You can probably imagine that it’s hard for young artists to make a living from their work. Did you also know that giants like Pepsi Cola sponsor companies that steal the artists’ intellectual property?
The name Zing might not say too much to you if you’re not Vietnamese and don’t engage in illegal internet downloads. Zing is a company that makes money by stealing others’ people intellectual property and distributing it for free. In that way they attract millions of visitors, most of them keen on the illegal use of music, videos and all the like, from Hollywood movies to gospel songs. Apparently the sixth most visited website in Vietnam, it shouldn’t surprise that Zing also attracts ‘freeriders” from overseas. Yet, not just that, they also get financial support from companies such as Goldman Sachs (investor), Converse, Sony and Pepsi Cola (sponsors).
In a country where corruption is endemic and where the bigger part of governmental representatives informally cash in on any sort of transactions, it shouldn’t surprise that companies like Zing make big money from exploiting what others created. Not just due to the support of big companies, but also because independent artists are powerless against the dirty tricks of all these criminals. Fortunately enough, not all the big ones are deaf: after a first wave of anger, Samsung and Coca Cola have apparently pulled out of the immoral business in 2012. In the meantime, it also seems no longer possible to download songs of stars such as the King of Pop or Madonna. However, the most vulnerable are still exposed and independent Vietnamese artists only have a voice if they shout out load enough.
If Zing were Pandora or some radio station in a developed country, artist Ho Bich Ngoc who according to Zing had some 31’365 listeners on their website would receive royalties for being played. Not so in Vietnam, where even national radio or TV stations use the work of artists for free. Then again, who talks about royalties, where piracy is considered marketing? While Vietnam has passed laws against piracy, it has so far failed to enforce them, enabling sites like Zing to grow into respectable businesses. One who can put two and two together knows why: compensation is the ‘key’. Not royalties for artists but Greenbacks for officials who close both eyes on criminals such as guys like Le Hong Minh and his fellows at Zing.
While Vietnam ranks 119 (out of 175 countries) in the corruption index, far behind other Southeast Asian nations, people at Zing are cashing in on the illegal downloads of young artists’ work. Why on Earth should we pay for the consumption of your products if you don’t protect those who give us music, Alberto Weisser et al.? Shouldn’t we simply take the next can of Pepsi for free while leaving the grocery store, as long as you support thieves?