VN agrees to protect intellectual property

On April 6, 2005, Viet Nam officially acceded to the Geneva Convention for the protection of producers of phonograms against unauthorized duplication. Viet Nam will be responsible for enforcing the provisions of the convention as of July 6, 2005.

Copyright is a hot issue in Viet Nam nowadays, drawing a lot of attention from the Government, organisations, enterprises, and individuals. On October 26 of last year, Viet Nam took a significant step towards integrating into international system of copyright protection by acceding to the Berne Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works. Under the Berne Convention, authors and copyright owners in 159 countries around the world acceding to the convention are entitled to protection of their literary and artistic works.

Both the Berne and Geneva conventions recognise that the scope and nature of copyright is a matter of law in each of the nations acceding to the conventions. These conventions are built on an idea of mutuality and national treatment under which each country will extend the same rights to copyright holders and authors of the other countries the same rights it applies to authors and copyright holders at home.

The Geneva Convention goes the Berne convention one step better by specifically defining an international right of duplication which all signatories will respect. Every country acceding to the Geneva Convention must require that persons who duplicate sound recordings have the permission of the producers.

The text of the Berne Convention dates back over a hundred years, prior to the widespread popularity of sound recordings. It protects literary and artistic works of original authorship in whatever medium, including songs and musical performances, but doesn’t explicitly mention sound recordings. This is a tricky area in copyright because a single sound recording may represent a bundle of different copyrighted elements.

For instance, a song may have a composer and a lyricist, each of whom hold a copyright in the written composition. A performer of the song, musicians and singers, by fixing the performance in a particular medium such as a phonograph record or a CD, also become authors of that performance and hold a copyright. What the Rome Convention in 1961, and later the Geneva Convention, attempted is to extend the right to enforce that copyright to "producers" of sound recordings. Producers were defined as the persons who initially recorded and fixed the recording in a particular medium. These conventions recognised the rights of record companies to enforce the copyrights in sound recordings such as CDs.

Viet Nam’s accession to the Geneva Convention comes at a time when piracy of sound recordings is rampant, not only in Viet Nam but worldwide. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), an organisation representing the recording industry worldwide, global sales of pirated music hit a record at 1.1 billion discs last year, and 35 per cent of all music discs sold worldwide are illegal copies. The distribution and sale of pirated discs still occurs everyday on the streets of Viet Nam. Even this week’s tourism festival at Hoan Kiem Lake in Ha Noi featured several vendor stalls selling right out in the open the all-too-familiar CDR’s with photocopied covers.

Protection for producers in the recording industry is an issue of utmost importance to developed countries with profitable recording industries. In its Bilateral Trade Agreement with the US, for instance, Viet Nam already commits to enter into the Geneva Convention. Thus, the recent accession of Viet Nam in to the Geneva Convention is another step in Viet Nam’s performance and realisation of its international commitments and economic integration.

It’s good news for the world recording industry, too, because Viet Nam’s accession to the Geneva Convention provides them, as producers of sound recordings, the legal basis to protect their right of duplication, including the right to take action against the making of duplicates or the importation of duplicates without their consent.

Viet Nam News, May 4, 2005