HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — It’s a wildly popular website laden with unlicensed songs and Hollywood movies, a prime exhibit of the digital piracy that is strangling the music industry in Asia and eroding legitimate online sales around the world.
The free-to-download bonanza has pushed Vietnam’s Zing.vn into the ranks of the globe’s top 550 websites. But a few clicks inside the site reveal a surprising presence: the U.S. government, which maintains a bustling social media account there.
Washington is a vocal proponent of intellectual property rights in Vietnam as it is around the world, and a site like Zing would be shut down in the United States. But with space for public diplomacy limited in Communist Vietnam, the American embassy uses its “Zingme” account to reach out to young people in Vietnam as it seeks to build closer ties with its former enemy.
The embassy’s presence shows just how mainstream pirate sites have become in Vietnam, where the government does nothing to stop them operating. But it also raises questions whether Washington is legitimizing a renowned pirate site that record labels, singers and industry groups say ignores requests that it take down infringing material.
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