Recording artists rail against government CD stamp

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Prominent members of Vietnam's recording businesses are requesting permission to issue their own authenticity stamps.

The recording officials say they're trying to keep afloat in a market flooded with pirated content. At the same time, they're fed up with government-issued authenticity stamps which have done little more than prove a financial and logistical burden.

Ten years ago, the Department of Arts and Performance from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism created the government-issued stamp for the industry. The stamp verifies the legitimacy of the disc and distinguishes it from pirated copies.

At the time, members of the music industry said they were excited about the prospect of a market free from CD piracy.

Now, representatives from the Recording Industry Association of Vietnam (RIAV) say that new albums are being pirated and copied for sale an hour after they are published.

To legally publish a musical album, current regulations require the producers to submit the work to the city and provincial Departments of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

After seven to ten days, the producers receive a permit, which is forwarded, along with the original CD, to the Department of Arts and Performance where the producers receive verification stamps valued at between VND200-250 each.

Members of RIAV are now asking for permission to print and issue their own stamps.

By producing their own stamps, they say, recording firms and artists will be able to maintain sufficient data to prepare a lawsuit in the event that their products are pirated.

Truong Thi Thu Dung, director of Rang Dong Music CD Center and vice chairwoman of RIAV, said that at the moment, if a CD sells well, the producers must apply and wait several days for more government stamps.

Most of the time, however, a lot of stamps are left unused because the actual CDs cannot compete with cheaper pirated versions, Dung said. 

"Pirated discs rule the market and our company ends up eating the cost of between 50,000 and 60,000 pre-paid stamps," she said.

Huynh Tiet, director of Ben Thanh Audio-Video and a member of RIAV, also said that the verification stamp has caused his firm to waste a lot of money.

At the moment, his firm has around 100,000 unused authenticity stamps in stock.

"What is the value of the stamp at this point?" Tiet asked.

To make up for the loss, some recording firms have raised the price of their latest products, making them even less competitive on a market flooded with cheap pirated copies.

Pham Dinh Thang, deputy director of the Department of Arts and Performance, said that the laws do not allow recording firms and artists to issue their own authenticity stamps.

Thang said the department will ask the city/provincial Departments of Culture, Sports and Tourism to sell the stamps directly to the producers, to save time.

He said the stamp will help with tax collection and counting the number of CD products produced and published on the market.

Tiet countered that the sales records maintained by the recording industry are sufficient for the same purpose.

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