Vietnam’s copyright watchdog wants to charge for TV in hotel rooms

Vietnam’s music copyright watchdog believes hotels should have to pay a licensing fee for guests who watch TV programs in their rooms

Vietnam’s music copyright watchdog believes hotels should have to pay a licensing fee for guests who watch TV programs in their rooms, sparking anger from hotel owners.

In early May, hundreds of one- to three-star hotels across the central coast town of Da Nang were shocked to receive an ultimatum from the southern branch of the Vietnam Center for the Protection of Music Copyright (VCPMC), asking them to pay licensing fees for “using music materials during business activities.”

The hotel owners were required to contact the copyright body on the payment procedure by May 10, after which the VCPMC “would cooperate with relevant agencies to begin legal procedures against any unresponsive hotels.”

According to the document, hotels have to pay a fee for the music played in their lobby and for the TV sets equipped in every room.

“This is absurd,” one hotel owner on Hoang Dieu Street told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

“The TV is for guests to watch television programs; it is not a music player.”

The hotel owner added that the VCPMC had asked him to pay the copyright license fee even before “they knew if we played music at our facility or not.”

“We mostly receive foreign guests and play almost no Vietnamese music here,” he added.

According to the VCPMC, hotels must pay a fee of VND25,000, roughly US$1, for each room with a TV per year.

“This may not be a large sum of money but it is completely unreasonable,” Tran Thanh Quy, general manager of the Sun River Hotel on Bach Dang Street, commented.

Quy said most hotels contract with cable TV providers for the service and already pay subscription fees.  “We have the right to watch any program on the cable service, so why ask us to pay an extra fee for the music?” Quy said.

A set of the fee paying requirements
A set of the fee paying requirements

You play, you pay

Tuoi Tre met Dinh Trung Can, director of the southern branch of the VCPMC, the man who signed the ultimatum sent to Da Nang hotels, to seek an explanation of the unusual charge.

Can said his center had organized a meeting to notify the affected facilities of the extra fee, and that “hotels are shocked because they ignored the meeting.”

The official said most hotels play music, or TV programs with music, in their lobbies and guest rooms via TVs.

By doing so, hotel owners are “using the music composers’ or copyright holders’ intellectual property to communicate to the public,” so they must pay the copyright license fee to these composers and copyright holders as per the law on intellectual property, Can explained.

Confusing the matter, Can went on to say that even though a TV program producer pays a license fee to use a certain song in their show, the fee does not cover the song being broadcast to the public when that program is played in hotels, bars or restaurants.

“The subscription fee a hotel pays a cable TV provider only includes the cost of receiving their transmission signal and has nothing to do with the copyright licensee fee of any music used in the programs,” he elaborated.

As an intermediary between songwriters and the public, the VCPMC signs contracts with music composers and artists to protect their intellectual properties on their behalf. Users of the music have to pay copyright license fees to the center, which will pay the composers back later.

Asked what happens if hotels play songs that are not included in their contracts with songwriters, Can claimed, “We are now representing nearly 4,000 songwriters and copyright holders for Vietnamese songs, and more than 4 million international authors.”

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