Tech firm VNG faces $572,000 compensation claim in copyright infringement case

By Hai Duyen   October 12, 2023 | 06:14 am PT
Tech firm VNG faces $572,000 compensation claim in copyright infringement case
A poster of "The Story of Minglan," one of the films involved in a copyright case between VNG and TK - L. Photo courtesy of Vie
Vietnamese tech unicorn VNG is being sued by media company TK – L, which asks for over VND14 billion ($572,713) as compensation for utilizing three films that TK – L has exclusive rights over.

The copyright case between the two companies is expected to go to the HCMC People's Court in a trial of appeal on Friday.

In the sentencing of the court of first instance, in 2020, TK – L signed contracts with foreign partners for exclusive rights over three films: "The Story of Minglan", "Princess Silver", and "Legend of the Phoenix", on broadcasting services within Vietnamese territory. However, the media company later discovered that VNG utilized the three films by directly uploading them onto its website

TK – L said the act caused losses amounting to around VND170 billion, but only requested VNG VND45 billion as compensation, along with public apologies on newspapers.

At a trial in September 2022, TK – L requested VNG to compensate it only VND14.3 billion, the amount of money used to gain exclusive rights over the three films.

A representative of VNG before the court acknowledged that the website did broadcast the three films, but they were in fact uploaded by "an Internet user", and VNG seemingly was able to provide their email address and phone number. As the website runs as a social media platform, VNG does not have to check and ensure copyright issues over user-uploaded content, the representative argued.

VNG’s lawyer said the firm, up until the point of the trial, did not receive any document or statement from authorities saying it has violated the copyright of the three aforementioned films. While TK – L requested compensation from VNG, the media company could not prove the damage it received, the lawyer argued.

As such, VNG believes that TK – L’s request for compensation was baseless and has not agreed to compensate.

Following other trials, the HCMC People’s Court on September 29, 2022 has forced VNG to compensate TK – L over VND14.3 billion, as well as the VND100 million fee for hiring lawyers and posting public apologies on newspapers.

Prosecutors said documents have shown that TK – L has paid foreign partners over $610,000 for the exclusive rights over the three films. The fact that broadcasted them without an approval was a copyright violation.

"Even if VNG could prove that other people had brought the films under TK – L’s exclusive rights online, it has to take responsibility for violations regarding exclusive broadcasting rights," the sentencing read.

VNG did not agree with the sentencing and decided to appeal the case.

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