The media, especially digital, ignores copyright laws resulting in rampant plagiarism and demoralising journalists, a workshop held by the Vietnam Journalists Association heard in Ho Chi Minh City on January 28.

"Copyright violation has become a worry as serious newspapers spend money and human resources to create … an article, picture or video clip, but a minute after it is posted on their website, it is copied and changed without fear," Pham Quoc Toan, Vice Chairman of the association, said while opening the "Online Copyright" workshop.

US Consul General Rena Bitter said, "One of the factors that help the US develop is efficient protection for copyright and encouragement for everybody to innovate and create.

"Copyright protection is a must and Vietnam should do it right now, despite the fact that there will be a lot of challenges."

Things took a turn for the worse in recent years after 1,000 news websites were licensed to operate by "quoting information from newspapers and websites of the Party and the Government agencies", as decree Number 97/2008/ND-CP on managing and providing online information says.

"However, all 1,000 … have ignored the most important provision in the decree which says that use of the information must strictly adhere to the laws on information technology and copyright protection," Nguyen Van Bay of the Intellectual Property Agency said.

Le Quoc Minh, Editor-in-Chief of the Vietnam News Agency's online newspaper Vietnam Plus, said, "Copy-paste of articles and posting without permission has become common in Vietnam.

"People who set up news websites violate copyrights for profits. They ignore a principle that online content is free for reading not reusing."

In a review of the 15-year-old Press Law late last year, the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications admitted that copyright infringements have increased greatly.

Le Quoc Vinh, Chairman of the Le Media Joint-Stock Company, said copyright infringements are occurring for four reasons: failure to treat articles as products worth money, gaps in media policies that even end up condoning copyright violation, the legal requirement that news websites can be set up if they have permission from just five newspapers to use their content, and the lack of concern for copyright and copyright protection.

"Copyright protection should be taught in primary school," he said.

He blamed the situation also on the fact there are almost no fines for infringing copyrights.

"A copyright protection lawsuit is very complicated and takes a long time."

He suggested setting up a non-profit organisation for protecting media copyright under the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications with modern technology to uncover all copyright infringements and collect penal fees for plagiarised stories and other content.

He called for cancelling the licences of websites that often violate copyrights.

Le Xuan Trung, General Managing Editor of Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, said: "Tuoi Tre has set up a taskforce to observe and protect copyrights. When an infringement is found, an official letter is sent to warn the violators and threaten to sue them if they do not stop."

Tuoi Tre allows 70 newspapers, State offices, and scientific research and non-profit organisations to use its content, but refused permission to 80 others.

The workshop was organised by the Vietnam Journalists Association and the US consulate in the city.-VNA