Rampant piracy eats up Vietnam's digital content market

Thanh Nien News

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A girl checked the website of e-book publisher Ybook at the Ho Chi Minh City Book Fair held in March. Photo credit: TTVH A girl checked the website of e-book publisher Ybook at the Ho Chi Minh City Book Fair held in March. Photo credit: TTVH
Due to a lack of effective law enforcement, pirates now dominate Vietnam's digital content market, leaving almost no room for legal businesses to survive, let alone grow, according to remarks made at a recent conference held at the Ho Chi Minh University of Law.
Dr. Le Thi Nam Giang, a lecturer at the school, said Vietnam has just five official e-book publishers, while hundreds of websites allow people to download e-books for free, Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon reported. 
The free downloads are labeled “sharing” but the sites’ owners earn money through ads, she said during the conference which received support from the Vietnam National Institute of Software and Digital Content Industry (NISCI).
Dong Phuoc Vinh, director of e-book publisher YBook Company, said that legitimate e-book businesses cannot survive in Vietnam due to harsh competition from numerous pirates.
Moreover, it is not easy to buy copyrights from authors and their agents, and the cost of producing an e-book remains quite high – VND1 million (US$46.63) per title, he said.
“It is a hopeless battle for legitimate e-book publishers,” Vinh said.
Local film makers and distributors face the same problem.
Around 180 websites openly stream films without copyrights. Meanwhile, one legal supplier of online films recently shut down after failing to purchase the proper copyright permissions, Giang said.
Serious violations of copyright laws were also reported in other fields like photography and music.
Over two years ago the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Ministry of Information and Communication jointly declared that websites found violating copyright laws would be punished and banned, said Ha Than, director general of Lac Viet Computing Corporation.
However, tens of thousands of illegal websites have opened and operated since then without interference from the authorities, Than said, adding that a quick Google search in Vietnam produces numerous sources of free digital content.
Vinh said that in order to protect their copyrighted products, e-book businesses employed set up technical barricades, which pirates easily toppled.
He said legal solutions play the most important role in fighting piracy by giving businesses protection so that they can survive and develop the local digital content market.
Do Khac Chien, an expert on intellectual property rights with the Pham and Associates Company, said policymakers and law enforcement officers must study Internet mechanisms so that they can implement intellectual property protections without obstructing internet freedoms or the development of the information technology sector.
International copyright laws (such as the Berne Convention, which Vietnam signed some 10 years ago) have yet to be implemented in Vietnam.
“When it comes to copyright violations, we blame the problem on a lack of public awareness. But what matters most is that the agencies in charge of enforcing laws do not thoroughly understand copyright laws,” Chien said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Hoang Le Minh, chief of NISCI, said that as the digital environment continues to grow more “complicated,” it is necessary to combine technical measures and laws in order to address the piracy problem.

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