloomberg, criminal libel in China can carry up to a three year prison sentence.
That said, in China as internationally, the law states that something is only libelous if it’s untrue. The “copycat” reference refers to Behringer gear shown at Superbooth, for instance, that literally was designed to look and sound like classic instruments (Roland TR-808, Sequential Circuits Prophet One, etc.). “Shameless” is a matter of opinion. Arguably, too, sending cease and desist letters to media outlets because they called you shameless and a copycat would presumably also not be a great way to demonstrate you possess shame.
What might make Midifan different from other English-language sites that used similar language? It may be relevant that at the end of last year, Midifan reported on striking workers in a manufacturing facility Behringer owns, where labor complained about health issues. (That article has a number of photos, as well as English-language response from Behringer managers instructing workers to keep windows closed.)
For their part, Midifan have posted a response on their site (no English translation available):
Midifan tell CDM that they have removed all references to the words “copycat” and “shameless” and replaced them with “more neutral words like “TRIBUTE and CLONE.”
Here’s the full letter from Behringer as translated by Midifan into English.
In Relation to Urge You to Stop the Willful Infringement Behavior
Dear Sir or Madam,
Upon the entrustment of Zhongshan Behringer Electronic Co., Ltd (hereinafter referred to as Behringer Corporation), Zhongshan Ouke Electronic Co., Ltd (hereinafter referred to as Ouke Corporation), Uli Behringer and MUSIC Tribe Global Brands Ltd, Guangdong Baoxin Law Firm sends you the lawyer’s letter to your company on matters that urging you to stop the willful infringement behavior.
In accordance with the information and statements from four aforementioned clients, MUSIC Tribe Global Brands Ltd is the registered holder of the trademark “BEHRINGER”. On the basis of the authorization of MUSIC Tribe Global Brands Ltd, Ouke Corporation has the right to use the “BEHRINGER” trademark to engage in production and business activities within the scope of relevant authorizations. Behringer Corporation，whose English name also includes the word “Behringer”, is an affiliate enterprise of MUSIC Tribe Global Brands Ltd and Ouke Corporation.
Since 2017, you have continuously published articles such as “Exclusive breaking: Behringer’s recent crazy copycat stems from a trap of imitation chip more than a decade ago.” “, Can’t stop copycat: Behringer will make the Eurorack module next?” , “Shameless: Behinger exhibited copycat of TR-808, SH-101, Pro-One and Odyssey” on the website “https://www.midifan.com/”
Tencent WeChat public account “Midifan” without any factual basis, claiming that the above four principals have plagiarized the products of other companies. Beyond that, the fact that you repeatedly used insulting words such as “shameless”, “copycat” has caused the reputation of my four clients to be seriously damaged.
In view of this, Ouke Corporaiton has reported to its local public security agency and plans to pursue your legal responsibilities through criminal way. Meanwhile, the four principals entrusted me with this letter expressly:
Please be sure to remove all the insulting infringement articles four principals involved and other related information posted on the internet platform such as “https://www.midifan.com/” and Tencent WeChat public account “Midifan” , etc. within seven days of receipt of this letter, and issue a clarification announcement within the above-mentioned period to eliminate all adverse effects caused by the negative reputation of the four principals due to your inappropriate comments.
If you fail to perform the above obligations within the time limit, the four principals will continue pursuing your legal liabilities (including but not limited to
the criminal responsibility for defamation) through legal ways. All consequences and expenses resulting from this shall be borne by you.
In order to avoid inconvenience, please weigh the pros and cons and perform the above obligations in a timely manner!
CDM has reached out to Music Tribe / Behringer for comment via their public contact form, but has not yet received a response. Curiously, I found many of my colleagues don’t have direct, current media contacts with the company.
Oh, also – it seems Germany has criminal libel laws, too. So, naturally, let me then reiterate – what I saw at Superbooth were … meticulous recreations of famous electronic instruments of yore by a …. manufacturer of equipment that is … Behringer.
Now, please, I don’t want to go to German jail. Aber wenn ich ins Gefängnis gehe, wird sich mein Deutsch verbessern.
Public statement from Behringer
Behringer has declined to comment publicly on CDM’s story. I did reach out to Uli Behringer directly over the weekend, and had a conversation, but got no further public comment.
Uli Behringer did post a statement to the MUSIC Tribe Academy Facebook group, which CDM shared via our own channels.
This post disputes claims of worker health issues at their own MUSIC Tribe City manufacturing facility, opened this year. And it invites us to go visit the actual facility.
It doesn’t respond to other questions about the cease and desist letter.
If Behringer add more, I’ll run it here.