Vietnam tackles online piracy with more assertive regulation and practice
Paid streaming services have been thriving in Vietnam, with global names such as Netflix and HBO GO gaining a strong foothold in the market and local streaming platforms such as Fim+ and FPT Play rising at a swift rate. The revenue of Vietnam’s Video Streaming (SVoD) segment is forecasted by Statista Inc. to reach US$81 million in 2020 demonstrating an annual growth rate of 10.1%. Vietnam’s vast Internet user base combined with continuously upgraded broadband networks and fast adoption of technology trends are creating ripe conditions for success in streaming services. Meanwhile, prevalent online piracy remains a major obstacle for companies in this segment to fully optimise their potential.
The commitment to new international treaties – CPTPP and EVFTA – has been pushing Vietnam toward strengthening its IPRs enforcement system. In an attempt to tackle online piracy, Vietnam has recently passed a new regulation on penalties for IP-specific online violations and adopted a practice of blocking access to pirate websites.
New Decree Regulating Administrative Penalties for IP-specific Violations by Websites, Social Networking Platforms and Users
On 3 February 2020, the Government issued Decree No. 15/2020/ND-CP on administrative penalties for violation in postal services, telecommunications, radio frequencies, information technology and electronic transactions (“Decree 15”). The Decree came into force on 15 April 2020, replacing Decree No. 174/2013/ND-CP. With the issuance of Decree 15, online service providers who operate websites, social networking platforms or online streaming services, as well as their users, now cannot ignore their respective IP-specific liabilities on the Internet.
In particular, Decree 15 imposes on websites, social networking service providers and social media users specific liabilities for IP violations of posting/delivering journalistic, literature and artistic works and other publications online without the IP right holder’s consent. Such violations are subject to administrative fines ranging from 10 million to 70 million VND (approx. 426 to 2,982 USD) depending on the subject of the violations. The additional sanctions include confiscation of means for violation, forcible take-down of infringing content, or temporary confiscation of the platform operation license. However, it is unclear how the above sanctions would be practically enforced against foreign companies providing cross-border services accessible to Vietnamese users. In addition, it is worthy to note that IP right holders are still unable to enforce their rights by themselves. Rather, they must request enforcement authorities to do it. Online service providers who operate websites, social networking platforms or online streaming services are not obliged to remove infringing content at the request of IP right holders.
In addition, the new Cybersecurity Law 2018 also specifies “acts of infringing upon copyright and other IP rights in cyberspace” by both domestic and foreign service providers among cybersecurity violations. The law’s upcoming implementation decree is expected to set out sanctions, remedies and enforcement measures imposed on such violations, including those for cross-border service providers.
Blocking of Access to Pirate Websites
Vietnam’s law requires Internet service providers (“ISPs”) to block or suspend access to a violating platform upon requests from competent authorities. However, the practice of site-blocking has never been reported until 2018, when the Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information (ABEI) worked with local network providers to block access to websites with pirated content. The access block has been implemented as follows: Upon receipt of a complaint from the rights holder and after verification of the infringement, ABEI posts warnings against the infringing platforms and sets a deadline for take-down of the pirated contents on its official website. Following non-compliance of the platforms after the set deadline, ABEI sends an official letter to local network providers requesting them to block access to the infringing platforms. This exercise has been applied to both local platforms and foreign platforms with servers located overseas. Local network providers have been cooperative with the site-blocking requests. It was reported by ABEI that 49 websites were blocked in 2018 and 2019 for violation of copyright and related rights in films, TV programs and sports broadcasts.
While it is now too early to assess the impact of this new regulation and practice, this adoption clearly reflects Vietnam’s objective to strengthen the protection of legitimate rights of content producers and consumers to create a fair and healthy digital content market.
 Vietnam was listed as one of the notorious markets for counterfeiting and piracy. The website phimmoi.net hosted in Vietnam has become one of the most notorious piracy sites in the world with nearly 75 million monthly visits from 11 million visitors (information taken from the 2019 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy, prepared by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, page 22)
 Articles 99, 100 and 101, Decree No. 15/2020/ND-CP issued by the Government on 03 February 2020 on administrative penalties for violation in postal services, telecommunications, radio frequencies, information technology and electronic transactions
 Article 5.3, Joint Circular No. 07/2012/TTLT-BTTTT-BVHTTDL issued by Ministry of Information and Communication and Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourisms on 19 June 2012 on obligations of intermediary service providers in protection of copyright and related rights on the internet and telecom network environments
 VnEconomy, Websites infringing copyright and advertising gambling now blocked, 26 October 2019. Available at:http://vneconomy.vn/chan-hang-loat-websites-vi-pham-ban-quyen-quang-cao-danh-bac-20191025223718102.htm
 Ministry of Information and Communications’ Electronic Magazine, Telcos and ISP actively participates in preventing copyright infringement of television content on the Internet, 27 December 2019