Law on Cinematography in force from 2023

Adopted in June this year, the Law on Cinematography (the Law) provides a legal mechanism to protect lawful interests as well as defines obligations of organizations and individuals engaged in cinematographic activities. It also creates a legal corridor for developing the film industry and the cinema market, promoting the proactivity of the participants in cinematographic activities, and raising the healthy competition in film business activities.

Coming into force from January next year, the Law will supersede its 2006 predecessor with revisions made in 2009, 2018 and 2020 (the 2006 Law). It applies to Vietnamese agencies, organizations and individuals engaged in cinematographic activities at home and abroad and foreign organizations and individuals engaged in cinematographic activities in Vietnam.

Compared to the current law, the Law has significant changes in the provisions on film production, distribution and dissemination.

Film production

The Law revises the provisions on rights and obligations of film producers to make them be consistent with the 2020 Law on Enterprises and relevant laws. Notably, the Law requires film producers to send a written commitment not to violate the prohibitions specified in Article 9 of the Law to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in case they cooperate with foreign partners in film production or receive donations from foreign partners to produce films.

Another considerable change is the composition of a dossier of application for a license for provision of filming services using backgrounds in Vietnam for foreign organizations and individuals. Under Article 13 of the Law, among other documents, the dossier must comprise the film’s summarized script and a detailed script of the filming contents using backgrounds in Vietnam, written in Vietnamese, instead of a detailed script of the whole film as required under the 2006 Law.

Noticeably, foreign organizations producing films that use backgrounds in Vietnam or film production services provided by Vietnamese organizations will be entitled to tax incentives in accordance with the tax laws. This is a new provision of the Law, helping improve the professionalism of cinematographers, promote the image of the country and Vietnamese people, and foster the development of cinematography, tourism and related service industries.

For the state budget-funded film production, the form of task assignment, order placement or bidding will be applied. Under the 2006 Law, the only choice is bidding.

Film distribution

To facilitate investment and trade in film distribution, the Law does not stipulate that film distribution is a conditional business line.

The Law no longer requires film distribution enterprises and other enterprises registering film import and export business to have cinemas in order to disseminate films.

Under Article 17 of the Law, an organization or individual may only export films if it possesses a film classification permit or a broadcast decision. Meanwhile, film importers have to send a written commitment stating that to-be-imported films do not have the prohibited contents mentioned in Article 9 of the Law to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Heads of organizations and individuals importing films will take responsibility before law for the contents of the films imported for dissemination.

Subjects entitled to disseminate films in cyberspace

Article 21 of the Law specifies the subjects entitled to disseminate films in cyberspace, including enterprises, non-business units, and organizations conducting film dissemination activities in accordance with the Law and other relevant laws.

Film disseminators must satisfy the conditions for film classification according to the Government’s regulations before disseminating films in cyberspace. Should these conditions not be satisfied, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism or its authorized agency will be asked to perform the classification. Before disseminating films in cyberspace, film disseminators must send the list of such films and their classification results to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Worthy of note, the Law provides an article on film rating, namely Article 32. Accordingly, the content rating system consists of six symbols: K, which indicates movies that are appropriate for under-13 children provided they are accompanied by their parents or adult guardians; P - movies suitable for general audiences, T13, T16 and T18 - movies suitable for viewers aged full 13, 16 or 18 years or older, respectively, and C - movies not allowed for dissemination.

The Law requires film disseminators to implement necessary technical measures for parents or guardians of children to self-manage and guarantee that movies screened in front of their children are appropriate to their age. There will also be a suitable mechanism in place to help service users report on law-infringing contents.

Pinklaw Vietnam