TikTok's legal dance with a Vietnamese music titan
Major online Vietnamese content platform VNG is suing TikTok in Vietnam. VNG Corporation is a Vietnamese tech platform, founded in 2004, which focuses on digital content, online entertainment, social networking, and e-commerce. One of its subsidiary is app and web based a music streaming service, Zing MP3. Zing also owns rights to certain music especially Vietnamese music.
TikTok is huge in SoutheastAsia and a relatively uncontentious region in the current global political environment. Its owner ByteDance counts Vietnam as one of its fastest growing countries. It has avoided political risk there by blocking certain content (it faces a double whammy risk of being big tech and Chinese, both of which are highly sensitive in Vietnam). By steering clear of risk, Vietnam is supposedly now among its most profitable markets in Asia.
VNG accuses TikTok of using music owned by Zing without consent in a number of its short videos. These are likely user posted videos probably with accompanying Vietnamese music. An analysis report from Zing showed a total of 150 Zing music tracks used in more than 11 million videos on TikTok's website and app. VNG says they have sent a cease and desist letter alleging copyright infringement to Tiktok and have requested TikTok to review and remove all the music owned by Zing.
The case was filed in the People’s court of Ho Chi Minh City. The complaint demands removal of the music videos both from the TikTok app and also its website, as well as a damages claim for 221 billion VND (over USD9 million).
This is a huge damages claim, and one which will probably not be likely to be upheld by the court. However copyright cases make up most of the infringement seen in the courts in Vietnam, so judges do have some experience of this area. The case could take a year or so if it proceeds to trial. in most countries such ISP cases settle, on the basis that the ISP removes the content. Settlements have happened in other copyright litigation cases in Vietnam.