Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Vietnam Civil Copyright Case
On 12 May 2015, the Court of Hai Chau Ward in Da Nang City awarded compensation of VND14,000,000 (approx. US$700) in an action for infringement of copyright in a photograph. Although the case itself is relatively straightforward and the amount of compensation modest, the decision is noteworthy because copyright infringement actions of this sort rarely reach the courts in Vietnam, owing partly to the lack of detailed regulations for the assessment of infringement and damages and partly to the complex court procedures that exist.
On 20 July 2014, a photographer, Mr Mac Bao Khanh, found that his work ‘Da Nang – toward future’, a photograph of Da Nang City Bridge, had been modified and was being used, without his consent, by Toan Cau Xanh Ltd. for advertising purposes. He subsequently initiated communications with Toan Cau Xanh Ltd. in an attempt to resolve the issue amicably and then, after a series of unsuccessful discussions, commenced copyright infringement proceedings in the Court of Hai Chau Ward, claiming compensation of VND 25,000,000 (approx. US$1,146).
On 9 March 2015, the Court of Hai Chau Ward established a price assessment committee, made up of representatives of five relevant organizations, to evaluate the photograph in dispute. The committee valued the photograph at VND20,000,000 (approx. US$917).
At the trial on 12 May 2015, the Defendant argued that: (i) the photograph in dispute had been downloaded from a tourist forum, not from Mr Khanh’s personal website; (ii) Mr Khanh had asked for a royalty of only VND200,000 (approx. US$9) per day in a deal with Vnexpress, a local newspaper, so the compensation being sought in this action was unreasonable. In its verdict issued on the same day, however, the Court found in favour of Mr Khanh and ordered Toan Cau Xanh Ltd. to pay compensation of VND14,000,000 (approx. US$700). Hopefully, the case will serve as an useful precedent, encouraging copyright owners to seek relief from the courts when their copyright is infringed.