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Overlapping royalties
The Saigon Times Daily
Monday,  Sep 18, 2017,18:45 (GMT+7)

Overlapping royalties

The Saigon Times Daily

The controversy gets heated again when the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism now allows the Vietnam Center for Protection of Music Copyright (VCPMC) to charge all hotels VND25,000 a year for each in-room TV set after a break of over three months due to strong public protests. The widespread public disagreement is based upon the argument that TV users already have to pay the subscription fee to the broadcaster or producer, so in case hotels are liable to pay the music royalties to VCPMC, such royalties are overlapping, because the broadcaster or producer are also liable to pay the fee.

VCPMC in a press conference last week referred to Vietnam’s intellectual property law to assert its right to collect royalties from hotels that equip TV sets in guest rooms so that their guests can enjoy music, saying this is an international practice.

In fact, there are few countries around the world where hoteliers have to pay royalties for in-room TVs. The popular international practice is that music royalties are collected from hotels only when songs are played in public space, such as lobby, restaurant, corridor, or even elevator.

Guest rooms are treated as private space, so music played on the in-room TV set is not subject to royalties since the hotelier has to pay the subscription fee already. There are some exceptional cases when TV music is not covered by the subscription fee, such as when more equipment or device is equipped in the hotel room so that music from a broadcaster is relayed and supplied to guests upon request, or when music is played from a recording device.

In other words, the general acceptance is that remuneration should be paid when protected music is communicated to the public, meaning a sizeable number of listeners, since it constitutes a for-profit activity. Conversely, guests in a hotel room can hardly be considered as the public, and as such, music from in-room TV sets supplied under a subscription contract should not be subject to royalties. The right venues for VCPMC to collect royalties are broadcasters or music producers.

As intellectual property piracy in Vietnam remains a big headache and can hardly be effectively controlled in the years ahead, any earnest effort to enforce the copyright law should be encouraged for healthy economic development. However, in this controversy over music royalties from hotels’ in-room TVs, government agencies, especially the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, should give a second thought, so as not to charge music lovers twice. Coercive collection of the fee in this case does not help enhance compliance with the law.

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