Four years have passed since Viet Nam joined the Berne Convention on Intellectual Property Rights, and despite progress, copyright violations continue to be a serious problem in the country.
Of Viet Nam’s 100 leading websites, 30 are involved in downloading songs for free, according to Alexa, which maintains statistics on the most-visited websites worldwide.
Popular sites are nhac.caigi.vn, timnhanh.com, nhac.vui.vn, nghenhac.info and baamboo.com.
Online music is a booming business and enjoys a huge market both inside the country and in overseas Vietnamese (Viet kieu) community.
Many website owners, however, say they are baffled by the new requirements of the Recording Industry Association (RIA) of Viet Nam, and vehemently oppose the new rules.
Under the regulations, websites must pay VND1 million ($62) a year to the RIA for each song on their sites.
Given the high number of songs, the fees amount to billions of dong.
With Vietnamese youth more and more seeking out online music rather than traditional CDs or cassettes, the practice of free downloads is frustrating composers and performers in the recording industry, who are losing money on royalties.
Coupled with the new regulation on copyright protection is the launch of nhacso.net website by FPT Technology in cooperation with Viet Nam’s Centre for Protection of Music Copyright.
It is the first website where all listed songs have been licensed by RIA Viet Nam.
According to Phung Tien Cong, director of FPTmusic, the website is composed only of Vietnamese songs and allows for free online listening, but bars unpaid downloading.
“The download charge will be further discussed with the copyright centre, but it is likely to fall within VND1,000 to VND2,000 per song and made via pre-paid cards,” he said.
“Amid the current copyright chaos and recurrent violations of intellectual property rights, the introduction of a sytem like that of FPTmusic is an encouraging signal,” said Pho Duc Phuong, director of the copyright centre.
With the first legal music downloading website now available online, illegal websites are now vulnerable to possible litigation.
“Filing a lawsuit against them, however, is not an option at the moment,” Phuong said. “But we can demand a full halt to their operations to defend our project with FPTmusic.”
Although book piracy slowed down considerably after Viet Nam joined the Berne Convention, it recently resurfaced on a larger scale than during the pre-Berne period.
Large companies that illegally copy books have worked with small provincial publishers to put translated editions into circulation around the country.
Several licensed bestselling novels eagerly anticipated by the public have been illegally copied, much to the detriment of the legal buyers of the rights to publish the books.
Businesses that follow the law are usually required to be involved in lengthy copyright negotiations and hire qualified translators and editors.
However, these ethical publishers are in danger of failing because of the continued violations of illegal operators, and local readers will suffer the consequences, according to industry experts.
Recently, a spate of books containing violent and sexual content targeted at young readers have flooded the market.
Many of them have been copied from imported Japanese books, and educators and parents have demanded that tough punitive measures be used against the publishers, according to experts.
The number of children’s picture books entering the market has averaged 60 a week, many of them with unsavoury content, putting local authorities on the alert.
In an effort to stop the trend, the Ministry of Information and Communications has told publishers that any new children’s books would not be permitted to go on the market for an unspecified time.