Navigating Vietnam’s New Regulations for Films in the Cyberspace

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From January 1, 2024, Vietnam’s film industry will be subjected to new rules for digital distribution. We break down the essential steps for compliance, covering film ratings, warnings, display rules, and possible penalties.


Vietnam’s film industry, and overall entertainment landscape, are undergoing noteworthy changes, particularly in the way films are distributed digitally. From January 1, 2024, all films circulating in the country’s online space have been required to adhere to a new set of regulations detailed in (hereinafter referred to as “Decree 131”) – a key piece legislation guiding the implementation of the Law on Cinematography.

Although Decree 131 officially took effect on January 1, 2023, there was a one-year grace period for films to be shared in cyberspace without being obligated to feature ratings or warnings. In this article, we provide a comprehensive guide to these regulatory developments, exploring their implications on Vietnam’s film industry within the digital sphere.

Key steps for compliance

Film rating process

Film distributors in Vietnam now face a crucial decision when it comes to rating films for cyberspace distribution. They can choose one of the following two options:
  • Take on the responsibility of film rating themselves; or
  • Opt for the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism (MOCST) to provide the rating.
For those choosing self-rating, the distributor must seek recognition from the MOCST for eligibility, a process typically taking two to three months. Should self-rating recognition be unattainable, distributors must request the MOCST to provide ratings for each film distributed in cyberspace.

Display of rating and warning

Circular No. 05/2023/TT-BVHTTDL (hereinafter, “Circular 5”), issued on April 5, 2023, provides a comprehensive regulatory framework for Decree 131, specifying guidelines for film ratings, warnings, and overall compliance for online distribution.

The specifics of these requirements are:

Ratings

  • Circular 5 mandates a clear and prominent display in the introductory segment of a film. This allows users to make informed decisions about accessing the content.
  • In addition, the film rating must persistently appear in the left or right corner of the screen. This requirement extends throughout the entire distribution period.

Warnings

  • Warnings should be conveyed through words or sound, and must be displayed within three seconds from the beginning of the film.
  • They should be positioned directly beneath the film rating
  • Limited to a maximum of three times per film, for a duration of twenty minutes or more.

Notification of films and ratings for distribution

Once the film rating process is complete, the film distributor must inform the Ministry of MOCST about the list of films intended for distribution and the corresponding ratings before making them available online. This notification is done through the “Data System on Rating of Films in Cyberspace,” managed by the Vietnam Cinema Department (VCD) under the MOCST. The VCD is working on creating an application to oversee online film releases. It went through testing towards the end of December 2023.

Penalties for non-compliance

Not adhering to the stipulated regulations on film ratings can result in financial penalties for the film distributor. The fines range from VND 80 million (approximately US$3,300) to VND 100 million (approx. US$ 4,100). Penalties are determined in alignment with Government Decree No. 38/2021/ND-CP, specifically addressing consequences for administrative violations linked to cultural and advertising activities.

The bigger picture

Decree 131 is a vital component in Vietnam’s cinematic puzzle, intricately connected to the broader canvas of the country’s Cinema Law. In June 2022, the National Assembly gave its official nod to the. The updated legislation, replacing the 2006 Cinema Law, officially took effect on January 1, 2023. This law is a comprehensive effort to address two pivotal challenges: the regulation of movies distributed online and oversight of foreign film producers operating within Vietnam. A standout feature is the introduction of the requirement for movies to undergo scrutiny both before and after their online release. While this move aims to uphold regulatory standards, the specifics, especially concerning platforms without a physical presence in Vietnam, remain uncertain. While certain aspects will be clarified by future decrees, the updated legislative framework highlights Vietnam’s unwavering commitment to shaping its film industry in line with both local values and global standards. This cinematic evolution promises both challenges and opportunities, mirroring Vietnam’s dedication to a thriving and globally competitive film sector. For more information contact the legal experts at .

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