International award-winning play producer rejects court’s copycat finding

March 24, 2019 | 05:36 pm PT
International award-winning play producer rejects court’s copycat finding
Viet Tu’s musical Back Then, which he claimed was Vietnam’s first
Tuan Chau Hanoi JSC, producer of award winning musical The Quintessence of Tonkin, has appealed the decision that it plagiarized content.

The company said on March 20 that it disagreed with the court’s decision in its entirety and will appeal it.

On March 19, the Hanoi People’s Court ruled that the musical Tinh Hoa Bac Bo (Quintessence of Tonkin), produced by the firm and staged on a water stage, has plagiarised many elements from Ngay Xua (Back Then), a musical play also produced by TCHN, but directed by renowned director Viet Tu, an ex-employee, four months earlier.

The panel of judges deemed The Quintessence of Tonkin to be a "derivative work" of Back Then, and that Viet Tu was entitled to VND660 million ($28,422) from TCHN in compensation, inclusive of 10 percent of ticket sales, royalty, plus interest for late payment.

TCHN had argued in the 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.

In fact, director Nam has already sent applications to the Hanoi Superior People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Court, opposing the decision.

He has asserted that he is the sole and independent 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.  

"I am frustrated because my copyright was violated. The court has declared that my work is a derivative of another work when I was not present to give evidence," Nam said in the application.

He also questioned the court’s use of experts, saying that the assessment of the two shows given by the Vietnam Stage Artists Association may have been inaccurate.

Nam had in fact been summoned to give evidence, but was unable to do so. As a result, he was not given the date of the preliminary trial.

Nam has also filed a defamation claim against director Viet Tu with the People's Court of Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, requesting an order against the latter to "cease the infringement of honour, defamation of reputation in all manner, and make a public apology."

The Quintessence of Tonkin, an open-air water stage musical celebrating the heritage of Tonkin, an agricultural region in northern Vietnam, premiered in October 2017.

Lauded by foreign media as a "world-class performance", the show has been a massive success, picking up the Gold Stevie Award in Media, Visual Communications & Entertainment given by the American Business Awards Organization.

Viet Tu’s musical Back Then, which he claimed was Vietnam’s first "real-life performance", was released in June 2017. However, after just 10 showings, the show was abruptly cancelled. Representatives of TCHN, which produced the show, explained the decision saying director Viet Tu was not able to "touch the hearts of the audience".

Not long after, in October 2017, TCHN opened The Quintessence of Tonkin, which it also called "the first real-life performance" in Vietnam. The show went on to receive international attention and won several awards. 

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