An undated photo of students singing the national anthem in a school in Hanoi. Photo: Ngoc Thang
Vietnam's national anthem "Tien quan ca" (Marching song), composed by late musician Van Cao, has come under copyright protection.
The Vietnam Center for Protection of Music Copyright announced recently that from now on any public performance of the song, including political and free art shows, and commercial use of it would be subject to royalty.
Only students singing the song at school -- a Monday morning custom at most Vietnamese schools -- and performances at "important ceremonies" would be exempt, it said.
While refusing to reveal how much the royalty is, the center said it would not be much since it would be difficult to keep track of when and where the song is performed.
The announcement came more than four years after Cao's wife Nghiem Thuy Bang wrote an open letter to the culture ministry, offering to "gift" the song to the public.
The letter was later sent to the ministry's Copyright Office of Vietnam, but Vu Ngoc Hoang, deputy chief of the agency, refused to comment on the letter, saying, "It is a very long story."
Speaking to Thanh Nien, Cao's eldest son Van Thao said his family never reached consensus on "gifting" the song, so they authorized the center to collect royalties on his father's songs, including "Tien quan ca."
Meanwhile, several veteran musicians objected to the idea.
Nguyen Quang Long, who is also a music researcher, said, "A national anthem is bound to belong to the public.
"People should be allowed to sing the song without worrying about royalty. [...] When his song was chosen as the national anthem, the musician has had his name honored permanently along with the nation's history.”
Singer Anh Tuyet, who is best known for her performance of Cao's songs, agreed.
"I think 'Tien quan ca' long ago become a people's song; so it should be gifted to the people."