Public interest clashes with copyright laws
  • | | October 06, 2014 05:13 PM
In at least one education expert's opinion, the public might have to pay increased textbook prices because of royalty fees due to authors.

A number of news outlets have reported recently that, even though the Education Publishing House is making profits as the exclusive publisher for textbooks for many years, they have not paid royalties to authors whose works are used in their content. Do Trung Quan, whose poem is used in a textbook, said that some publishers had asked for permission to use his work without paying royalties and he agreed. According to him, the Education Publishing House failed to show him the respect of acknowledgement. "My poem has been reprinted in their textbook for third graders for 20 years, but I've never even received a thank you letter, much less any royalties. They even got one of the sentences wrong," he said.

Literature textbooks for grade 5 students.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Minh Thuyet, former deputy chair of the NA Committee on Culture, Education, Youth and Children, said the textbook cannot be considered a commercial product. The prices of textbooks are subsidised by the government and cannot be any cheaper. Thuyet said that the aim of textbooks is to serve the public, including the poor, and if publishers have to pay royalties, customers are the ones who will suffer.

He also said that Vietnam's intellectual property law states that citing literature for teaching in schools for non-commerical purposes does not require royalty payments. He further pointed out that article 10 in Berne Convention says that it shall be an internal matter of legislation in individual countries to permit the utilisation, to the extent justified by the purpose, of literary or artistic works for teaching, provided such utilisation is compatible with fair practice.

However, in the future, the government plans on opening the market of textbooks and other teaching materials so that other publishers will be able to participate. If the plan is realised, then the government subsidy would have to be reconsidered. After the royalty problem attracted attention, the Vietnam Literary Copyright Center asked for a different calculation of royalties, as the Education Publishing House would have to pay about USD1 million in royalties according to current calculation methods.

The Education Publishing House has committed to paying royalties to authors, but the rate is still being discussed. 

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