Vietnam civil copyright decision

A copyright dispute in Vietnam indicates that civil litigation is increasingly common. This month the Hanoi People’s Court ruled in a civil decision on copyright.

It concerned a musical called Tinh Hoa Bac Bo (Quintessence of Tonkin). This is an open-air water stage musical about the region of Tonkin, in north Vietnam. It premiered in late 2017 and met with critical success and awards. The show was produced by Tuan Chau Hanoi JSC. It is alleged to have reproduced components of another musical play called Ngay Xua (Back Then). This was produced by TCHN and directed by renowned director Viet Tu in June 2017. Tu’s show was not a success and stopped running after 10 shows. Tu used to be an employee of Tuan Chau Hanoi JSC.

Expert evidence from the Vietnam Stage Artists Association was provided during the case. TCHN defended in court that The Quintessence of Tonkin was a separate product solely researched and created by directors Hoang Huu Nhat Nam and Dao Thuy Phuong Thao. Nam argued that he was the author of The Quintessence of Tonkin, and had already been granted an independent copyright for his work by the Copyright Office on July 31, 2017.  However when summoned to give evidence he did not appear.

The panel of judges decided that The Quintessence of Tonkin was a derivative work of Back Then. They awarded Viet Tu VND660 million ($28,000) in damages from TCHN. They calculated 10 percent of ticket sales, royalties, and interest for late payment.

There has already been an appeal and a separate defamation case has been filed by Name against Tu in in the People's Court of Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City.