These websites include www.thuvien-ebook.com, www.ebook4u.vn and www.vnthuquan.net store thousands of electronic books used for downloads and reading.

Quoting Tre Publishing House director Pham Sy Sau, the news agency said that said most ebook-sharing websites violated copyrights, which had not been treated as seriously as it should be.

Nguyen Quynh Trang, a young writer said: "When I was surfing the internet I found my novel, 1981, on a website. As they had typed it, there were a lot of typos and wrong paragraph splits, which lead to incorrect content."

Duong Thu Ai, a 75-year-old translator and author of nearly 200 books, said: "About 30-40 websites have published my work. They have never sought my permission."

Frequent website reader Nguyen Ngoc Minh said: "The advantage of ebooks is saving space and money. I don't think copyright law is effective in Viet Nam."

Nguyen Quynh Trang said authors and publishing houses were direct victims of illegal ebook sharing on the internet.

In the long term, copyright violation had a huge effect on the publishing industry and society, said Nguyen Vu Phuong, a senior official of the Viet Nam Literary Copyright Centre.

"If we put ourselves in the authors' shoes, we will understand how painful and discouraging it must be when their works are easily distributed by a click, while they rarely receive any acknowledgement, let alone monetary compensation," he said.

"If writers continually receive such treatment, they will not be motivated to create works of great value. Society's creativity will eventually be degraded," said Phuong.

Because illegal book-copying was prevalent in Vietnam, many foreign partners hesitated to enter copyright deals with Vietnamese publishing houses, to the detriment of the local industry, he said.

To Van Phong, head of the Copyright Section for Literary and Art Works - Copyright Office of Viet Nam, said: "Any copies of original works without consent are illegal under Provision 28 of the Intellectual Property Law.

We cannot decide whether websites have or haven't violated copyright. Only when authors or publishing houses start legal action can we investigate."

Tre's Sau said most publishing houses tried to avoid legal action - a time-consuming process which required a lot of work while the result was not clear-cut as the ruling body might not be familiar with relevant laws.

Phuong said to find a solution suitable to Vietnamese culture and the average young person's ability to pay wasn't simple.

"Vietnam's very young population craves knowledge and most is gained from books. Not many young people can afford books from big stores. Because the content is what they want, they try to get it as cheaply as possible, free if possible," he said.

"That's why the solution, to be effective, should benefit readers and authors."

The copyright centre has worked to find a technology and market solution. One proposal is to establish online stores where readers pay a reasonable amount to read books.

"The fee is likely to be small. Our aim is to help readers build a habit of paying while we can accumulate money to compensate authors," said Phuong.

The centre was working with its technology partners, including Lac Viet and Viettel, to launch a pilot online ebookstore within a few months.

Payment by SMS was being considered. It would allow readers to send an SMS to a special number to sustain their ebookstore accounts.

"If the system is user-friendly, maybe I will give it a try," ebook reader Minh said.

While many Vietnamese are unfamiliar with copyright law, the giant search engine Google has suggested establishing a book search settlement with Vietnamese authors who make the centre their representative.

Under the scheme, Google would compensate authors, including Vietnamese, whose books were digitised without permission since 2004.

the centre hoped the deal between Vietnamese authors and Google would put the copyright issue in Viet Nam in the spotlight.

Bernama - August 25, 2009