Vietnam gets tough on unlicensed online games

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People play at an online game shop in Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City

People who play online games that are not licensed in Vietnam will be fined between VND500,000 and 1 million (US$24-48) under a draft decree recently put out by the Ministry of Information and Telecommunication.

A report on Tuoi Tre Tuesday said the ministry is gathering opinions on its draft regulations for Internet and online information management, supply, and use.

People will face the same fines if they fail to register their personal information when playing online games that allow interactions with multiple players, play for more than three hours a day, or before 8 a.m. and after 10 p.m., Internet cafes' working hours.

Cafes that provide violent or illegal games face fines of VND10-200 million ($473-9,400). 

Other provisions in the draft decree include a ban on converting virtual money into real money or assets, and a stipulation that cafes providing online game should be at least 200 m from schools.

But Tuoi Tre quoted critics as saying the provisions are not practicable.

"Hundreds of games are available at Internet shops," Tien Dat of the city's Tan Phu District said, asking, "How can we know if a game we choose is licensed or not?"

Other game players were angry, claiming that the ministry was targeting them because it was unable to crack down on the distributors of illegal games.

Owners of Internet cafes providing online games claimed it was impossible to ask game players for true personal information.

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One said: "We can't ask them to produce their ID cards to double check like police do. If we do so, surely no one will use our services."  

Others, however, expressed support for the new regulations. Huynh Nhi also of Tan Binh District said: "To bring game players under oversight is good because it can help control young people's game playing." 

But he was unsure about how the authorities will enforce the regulations since people play also at home and not just in shops.

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