Vietnam witnessed positive changes in the area of copyright protection and related rights last year but it is not enough, say musicians, journalists and scientists who attended a recent workshop on copyrights in Vietnam in HCM City.
One-year ago, when they came to Vietnam to learn about copyright violations, Prof Koji Domon and Prof Kiyoshi Nakamura from Japan’s Waseda University were very surprised at the rampant, blatant copyright violations they witnessed.
This time, the Japanese professors were pleasantly surprised about the advancements in copyright protection Vietnam has made through the operation of the Vietnam Centre for Protection of Music Copyrights (VCPMC) and the Recording Industry Association of Vietnam (RIAV). However, their pleasure quickly departed when Vietnamese musicians informed them that they were still not safe.
Saxophonist Tran Manh Tuan related a story: In a taxi from the airport to his home, the driver turned on a CD “by Tran Manh Tuan”, which included his works plus performances of other artists, a CD that he had never knew existed. Instead of explaining to the driver, Tran Manh Tuan presented a genuine CD of his with his signature to the taxi driver. He said: “I thank someone who highly appreciates Tran Manh Tuan by putting my name and my picture on that CD, but it is copyright infringement.”
While big copyright cases have still yet to be resolved, it is no wonder that musicians’ music works are still being pirated. On the sideline of the workshop, Tran Manh Tuan said: “Some website managers and companies wanted to be copyright representatives for me, but when I read the contracts, I saw that they wanted the right to exploit my works, not protect my interests.”
Musician Quoc Bao affirmed that he didn’t count on the protection of state agencies so he only released limited numbers of albums.
“My next album will be issued in only several hundred copies, to serve collectors only,” he said. However, the musician was not sure whether this method helped protect his works.
One female student amazed workshop attendants when she said: “I and my friends always seek genuine music disks of our Vietnamese and foreign idols, though they are quite expensive. We think that that is the best way to show our sentiments for our idols. Each artist has a sufficient team of fans, they can declare war against copyright infringement.”
Prof Nakamura told another story. When he called on a music store in China, he saw some youngsters buying pirated CDs of Japanese singers. He asked them why they bought pirated disks though they said they were fans of the Japanese singer. They said “because copied disks are priced at 9 yuan while authentic disks are nearly 60 yuan.”
Vietnamese music fans would echo the sentiments of the Chinese youngsters, but “when you buy an original disk, you will not feel guilty,” said Truong Ngoc Minh, the representative of website pops.vn. Minh believes in this though websites that are pioneers in paying copyright royalties are not protected and have to every day compete with websites that illegally use music works.
The copyright infringement rate in Vietnam decreased from 92% in 2004 to 85% in 2007. But 85% is still a huge number (ranking third in Asia-Pacific), which could prevent international recording firms from coming to Vietnam.