Having worked in the the content space in Vietnam for the last 6 years, from blogger to editor, I’ve had the wonderful joy of being copied, translated, and ripped off hundreds of times. Indeed, articles on Vietcetera have even been copied and translated onto other Vietnamese sites, even the largest news sites.
And while this should be nice, since copying is a form of flattery, Vietnamese sites don’t have a good habit of linking or giving credit for the original article. At best, what they’ll do is mention the name of the post, without any mention of the author. And most of the time, the mention will be at the bottom of the article, effectively hiding any meaningful mention of the original author or publisher. This practice is so common that when it happens to me, I’m never surprised. It’s somehow acceptable behavior.
And if you point it out to a writer or an editor, their response in true Vietnamese fashion, will be to acknowledge your complaint without apologizing and to try to add the link later. Most of the time, it’s a one-time practice, and they won’t consistently give you credit in the future.
It makes it hard to do partnerships when no one wants to accept blame and is only looking out for themselves.
You can look at this in two ways: as indications that Vietnamese journalists are being lazy or dishonest. Or we can take a step back and acknowledge that some people don’t know better. It’s the dilemma of Vietnam’s copyright landscape. It isn’t enforced. As the saying goes, putting locks on your doors only keeps out the honest people. The problem with Vietnam is that even if there were locks, they’d mostly be broken. And no one will come and inspect them.
Vietnam’s new media landscape, with editors and journalists in tow, is unregulated and guided by a naive new group of clickers and Facebookers (although heavily regulated by the powers above in other ways) that takes copying as standard operating procedure. It destroys good quality journalism and storytelling. Instead of going out and hunting for good stories, an entire industry leeches off the English-language industry and the few good Vietnamese journalists out there.
But how can we blame them? Copyright has been hard to enforce and writers are already handicapped to begin with. Most are unable to write about everything they want, stifling creativity and exploration.
I’m not sure what the way out for this is. We do see changes here and there. Social media allows people to point out copyright infractions and forces media sites to become more responsive. In many ways, social media has allowed for more genuine stories to emerge. But it also provides more access to free information, pictures, and content for news sites to plunder. And it’ll get messier as the proliferation of fake news and entertainment blogs rise.
All of this paints a rather bleak picture of Vietnam’s new media future. But there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. Since the media runs around like a chicken without a head, it has also become a conduit and a funnel for information. If one article is copied across the mediascape, that means more eyeballs are seeing it and word spreads fast. Unfortunately, it severely limits the business models and opportunities within the space.
The silver lining is that there is now a rise in blogs and media plays like Vietcetera. For example, our goal is to leverage a clear perspective with a loyal fanbase of readers in a niche. This also gives rise to thought leaders and personalities. Personalities can’t be replicated. And they can develop very strong readership. But it’s not a cure-all to the unethical copying culture that plagues Vietnamese media.
If you’re a reader or a writer that cares about this. We should work together to change this and raise the storytelling level of Vietnam.