A local private publishing house has plans to file a lawsuit against a number of foreign language centres, private bookstores and universities in HCM City that are allegedly pirating its books for commercial purposes.

The Tri Viet (First News) publishing house said it was drawing up a list of violators and would soon file a lawsuit against at least three foreign-language centres for book piracy.

A representative of Compass Media, an American company that sold Tri Viet – First News the copyright to publish English-language textbooks, said it would also file a lawsuit in Vietnam against those companies that had engaged in willful trademark counterfeiting.

The printing houses had either photocopied or printed similar copies of several TOEFL and TOEIC textbooks published by Compass Media, its marketing director Joanne Jalbert said.

Alerted to the widespread book piracy, Nguyen Van Phuoc, owner of Tri Viet-First News, decided to send staff to English-language centres and bookstores nationwide to uncover the violations.

Phuoc said the Uc Chau Foreign Language School in HCM City, with thousands of learners, had pirated the most books published by Tri Viet and Compass Media.

He also said IWEP Dong Au, Duong Minh, Viet My and Viet Uc language centres in HCM City and several schools and bookstores in Hanoi were violating his company's copyright.

"Eighty-five percent of foreign language schools and universities in Vietnam sell pirated books to their students. Some change the book titles or covers but keep the contents," he said.

Initial investigations showed that more than 80 book titles of the company had been pirated in a two-month period.

More than 150 book titles of the company have been illegally published, Phuoc said.

The pirated books are sold at prices that are 30 to 70 percent higher than those of the legally published books.

"Recently I noticed that revenue from selling our TOEFL and TOEIC books had fallen sharply, and I received many calls complaining about the books' quality and the high prices," Phuoc said.

"We bought the copyright for most of our books for English-language learners from Compass Media. It takes at least two years to recoup our initial investment in purchasing the copyright."

Jalbert noted that Vietnam became a member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation in 1976 and a member of the Bern Convention in 2004.

"These agreements show that Vietnam is a serious player in the international publishing industry. It's also important to know that illegal reproduction of these materials is criminal in Vietnam ," she said.

An investigation shows that more than half of the total 800 foreign language centres in Vietnam are in HCM City, and 85 percent of them copy books illegally. /.