Experts blame high licensing fees for piracy in Vietnam

By Nguyen Ha   September 19, 2018 | 07:48 pm PT
Experts blame high licensing fees for piracy in Vietnam
Football fans watch games online with links on Facebook and YouTube. Photo by VnExpress
Copyright infringement is worsening in Vietnam, because of high licensing fees and a lack of effective law enforcement, industry insiders said.

Speaking at a conference held in Hanoi on Wednesday, Lee Dogoo, head of business at South Korean firm SBS Contents Hub, said while infringements occur in all countries, they are rife in Vietnam because of high licensing fees.

As these fees continue to go up, the pirate broadcast market also continues to grow, he said.

Vu Thi Huong Lan, head of the Hanoi Law University's international law faculty, voiced agreement saying high fees charged by copyright holders are deterring viewers from watching licit content.

Referring to the recent Asian Games (Asiad), she said the owner of the event's broadcasting rights had demanded such a huge price for broadcasting rights in Vietnam that no Vietnamese broadcaster was able to afford it. 

This in turn forced Vietnamese fans to seek out previously unknown pirate sites that illegally broadcast the event live, she said.

"While I do not support this, I believe the copyright holders clearly should reconsider [the price]."

Nguyen Quang Dong of the Institute for Policy Research and Communication Development said the rising trend of watching sports on the Internet in Vietnam contributes to the increase in copyright infringements.

According to data released by Global Web Index, the percentage of people watching sports on the Internet globally was 15 percent in 2016 and 19 percent now. But in Vietnam it was 27 percent in 2016 and 32 percent now.

Citing data about the five largest illegal sports broadcasting websites, Dong said they only had 11.1 million views last March but this number jumped to 25.4 million in June during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. 

This trend also explains why Facebook recently acquired the rights to broadcast the English Premier League in several Asian countries including Vietnam, he pointed out.

Nguyen Thanh Van, head of Vietnam Television's (VTV) Intellectual Property Unit, said the national broadcaster is also suffering badly from copyright infringements. 

Many units have been found broadcasting VTV programs or making DVDs of them for sale without permission, including programs for which it had to pay large amounts of money to produce or obtain broadcasting rights.

"For instance, in just the first month of us broadcasting the TV shows 'Nguoi phan xu' [The Arbitrator] and 'Song chung voi me chong' [Living with Mother-in-Law], over 400 Facebook pages and YouTube channels violated our copyrights. As for the 2018 World Cup, in just the first two days there were 700 [pirate] accounts."

A representative of pay TV firm K+, lamenting that copyright infringements are occurring every hour in the digital environment, said there is still no effective tool to combat them on all platforms. 

K+ has tried requesting violators to remove pirated content many times, but this has not worked, and his company was bleeding financially, he said.

K+, which has the Vietnam broadcasting rights to many major sports events such as the English Premier League, the UEFA Champions League and Europa League and tennis’ ATP World Tour, has also been investing in upgrading its systems and training employees to monitor, detect, prevent, and handle copyright violations. 

But these efforts would not be enough to combat piracy without cooperation from consumers and assistance from the authorities, the representative said.

However, the most important reason for pirates dominating Vietnam's broad market is a lack of effective law enforcement. According to local authorities, websites found violating copyright laws would be punished and banned. However, many illegal websites have opened and operated without interference from the authorities.

National broadcaster VTV said it had found more than 700 sites and Facebook pages that broadcast World Cup matches without permission within just three days after the event started and dealt with nearly half of them.

According to experts, many of the sites are registered overseas, so it is difficult for Vietnamese authorities to find and penalize the culprits. It can be seen from the case of, a site registered in the U.S., which had been illegally broadcasting live matches from the Asiad with Vietnamese commentary last month. 

The Institute for Policy Research and Communication Development proposed that Vietnam should allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block pirate websites, remove content that violate copyright and prevent violators from receiving money from advertisers. 

It also suggested that broadcasters associations could publicize the list of pirate websites and circulate it among advertisers.

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