Zing strikes deal with Universal for music download

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  Music of US artists on Zing.vn

Popular Vietnamese website Zing.vn said Friday it had signed a streaming and download agreement with Universal Music Group, the world's largest record company, amid strong criticism that the website was a hotbed of piracy.

The deal will allow Vietnamese users of the website to listen and download songs from Universal Music for a fee, with access from outside the country to be blocked, according to Internet company VNG Corporation, the operator of Zing.vn.

"The agreement will help millions of online Vietnamese users have access to world-renowned artists like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber," said VNG Deputy CEO Vuong Quang Khai. "Zing will soon finalize copyright deals with local and overseas individuals and institutions that hold rights to digital music." 

Universal, owned by French group Vivendi SA, has a diverse artist portfolio that also includes Maroon 5, Rihanna and Taylor Swift, who are fan favorites in Vietnam.

The Recording Industry Association of Vietnam welcomed the new agreement. "The successful negotiation between VNG and a major record label like Universal, especially concerning the download of music for a fee, will open new business opportunities and change the habit of using free music by Vietnamese users."

The deal with Universal was announced after Zing.vn lost two of its major advertising clients.

The Associated Press reported earlier this week that Coca-Cola and Samsung had pulled advertising from the website, which is the sixth-most visited in Vietnam, after being alerted that the site provided unlicensed downloads of Western and local songs. The report also cited the International Intellectual Property Alliance as accusing Zing.vn of engaging in "notorious" piracy.

Vietnam is one of the freest countries in the world in terms of free access to copyrighted material as bootlegged music, movies, computer software and books are easily available at websites and local shops.

Some of the biggest Vietnamese sites, including Zing, have announced plans to charge users VND1,000 (5 cents) per song starting November 1. Bloomberg reported in August that MVCorp, which helps the Recording Industry Association of Vietnam manage recording rights online, was in talks with Sony Corp. to make more music available for download.

In June, Apple Inc. officially opened an iTunes Store in Vietnam, allowing local users to download international music and movie content for the first time.

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