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Soundtrack copyright fees war heats up

Soundtrack copyright fees war heats up

Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 14:25 GMT+7

The Vietnam Center for Protection of Music Copyright (VCPMC) recently requested local cinema owners to pay copyright fees for the music used in cinema waiting lounges, during intermissions, and the soundtracks adopted in the films, to which cinema owners vehemently object.

This is considered a drastic move by the VCPMC, after the center made a similar request, which failed, some years ago.

As in recent years VCPMC has collected copyright fees from owners of cafés, restaurants, hotels, airports and even during flights for the music used based on the premise that the music boosts their business profitability by attracting clients and making differences, copyright fees for music used at cinema’s lounges and during waiting time and intermissions are plausible.

However, not many cinema owners are willing to pay the fees, and some even accuse the VCPMC of ambiguous fee collecting.

The fee collecting for soundtracks used in films, however, is a different story.

Cinema owners find this request totally unacceptable, arguing that film producers usually order and pay for songs that are written specifically for their films or have made copyright payments to composers if they use songs available on the market.

“No way can cinemas, who are only the units authorized by distributors to screen the films, be subject to copyright fee payments,” stressed representatives from BHD, a film producer and owner of two cinema clusters in Ho Chi Minh City.

“As film distributors also provide cinemas with trailers, which may contain songs, and cinemas use the trailers as advertisements for the films only, not performing the songs to the public to earn profits, cinema owners certainly won’t have to pay copyright fees,” they stressed. 

Despite the fierce objections from cinema owners, VCPMC maintained that their request is absolutely plausible and lawful, stressing that such fee collecting has been applied in many countries.

According to Pham Thanh Thuy, VCPMC’s lawyer, fee collecting on soundtracks depends on the contracts signed between the film producers and the song composers, which means such fee payments can apply to some, but not others.

The center won’t collect fees on the music works which their composers allow film producers to use anywhere at anytime, and cinema owners can provide the contracts, Thuy noted.

Instances in which fee payments can apply include when secondary cinemas or distributors who screen the films on agreement with the primary cinemas will have to pay for the music used in the films.

Films which are screened in other countries will also have to pay soundtrack fees if composers don’t allow that in the contracts.

When the prize-winning film “Dung dot” (Don’t burn), which is based on the famous diary by martyr doctor Dang Thuy Tram,  was screened abroad and earned profits, Ngoc Dai, the composer of the song used in the film, was paid.

However, contracts between composers and film producers don’t always have such clear terms, with most only stipulating the periods film producers can use the music works exclusively, as well as some other common expanded uses of the music works.

According to the VCPMC’s calculations, the fees, if collected, are by no means small. Cinema owners will have to pay VND30 million (US$1,426) for a feature film or a commercial clip for each Vietnamese music work they use.

Fees on music used before, during and after the film screening sessions will be 2% of the 70% of the sold tickets.

Songs used in TV dramas may also be subject to multiple copyright fee payments for each time they are broadcast on certain channels and in certain periods.

This drastic move is another attempt by the VCPMC to tackle rampant music copyright violations. The latest example is that the Vietnamese version of the US singing reality show “The Voice” was accused of using a song in the contest without consent from the singer who holds exclusive rights to it.

Tuoi Tre


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