As scheduled, earlier yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, June 15, 2022), with the ratio of 449 out of 467 National Assembly delegates saying “Yes,” the National Assembly of Vietnam (NA) officially approved the Cinema Law.
The new Cinema Law (henceforth in this article referred to as the Law) will come into effect from January 1, 2023.
Although the final version of the Law is currently non-available and has been set to be gazetted only in late June 2022, some crucial insights into the Law can be accessed/hinted from various sources, which will be presented in the following sections.
- Incentive policies for cinematographic activities
Instead of detailing incentives regarding credit, tax, and land, the Law only generally stipulates that there will be incentive policies under relevant laws. What is taken away from this is that the cinema individuals and businesses will have to wait for further amendments/supplementations made to relevant laws (e.g., tax laws, land laws) to ascertain the benefits they may derive from these policies.
- Subjects entitled to disseminate films in cyberspace and relevant obligations
The Law clarifies the subjects entitled to disseminate films in cyberspace, including enterprises, non-business units, and organizations conducting film dissemination activities in accordance with this Law and other relevant laws, indicating that the Law does not prohibit foreign enterprises from disseminating films in Vietnam on a cross-border basis.
To accommodate concerns regarding the balance between the freedom to disseminate films in cyberspace and the need to regulate this activity, a “hybrid” model has been introduced under the Law. Specifically, film disseminators shall ensure the conditions for classifying films according to the Government’s regulations before disseminating films in cyberspace. Should these conditions be not satisfied, recourse may be had to requesting the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (“MOCST”) or its authorized agency to perform the classification work. Before films can be disseminated in cyberspace, the list of such films and their classification results shall be communicated to the MOCST as well.
An “indirect” approach to further control films disseminated in cyberspace when permitting self-classification is to mobilize public engagement in the process of content moderation. Accordingly, the Law requires film disseminators to implement necessary technical measures for parents or guardians to self-manage and guarantee that movies screened in front of their children are appropriate to their age. There shall also be a suitable mechanism in place to cater to service users’ need to report law-infringing content.
- A new concept of online platforms
The Law has also introduced a new concept of online platforms that are involved in the dissemination of films in cyberspace, the obligations of which are also tailored. Such stipulation clearly insinuates how the lawmakers have gradually been recognizing the participation of different stakeholders in the cinema industry as well as the role they should play in the administration of cinematographic works.
- Application dossier for the grant of the Permit on the provision of film services using Vietnamese backgrounds to foreign organizations and individuals
Among other documents, only the film’s summarized script and a detailed script of the filming scenes using Vietnamese backgrounds written in Vietnamese, instead of a detailed script of the whole film, are required. Nonetheless, positive outcomes produced by this regulation will need to be empirically confirmed given the growing competition Vietnam is being in with other countries in the region such as Thailand to attract more foreign investment in the cinema industry.
- The Cinematographic Development Assistance Fund
After lengthy debates surrounding the need and practical impact of the Cinematographic Development Assistance Fund, the NA’s delegates have finally settled down with regulating the Fund under the Law, the major purposes of which are to (i) support projects producing experimental films, first films, and films of young authors; (ii) support excellent Vietnamese film and film production projects and authors to participate in film festivals, film awards, film contests, film fairs, film programs, and film weeks abroad; and (iii) support other activities to develop cinematography. The source of the Fund will be further detailed by the Government.
After rounds of considerable deliberation engaging both public and private parties, the Law has eventually been approved with both successes and downsides. What is awaiting ahead is how an implementing decree will offer elucidation for grey areas left by the Law, undoubtedly affecting the enforceability of the regulations.