Copyright violations remain a serious problem in Vietnam despite a plethora of laws, especially with movies being pirated through the internet, causing losses of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Speaking at a workshop titled "Copyright protection for movie and TV programmes in digital era” in Ho Chi Minh City on April 23, Phan Vu Tuan, a lawyer and office manager of the Intellectual Property Association (IPA), said that not everybody wants to pay for movies/TV programmes they can watch for free.

"Besides, many websites can make huge profits due to the feeble copyright protection,” he said, "and the most important thing is producers do not know how to protect their products."

There are many websites allowing viewers to watch or download movies and TV programmes online for free and making money from advertisements. None of them indicate that they possess copyrights for any of them.

Vietnam has enacted many laws to protect intellectual property, which make internet service providers responsible for online content.

Pham Thi Kim Oanh, deputy head of the Vietnam Copyright Office, said that the country has many multilateral and bilateral agreements and treaties related to copyright protection, such as Berne for literature, arts and science; Rome for video and sound recording; Geneva for music producers; Brussels for programme transfer through satellite; and TRIPS for intellectual property related to trade.

She said copyright owners should apply modern technology to protect themselves, complain to relevant authorities in case of violations, and be ready to go to the court.

"Laws also stipulate fines of 250 million VND (12,000 USD) for copyright violations by individuals and 500 million VND (24,0000 USD) by organisations," she added.

But she warned that laws cannot cover all the violations since in the digital era, they are becoming more and more complicated and users do not want to pay.

Nguyen Van Vien, IPA Chairman, said widespread copyright violations will hurt the development of the country in the context of global integration and the knowledge-based economy.

"Copyrights have become more and more important in the digital and integration era. We have to learn from other nations to improve the situation," Vien said.

Jung Tae-sun, Director General of the Republic of Korea-owned CJ E&M Vietnam, spoke about how his country dealt with copyright violations.

According to Jung, in 2011, the Republic of Korea (RoK) watched around 2.7 billion copyright violations. Pirated products were worth around 4 billion USD. Authorities increased the penalties for copyright violations by comprehensively changing the law. The country also launched the Illegal Content Obstruction Programme which automatically tracks contents downloaded from the internet and stops the process.

"Many kinds of copyright violations have been eradicated by the programme," Jung affirmed.

The two countries have stepped up co-operation for copyright protection since January this year, with the RoK Copyright Centre opening a representative office in Vietnam.-VNA