Hastings Law Journal


Than Nguyen Luu


Vietnam has a long history of ignoring copyright laws at the expense of foreign authors of copyrighted works. In the last few years, the Vietnamese government has attempted to strengthen ties with the United States and other Western nations by instituting Doi Moi, a country-wide plan of economic renovation designed to attract foreign investment. Part of this plan is a revision of copyright laws intended to create an intellectual property regime conforming to international standards. Unfortunately, the latest version of the Ordinance on Copyrights and the copyright provisions of the new Civil Code have loopholes that will allow copyright piracy to continue to flourish. Moreover, the Vietnamese government has not yet issued the regulations necessary to give legal force to these laws. Without effective copyright laws and a commitment from the government to enforce them, foreign investors will continue to view Vietnam as a dangerous trading partner.

The author argues that the Vietnamese government can establish an effective copyright system and facilitate the success of Doi Moi by taking two principal steps. First, the government should eliminate or substantially redraft provisions of the Civil Code that allow unfettered censorship, protect certain political and cultural exploitation as "fair use," and give authors inadequate remedies for breach of contracts on the use of copyrighted works. At a minimum, the government should incorporate the enforcement provisions of the TRIPS agreement into the Civil Code. In addition, the Civil Code or its regulations should provide adequate means for registering copyrights and for judicial relief against infringers. Moreover, the anticipated regulations should not revive the controversial "Thirty-Day Rule," which gives less protection to foreign works than to works created by Vietnamese authors.

Second, the Vietnamese government should adopt exhaustive copyright provisions like those of the recent China-U.S. Agreements on Intellectual Property Protection. Closely examining China's international copyright dilemmas and its trade wars with the United States will allow Vietnam to avoid devastating trade wars with current and future trading partners. By putting teeth into its copyright laws, Vietnam can transform its current paper tigers into a truly effective copyright protection scheme that can help assure the success of Doi Moi.

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