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Copyright of memoir: Not a simple math.

Date: 08-04-2021 by: Banca IP Law Firm

Copyright of memoir: Not a simple math.

TTO - In recent days, it was reported that writer Huu Mai was not recognized by the family of General Vo Nguyen Giap as co-author of General Vo Nguyen Giap memoir presented by this writer.

The story seems to be “unfair" to writer Huu Mai, but it is more complicated than that. As the representative of writer Huu Mai's family, Mr. Tran Huu Binh (author Binh Ca) shared that his father - writer Huu Mai - spent 30 years writing (showing) the memoirs for General Vo Nguyen Giap with 6 books: Some memories of Dien Bien Phu, It all came from the people, The unforgettable years, Fighting in the middle of the siege, Road to Dien Bien Phu, Dien Bien Phu – a historical meeting point.

Should co-author be recognized? 

Author Binh Ca said that according to the Intellectual Property Law, his father and General Vo Nguyen Giap are co-authors of these memoirs. During the years when his father was still alive, royalties were still divided 50/50 ratio between the two parties. But after General Vo Nguyen Giap's death, his son Vo Dien Bien has no longer accepted writer Huu Mai as a co-author. Recently, the Media and Information Publish House has printed two books in the memoirs which are “Road to Dien Bien Phu” and “Dien Bien Phu - a historic meeting point” without permission from the family of writer Huu Mai. At the end of 2020, this Publish House sent an apologize letter to the family of writer Huu Mai, and sent a letter to the General's family to cancel the contract to publish these two books, which had previously been signed for 5 years.

Responding to Tuoi Tre reporter, Mr. Tran Chi Dat - director, general editor of the Information and Communication Publish House - explained about the cancellation of the contract due to the unclear copyright bond between two families.

When being asked about the copyrights of these books, Mr. Dat said that the book has been published many times with the phrase "Huu Mai expresses", it is possible that General has read it out to the writer to elaborate or the writer also participated in building ideas and content of the books. The real truth will only be shared between the two families, but as a publisher, Mr. Dat thinks that this case should be claimed as co-authors.

An editor from Young publish house also agrees with this view. She explained that a lot of people only know how to tell a story, not how to write it out, so in cases where memoirs are created, unless there is prior agreement between the two creators that the writer will be anonymous then he/she will not be entitled for copyrights.

Chairman of the Vietnam Writers Association Nguyen Quang Thieu said that readers, when reading the memoirs, can recognize that in addition to the story that the General told the writer Huu Mai, there were parts that the writer must synthesize from many documents and develop the entire reality once again to build a book with his own writing style.

Therefore, Mr. Thieu supposed that the copyright must belong to both of them.

What do we understand about co-authoring?

However, there are different points of view to this story as well. Tuoi Tre has contacted Mr. Vo Dien Bien and Mrs. Vo Hanh Phuc (the two children of the General) to find the answer, but neither Mr. Bien nor Mrs. Phuc wanted to share.

"Our family will not answer this matter" - Mr. Vo Dien Bien told Tuoi Tre on March 17. Mrs. Vo Hanh Phuc said: "My family does not talk about this. How reputable our family is, we know, everyone knows".

An editor at the National Political Publishing House of Truth also said that writer Huu Mai cannot be considered as co-author, but just a person to help on elaborating the character's ideas, hence he is not the author of ideas.

A reputable researcher who knows the writer Huu Mai quite well said that this case cannot simply confirmed as co-authors, although he knows that these books are wholly created by the stories that Huu Mai was told and many documents that he has gathered.

According to him, if you understand simply, co-authors are those who all participated in the writing of the work then Huu Mai can be considered as a co-author. However, if you understand the concept of co-authoring more in-depth, it is difficult to consider Huu Mai as a co-author.

He cited a story in the former Soviet Union as a comparison. World-renowned Soviet physicist who had been awarded a Nobel prize - Lev Landau - and his lab colleague Evgeny Lifshitz collaborated on writing a wonderful physics textbook. The book was entitled to two people and for which can be considered as co-authors.

But a friend of Lev Landau shared a statement that everyone enjoyed and agreed that in the textbook "there is not a single line of Landau and also not a single idea from Lifshitz".

"Obviously that in a workpiece, the idea is the most important, the presentation is not as important. So the later researchers who quoted the ideas from the above book, people always say it belongs to Mr. Landau, though Lifshitz is also considered a co-author.

Lifshitz was credited for helping Landau create the book, but never was the co-author in the strict sense of the word. The case of the memoir we are discussing can also be said to be similar "- said the veteran researcher.

Previously, dividing royalties 50/50 between two parties in the past, according to this researcher, has no legal value in recognizing the writer as co-author.

Mr. Nguyen Nguyen - Director of Department of Publishing, Printing and Issuing - did not comment on right or wrong, only expressed his wish that the related parties would soon reach an agreement on the basis of strictly implementing the Intellectual Property Law and other legislation. From this story, related to the current period, when the market for memoir books of famous people are growing day by day with high-value publishing contracts, many famous people hired writers, experts in the copyright field believe that the writers and the person who hired them need to have a clear agreement from the beginning to protect their rights, avoid copyright disputes that can be difficult to resolve in the future.


Translated by BANCA Co., Ltd.