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Vietnam composer takes legal action against music downloading website over copyright

Vietnam composer takes legal action against music downloading website over copyright

Saturday, December 06, 2014, 11:44 GMT+7

A Ho Chi Minh City court was opened on Wednesday to hear the accusation of a seasoned singer/composer against one of Vietnam’s most popular music downloading websites.

Singer/composer Tran Lap, whose real name is Tran Quyet Lap, sued Ho Chi Minh City-based VNG Co., as he found its Zing MP3 website posting and sharing his song – “Duong Den Vinh Quang” (Road to Glory) – without seeking his prior consent.

Zing MP3, at mp3.zing.vn, is one of the country’s most-used music downloading websites and social networks, where users can also upload their favorite songs.

“Duong Den Vinh Quang,” composed by Lap and performed by his band, is a popular rock piece.

It was used as a theme song for several editions of the popular “Road to Mt. Olympia’s Peak” quiz show organized by national broadcaster Vietnam Television.

Lap demanded VNG pay him royalties and damages as the public sharing of the song kept him from publishing his album.

However, VNG refused to pay the sums.

The composer then took the case to court and demanded the firm pay damages of VND155 million (US$7,295), including legal fees.

However, at the Wednesday court hearing, the VNG representative said the company will not pay the compensation sum, claiming they are not to blame.

As the two sides hold different points of view, the court is set to announce its decision next Wednesday.

Lap said he and his lawyer started preparing for the case around one year ago.

Lawyer Vu Thai Ha, of You & Me Law Firm, pointed out that according to Article 28 of the Intellectual Ownership Law, Zing’s actions can be considered copyright infringement.

However, given Zing’s role as a social network, the economic benefits the website has gained and the individual who uploaded Lap’s song need to be taken into consideration when it comes to deciding on liability and compensation.

Rampant copyright violations

According to information obtained by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Lap’s accusation against Zing is perhaps the first copyright infringement case to go to court.

Previously, local singers My Tam and Le Quyen submitted a letter to competent agencies, accusing a number of local music websites of violating their songs’ copyright.

Their cases, however, did not go to court as the sides managed to settle the matter with satisfactory compensation.

In early 2009, My Tam and her company sent letters to major mobile operators including     MobiFone, Vinaphone and Viettel, requesting them to stop using songs featuring her voice as ringtones and ringback music and pay royalties.

The incident left the digital content companies which provided songs featuring Tam’s voice quite perplexed, as the songs were supplied by the Recording Industry Association of Vietnam.

After much heated debate, the mobile operators finally agreed to Tam’s suggested rates of VND1,000 ($0.05) for each download for songs of which she possesses ownership, authorship and performing rights; and VND500 for each download for songs of which she holds performing rights.

The singer earned up to VND99 million ($4,660) in royalties for every single song then.

In October 2012, local singer Le Quyen and Viet Tan Studio also submitted a letter to competent agencies accusing a number of local music websites of infringing their copyrights.

According to lawyer Le Quang Vy, who represented the accusers, the sites (mp3.zing.vn, nhaccuatui.com, musicmusic.vn, music.go.vn, hcm.nhac.vui.vn and teenpro.vn) used a number of songs performed by Quyen and recorded by Viet Tan Studio without permission.

In addition, he said that three other websites, ringtunes.com.vn, funring.vn and imuzik.com.vn, all managed by Vega Corporation, reached a settlement with the singer and studio on the compensation rate after being accused of similar violations.

Quyen and the websites then settled the matter out of court.

She later even inked an agreement over online music trading with Zing.

However, Vy is quite upset about Lap’s case.

“I’m totally against the feeble excuses Zing has come up with. Whenever they are accused, they claim the recordings of the disputed songs are posted by their users, not by themselves, and so they are under no obligation to pay royalties. Zing should be held responsible for allowing such users to upload the songs,” he stressed.

In August 2014, singer Dang Khoi – director of Viet Giai Tri Co. – also sued Zing for its supposed copyright violations of almost 10,000 K-pop songs by some 700 Korean artists which the company is authorized to use in Vietnam.

The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court is proceeding with the case.

Singer whose copyright accusation was dropped asked to change song’s beat

According to Phan Dinh Tan, chief of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism’s office, an appraisal committee headed by the deputy minister announced at a Friday press meeting that singer Son Tung MTP, whose real name is Nguyen Thanh Tung, will have to change the beat of his song, “Chac Ai Do Se Ve” (Maybe Someone Will Come Back).

The song, which was used by a local film titled “Chang Trai Nam Ay” in its soundtrack, recently became involved in a purported copyright breach since it bears striking similarities with “Because I Miss You,” a song composed and performed by South Korean singer Jung Yong Hwa.

However, a meeting held late last month heard that the Performing Arts Department conducted a thorough examination, which indicated Tung’s song has clear mixing signs, while the Korean song does not.

The two songs also boast diametrically different melodies and lyrics.

The department then arrived at a conclusion that the Vietnamese singer’s song does not violate current regulations in Vietnam.

The department’s conclusion came after it had received an email from Kwon Woo Min, a representative of South Korea-based FNC Entertainment, who manages Jung Yong Hwa.

The email confirmed, “though there’re similarities between Jung’s song and Tung’s song ‘Chac Ai Do Se Ve’ regarding programming and melody, we do not consider the song an instance of copyright infringement.”

But Tan, the office chief, added that the appraisal committee already reached its final conclusion that the beat of Tung’s song is so heavily influenced by the song “Because I Miss You” that it has to be changed.

The producer of the film which features Tung’s song and himself as one of the protagonists was also requested to use the changed beat of the song if the film is released.

Tan noted that the Korean side’s email which dropped the charge on Tung is not legally valid, as an expert at the Friday meeting came up with an authentic piece of evidence that this is not the opinion of the song’s copyright-protected author.

“In addition, Korea and Vietnam both use different law systems,” Tan stressed.

Though the appraisal committee did not provide a specific time for the singer and the film crew to change the beat, Tan underlined the film and the song will not be released until the beat is changed.

The committee also demanded those websites that have circulated or carried Tung’s song immediately remove it, or get fined.

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