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BEIJING — Hundreds of Beijing’s popular karaoke bars are refusing to pay a copyright fee introduced a year ago and the government is preparing major legal action against them.

The Chinese Audio-Video Copyright Assn. has lodged a complaint against 100 karaoke bars that are accused of playing songs without paying royalties.

The org sent a warning letter to 300 karaoke bars, or KTV bars as they are known, but received only 30 replies. Karaoke is a hugely popular pastime in China, and people of all ages throng to the karaoke bars at different times of day, some of them seedy fronts for brothels, others family-friendly places of fun.

Most of Beijing’s big chains have paid up, but the problem is with smaller outlets, that are unhappy about paying the 11 yuan ($1.61) per room per day charge. Of 1,500 karaoke bars in Beijing only 10 have paid up so far, far behind Shanghai where hundreds of bars have paid up.