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Campaign turns spotlight on software piracy issue

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HA NOI — A campaign was launched this week by the Copyright Office of Viet Nam, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Business Software Alliance to raise business and consumer awareness towards software copyright.

The campaign will focus on educating computer shops on software piracy issues.

Computer shops are the top priority since many personal computers are preloaded with unlicensed software, Copyright Office director general Vu Manh Chu told a press briefing in Ha Noi this week.

The campaign will aim to avert software piracy, by communicating to software retailers the need to respect copyright, as well as the potential consequences of software infringement.

Intellectual property lawyer Vu Manh Hung will visit computer and software companies in the hopes of educating them and promoting the idea of respecting intellectual property laws.

This campaign was kicked off initially in Ha Noi and HCM City, intensifying the pressure on IT shops not sell and install unlicensed software on computers before selling them to customers. Preinstalling illegal software on new computers encourages buyers to continue to use unlicensed software in the future. Many of these customers also have no idea that they have bought a computer preloaded with unlicensed software.

So far this year, inspection teams have raided 21 businesses across the country, mostly in Ha Noi and HCM City. They conducted a total of 111 raids last year, finding an infringement rate of 97-98 per cent, according to the inspectorate of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Vietnamese law currently provides that violators of copyright are subject to a fine of VND50-500 million (US$2,400-$24,000).

"The goal of reducing software piracy among consumers can only be achieved in a piecemeal fashion," said the ministry's deputy chief inspector, Pham Xuan Phuc. "The first step is to educate software retailers and encourage them to respect copyright. If them refuse to comply voluntarily, then the second or third step must occur, including such drastic measures as audits and rigorous penalties."

While the software piracy rate in Viet Nam has fallen from 92 per cent in 2004 to 85 per cent in 2009, it remains high, according to the Copyright Office.

According to market research firm IDC, computer sales rose 41 per cent during the period, with many preloaded with unlicensed software – a key factor in the high rate of software piracy in Viet Nam. A recent study commissioned by IDC predicted that, if the software piracy dropped 10 per cent over the next four years, the software industry would gain US$623 million in sales.

"Intellectual property rights violation in Viet Nam is a pressing issue, causing great dissatisfaction amongst innovators, enterprises and consumers and adversely affecting innovation and the investment climate and discouraging foreign investment in Viet Nam," said director general Chu.

"Software infringement is a pressing concern for investors, even though Vietnamese intellectual property law is rather similar to the international legal system and meets international standards. If Viet Nam can reduce the rate of infringement rate to the regional average, it will become a more favoured investment destination and the reputation and opportunities of Vietnamese enterprises will also be broadened."

Nguyen Tu Quang, CEO of BKIS, said using legal software provides undeniable benefits to corporate users, as well as to software developers. A strong respect for intellectual property rights would also help the nation move up the value-chain from being a low added-value manufacturing centre towards a more hi-tech economy.

The CEO of software publisher Lac Viet Co Ha Than, said that better software copyright enforcement would have an immediate effect on company performance.

Lac Viet's dictionary software alone generated more than VND10 billion ($476,000) in sales last year through licence agreements with telephone and computer manufacturers. However, Lac Viet estimated that it still lost an estimated VND58 billion ($2.9 million) to piracy last year.

Domestic software businesses would benefit significantly from a more robust intellectual property rights regime, which would allow them more profits to re-invest in research and development, said Than. — VNS

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