Best of 2014: The (Lang) Van guards of the proletariat
Remember when Vietnam was communist and stuff?
Probably not. Well, I do. And yes, I look it. And yes, GET OFF MY LAWN!
Anyway, even if it was, it probably mostly isn’t any more. (UPDATE: Funny you should mention it!) And even if it were, though, still pretty much everyone, except maybe the Grateful Dead, is particular about that most running-doggy institution of capitalism — royalties!
Lang Van, the leaders in Vietnamese entertainment, aren’t going to take it any more! Here’s the press release they sent me about their big copyright lawsuit:
Lang Van, owners of the world’s largest Vietnamese music catalog . . . filed suit last week . . . as plaintiff against [various] defendants [including] Vietnam-based VNG Corporation (VNG) in a case of copyright infringement.
As stated in the complaint, Zing.vn (Zing), a VNG-owned and operated website and one of Vietnam’s largest entertainment portals, illegally makes more than 3,000 Lang Van-owned recordings and 600 albums available for streaming or download around the globe.
Lang Van has never received any financial compensation for the use and distribution of this copyrighted material, while the defendants continue to profit. Lang Van has records of their copyrighted content being viewed more than 250 million times on the Zing portal at this time.
According to the complaint, the U.S.-based fund IDG Ventures directly contributed to the exponential growth of Zing.vn’s website as well as the launch of the Zing Music website, bringing expertise, guidance and financial backing to help VNG grow its business. The investment granted the IDG defendants control over VNG and its operations, also allowing for the installment of Nguyen Bao Hoang, the managing general partner of IDG Ventures Vietnam, to the VNG Board of Directors.
“Lang Van has operated for nearly three decades to bring quality entertainment to Vietnamese people throughout the world,” said Chief Operating Officer Mimi Nguyen, Lang Van. “We’re enthusiastic at the overwhelming talent available today and look forward to growing Vietnamese Music within the world music market, and remain steadfast in our support of organizations and communities who consume music in a responsible way.”
Zing is recognized as one of the largest IP-infringing websites within Asia by several worldwide trade organizations. Currently, there are 590 infringement cases against Zing, with 1,081 cease and desist notices distributed. Brand giants Coca-Cola and Samsung pulled their advertising from Zing in 2012 after learning of the site’s practices. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and other organizations have denounced Zing’s practices, and the United States Trade Representative added the website to its “Notorious Markets List.”
Kind of interesting, right? This is not one of those IP blogs, after all, that fills up space merely by the reportage of the filing of IP lawsuits. It’s interesting, yes?, because this big Vietnamese IP rights holder is suing this big Vietnamese, um, piracy website. It’s notable, too, that evidently the creative content itself was not being illegally resold or, it appears, utilized as a direct revenue source. Rather:
Zing’s business model has thrived by illegally posting copyrighted works for download and making this service available anywhere in the world. The result has been growth in Zing’s web traffic, additional user exposure to VNG video gaming content and increased advertising revenue for the company.
The use of Lang Van’s material, in other words, was just honey to attract users to Zing’s website, according to the allegations, which in turn made its money in other ways.
What’s most interesting about this, perhaps, is the stuff I replaced with ellipses or brackets in the first paragraph from the press release. Here’s the full paragraph, restored but with emphasis added:
Lang Van, owners of the world’s largest Vietnamese music catalog and U.S. production company, filed suit last week in the United States District Court for the Central District of California as plaintiff against defendants International Data Group (IDG), a Massachusetts-based investment company, IDG Ventures, IDG Ventures Vietnam and Vietnam-based VNG Corporation (VNG) in a case of copyright infringement
Yeah. Vietnamese company — which has a U.S. production company — sues allegedly infringing Vietnamese website… in California!
Now, this not one of those cases where plaintiffs seem to think having an IP claim is a license to file it in any forum you like because, you know, intellectual property. There’s a legitimate basis here for siting the claim in the States — which does not mean, however, that a motion to dismiss based on the convenience of the forum couldn’t still lie under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which incorporates the old forum non conveniens standards from the old days — the old Viet Cong days, if you remember. Which I’m betting you don’t.
But yes, interesting, and kind of for that reason too, isn’t it?
UPDATE: Here’s the order dismissing VNG.