American producers pay Vietnamese musician for song in ‘Vietnam War’ docu-series after free ride

Producers of an American docu-series on the American war in Vietnam have agreed to pay VND700 million (US$30,000) to a Vietnamese musician in royalties for a song used in the documentary, more than two years after its release.

The Vietnam Center for Protection of Music Copyright (VCPMC) said it had helped a Vietnamese musician, who wants to keep their name undisclosed, collect the VND700 million royalty from the production team of ‘The Vietnam War,' a ten-episode American television documentary series about the war in Vietnam.

The series, written by Geoffrey C. Ward and directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, cost around $30 million and took more than ten years to make before its first episode premiered in September 2017.

The documentary is also available for digital download, and can also be watched on American on-demand video streaming platforms Netflix and Kanopy.

VCPMC said it recently found out that ‘The Vietnam War’ features the song ‘Tinh quan dan’ (Military-Civilian Ties) in its soundtrack in different episodes of the series without paying any royalty, according to the So huu tri tue va Sang tao (Intellectual Property and Creativity) Vietnamese magazine.

“Because he the songwriter is one of our members, we contacted the producers of the American documentary series to further explore the issue,” VCPMC general director Dinh Trung Can told So huu tri tue va Sang tao.

As VCPMC has signed bilateral authorization agreements and cooperation contracts with 76 collective management organizations (CMOs) and publishers in 116 countries and territories around the world, including the U.S., the issue was quickly resolved.

Accordingly, the series’ producers explained that they had used the song in question gratis, mistakenly convinced that the songwriter had passed away for more than 50 years.

The Berne Convention, of which both Vietnam and the U.S. are signatories, states that all works except photographic and cinematographic ones shall be copyrighted for 50 years after the author's death.

After contacted by VCPMC and learning that the song’s author is alive and well, the American producers agreed to pay the royalty to the Vietnamese songwriter.

“The producers, after knowing that I am the song’s author, paid the due music royalty to me in full,” the songwriter told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, adding that U.S. side will continue to pay royalties to him for as long as the series remain available for streaming.

He said his song is also used in another American film, the producers of which have agreed to pay royalties.

Tuoi Tre News - January 18, 2020