VTV accused of not paying for foreign songs

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  Contestant Tieu Chau Nhu Quynh performed "˜I Will Survive' during The Voice of Vietnam's Blind Auditions broadcast on Vietnam Television's VTV3 channel on July 29. The Vietnam Center for Music Copyrights Protection has accused Vietnam Television of not paying royalties for foreign songs broadcast on the channel. Photo: Ly Vo Phu Hung

The Vietnam Center for Protection of Music Copyright (VCPMC) has accused Vietnam Television (VTV) of not getting permission or paying royalties for foreign songs broadcast on the channel.

Accordingly, several VTV reality shows, including Giong hat Viet (The Voice of Vietnam), Buoc nhay hoan vu (Dancing with the Stars), Cap doi hoan hao (Perfect Couple), and other programs have violated the copyrights of the songs, representatives of the center, known as VCPMC, argue.

The center alleges that The Voice of Vietnam is the greatest violator as most of its participants prefer performing foreign songs.

VCPMC has received numerous reports from foreign organizations that have bilateral copyrights agreements with Vietnam of music television stations in Vietnam violating those copyrights.

VCPMC, founded in 2002, has been one of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers' 225 members since 2009. The confederation, known as CISAC, represents for 2.5 million authors in artistic fields, including music, drama, literature, visual arts and other sectors.

VCPMC has signed 42 agreements with international organizations that are effective in over 140 countries and territories worldwide.

The center's lawyer Pham Thanh Thuy told Tuoi Tre newspaper that VCPMC often receives statistics from international organizations with detailed information on the names of composers, songs, and channels involved in violations in Vietnam.

"Works by UK, US, and Korea have been infringed upon the most," he said.

"We have signed bilateral agreements with music copyright protection centers from other countries, thus the two parties are responsible for the business of one another," said Thuy.

However, copyright protection for international songs in Vietnam is not easy because local laws do not require stations like VTV to ask permission before using artistic works. They are only required to pay the owners of the material once it has been used.

This is not the first time VCPMC has raised its voice about the issue.

"The issue has been negotiated [between VTV and VCPMC] but no agreement has been reached yet," said Thuy. "All statistics were sent to VTV, but the television station still has not consented to pay. Then, whenever we receive the reports from our foreign partners, what we can tell them is we have not yet received the payment and we promise to get it in future. Of course, such a reply is not welcomed."

According to a report from VCPMC, only Ho Chi Minh City Television (HTV) makes royalty payments for both Vietnamese and foreign songs. The payments are VND300,000 (US$14) per song used in a sponsored program and VND100,000 ($4.5) for each song used in a show without sponsorship.

The center has not yet confirmed statistics on violations by The Voice of Vietnam. Once it has, it plans to send the confirmed statistics to its partners abroad and work with the home country to collect royalties.

Nguyen Ha Nam, manager of VTV's Board of Editors, was quoted by Tuoi Tre as saying, "VTV always takes the initiative in copyright payment, except foreign songs."

VTV used to make such payments to local artists on its own, but since this year all payments have been carried out through VCPMC, according to Nam.

"It's very difficult to approach international artists, therefore, it's impossible for us to pay the royalty," he told Tuoi Tre.

He also argued that because VTV was a free channel, decisions regarding such payments are difficult because they involve the particular budgets of the particular shows in question.

 "How to pay and how much to pay are also complicated questions," he said.

Regarding foreign songs used in The Voice of Vietnam, a representative of Cat Tien Sa Company, the show's producer and copyright holder, said the firm had bought rights to the show, and a list of foreign songs used in it, from the show's Dutch originators.

"The contract includes a list of songs purchased by the original The Voice, which means we don't have to pay royalties for these songs," said the representative.

"The Voice of Vietnam, however, has to pay for unlisted songs, and the payment is according to Vietnam's laws. However, the guidelines to produce the show sent by our foreign partner did not include rules and regulations on such payments."

Several Vietnamese artists have also complained that they have not received payments for their songs used in the US.

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