The National Assembly of Vietnam promulgated a new Law on Cinema in June 2022 with an effective date of January 1, 2023. To guide the implementation of the new law and the sanctioning of administrative violations thereof, the government of Vietnam issued two related decrees in the final days of 2022.
On December 31, 2022, the government issued Decree No. 131/2022/ND-CP elaborating a number of articles of the Cinema Law (“Cinema Decree”), which took effect with the new law on January 1, 2023.
Among the many issues under the Cinema Law guided by the Cinema Decree, one that is critical to over-the-top (OTT) media service providers is the set of conditions for performing the mandatory self-rating of films to be disseminated in cyberspace. According to the Cinema Law, meeting the film self-rating conditions is one of the prerequisites for online dissemination of films. If a film disseminator does not meet these conditions, it would be required to request the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MOCST) to perform the rating.
The conditions for online disseminators to self-rate their films have now been set out under Article 12 of the Cinema Decree. Accordingly, these conditions include:
- Having a film rating council or technical software or a mechanism to rate the films according to Vietnamese regulations on film rating and taking responsibility for the results of film rating.
- Having a plan to amend and update film rating results at the request of the cinematography authority (for most providers, this is the Cinematography Department under the MOCST).
- Having an administrative tool to support the rating of films according to each of the rating criteria and to flexibly display the updated rating immediately after the rating is changed.
- Having a technical plan and process for suspending and removing films at the request of the cinematography authority. Upon a request for removal of the film, the disseminator must proceed to implement the removal functionality available on the administrative tool.
These officially enacted conditions are much more relaxed compared to those proposed in the first draft of the Cinema Decree (released for public consultation in October 2022), which required that a foreign film disseminator (e.g., an OTT service provider), among other conditions, must establish a local enterprise in Vietnam or enter into a business cooperation agreement with a local company to be eligible to perform the self-rating of films. This proposed requirement under the draft Cinema Decree was subject to heated discussions among relevant stakeholders at the time. The government seems to have taken industry opinions into consideration and decided to change the burdensome conditions.
The Cinema Decree also provides the formality requirements for an online film disseminator to request recognition from the MOCST that they meet the self-rating conditions, as well as the procedures for the MOCST to receive and handle the dossier (in Article 12.2 and 12.3).
In addition, the Cinema Decree gives details on the following critical obligations of online film disseminators:
- To notify the MOCST of the list of films to be disseminated and the self-rating results of the films before disseminating films in cyberspace (Article 13).
- To implement necessary technical measures for parental control, for display of warnings on inappropriate and age-restricted content, and for receiving and handling platform users’ complaints and reports on violations in relation to content, technical measures, or other violations of law (Article 14).
- To provide contact points and contact information for receiving and handling requests from the cinematography authority (Article 15.1).
- To stop disseminating and to remove violating films within 24 hours and other illegal content within 3 to 5 days upon the cinematography authority’s request (Article 15.2).
Cinema Sanction Decree
On December 30, 2022, the government issued Decree No. 128/2022/ND-CP amending Decree 38/2021/ND-CP on penalties for administrative violations in the field of culture and advertising (as previously amended by Decree 129/2021/ND-CP), focusing on the addition of sanctions for new violations in the field of cinematography (“Cinema Sanction Decree”). The Cinema Sanction Decree takes effect on February 15, 2023.
Some of the notable sanctions stipulated by the Cinema Sanction Decree include:
- A monetary fine of VND 40–60 million (approx. USD 1,700–2,555) and forcible removal of the disseminated film for the act of online film dissemination without rating the film and displaying the rating results (Article 7.2b).
- A monetary fine of VND 20–40 million (approx. USD 850–1,700) and forcible removal of disseminated films for the failure to notify the MOCST of the list of films to be disseminated and the results of film rating (Article 10.7a).
- A monetary fine of VND 40–60 million (approx. USD 1,700–2,555) and forcible removal of disseminated films for the failure to provide contact points and contact information for receiving and handling requests from state authorities and feedback, complaints, and denunciations from service users according to the law (Article 10.7b).
- A monetary fine of VND 60–80 million (approx. USD 2,555–3,400) and forcible removal of disseminated films for the failure to implement technical solutions and coordinate with competent state authorities in removing and preventing infringing films as prescribed by law (Article 10.7c).
- A monetary fine of VND 80–100 million (approx. USD 3,400–4,260) and forcible removal of disseminated films for the failure to ensure the conditions for self-rating of films (Article 10.7d).
- A monetary fine of VND 80–100 million (approx. USD 3,400–4,260) and forcible removal of disseminated films for the failure to implement necessary technical measures for parental control and for receiving and handling platform users’ complaints and reports (Article 10.7dd).