Kim Cuong to sue US studio over copyright

Celebrated actress Kim Cuong plans to launch an artistic copyright violation suit against US-based Thuy Nga Music Production Centre for the alleged unauthorised use of her drama La Sau Rieng (Durian Leaves) in its recent DVD.

"I was surprised when my friends showed me Thuy Nga’s DVD featuring Durian Leaves performed in the cai luong (reformed drama) style, launched recently in the US, " said Kim Cuong.

"Thuy Nga did not ask for my permission for the DVD", she affirmed.

Cuong wrote the popular Durian Leaves in 1963. The drama focuses on the problems a poor girl named Dieu endures while living with her rich in-laws.

Over the last 40 years, the story of Durian Leaves has been performed thousands of times by the Kim Cuong Drama Troupe, with Cuong playing the role of Dieu.

In the 1970s, with Cuong’s permission, playwrights The Chau and Ha Trieu composed a cai luong version of Durian Leaves. The cai luong version was recorded by the Viet Nam Disc Company 30 years ago.

According to Cuong, Durian Leaves has been staged several times in the US without her permission.

"I’m sad but I don’t complain," she said.

Referring to the Thuy Nga DVD, Cuong clarified, "This time is different. Thuy Nga made the Durian Leaves DVD for a commercial purpose. It does not even mention my name as the author of the material in the DVD."

"I’ve spoken with my friends in the US and have asked for their help in seeking lawyers and preparing the necessary papers to proceed with the case," Cuong said.

Cuong plans on filing her suit against Thuy Nga in the US. "It’s because the DVD was made and distributed in the US," she said.

Cuong who is retired from her days as a performer, has also written scripts for over 70 dramas. She has won the hearts of millions of Vietnamese for her passionate and realistic portrayal of troubled characters, often bringing onlookers to gentle tears and sometimes hysterical sobs.

Cuong has not registered intellectual copyrights for Durian Leaves or for any of her dramas.

"I’ll soon complete the necessary procedures to have copyrights of Durian Leaves registered," Cuong said.

Dedicated fans of Durian Leaves have also informed Cuong that they’re ready to bear witness that the drama was written by her.

"If necessary, I’ll ask them to sign a letter to support me in court, " Cuong said.

In 1997 Viet Nam and the US signed an agreement on the protection of copyrighted materials of the two countries.

"Under the agreement, Cuong’s works are also protected in the US," stated Le Net, a lawyer in HCM City.

In 2004, Viet Nam also became a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

This is not the first time that Thuy Nga Productions Centre has been accused of violating intellectual copyrights of Vietnamese works of art.

Last year, the centre apologised and agreed to pay damages for the unauthorised use of several Vietnamese songs whose exclusive rights were held by HCM City-based HT Production, which represents pop star Dan Truong.