A pointless battle over copyright permission to use songs by composer Vu Thanh An seemingly came to a close at a press conference on Monday.
Phuong Nam Film Company Director Phan Mong Thuy, relying on support from the artist, announced that Phu Nhuan Service Joint Stock Company (Maseco) has been using the composer’s Khong Ten songs in its karaoke DVDs without permission.
The Department of Performing Arts under the ministry of culture granted Phuong Nam Film Company the exclusive right to distribute, use and grant permission of use of 21 songs by the composer. Phuong Nam Film Company has since released two CDs with the 21 songs.
Maseco’s Vice Director Trinh Ngoc Minh said they asked, in writing, that Phuong Nam Film Company present evidence of their exclusive copyright, including a contract with the composer’s family.
“In case the company can prove its right, we are prepared to make amends for loss we caused,” Minh said. “We also ask how much we have to pay for using the songs. However, until now, we haven’t received any response from them.”
Director Thuy of Phuong Nam refused to talk with Maseco but said they should contact the composer.
“We just want Maseco to stop using composer An’s songs and revoke the DVDs they distributed, we don’t ask them for compensation,” she said. “However, Maseco continues releasing more DVDs with An’s songs.”
Vu Duc Hoan, the composer’s brother, a lawyer in Tien Giang province, made a phone call to the composer who currently lives in the US. A record of the phone call, in which the composer backs up Phuong Nam company’s claim, was presented at the press briefing.
An also said that Maseco hasn’t asked him to use the songs in its karaoke DVDs.
Despite the sometimes-tedious dealing in copyright disputes, the issue has come under the spotlight in recent years.
Promoters and performers in Viet Nam have become habitual avoiders of copyright fees, according to Viet Nam Centre for Protection of Music Copyright (VCPMC)’s director, composer Pho Duc Phuong.
The VCPMC and the Recording Industry Association Viet Nam (RIAV), agencies meant to protect artists’ rights, however, don’t get a lot of sympathy from their artists either.
The two agencies have been questioned about their transparency. Police are conducting an investigation at the VCPMC to see whether the organisation operates under the law or not.
Nguyen Duy Khanh, director of Nhac Xanh Company, said that as a member of RIAV, the company receives royalties every year when its songs are used, but there is much to be desired.
“We just receive a list of songs used by other agencies and proceeds from them,” he said, “we don’t know the rates of each song, nor the frequency of their use.”
“RIAV’s leaders decide the rate by themselves, without our approval,” said Khanh. “We need a specific rate for each song and the frequency of its use,” he added.
Otherwise, artists are likely to miss out on earned profits. They may even be forced to call from overseas to leave evidentiary voicemails in dispute settlements.