They also criticised lawmakers for failing to put effective measures in place to control breaches of copyright.

A conference on the issue was held in the capital on Tuesday by the Ha Noi Market Watch. The director of the Thai Ha Book Company, Nguyen Manh Hung, questioned why unauthorised books are displayed and sold in public without the sellers receiving any punishment.

Hung brought a selection of unauthorised books copied from his company's publications and demonstrated how size, price and quality were all worse than the authorised versions.

"I do not know who should be responsible for managing this situation. It could be the Police, the Market Watch, the Publishing Department, the Copyright Department, the Ministry of Information and Communications or the Ministry of Education and Training," he said.

Nguyen Dang Quang, former deputy director of the Education Publishing House, agreed with Hung and said that inspections have shown that unauthorised books are sold throughout the country.

He suggested that publishing houses could protect themselves by using anti-counterfeit stamps.

In Ha Noi, Nguyen Xi and Dinh Le streets in Hoan Kiem District, and Pham Van Dong and Tran Quoc Hoan streets in Cau Giay District are well known to book lovers as they can buy many unauthorised books at prices discounted up to 50 per cent compared to authorised ones.

Statistics provided by the Ministry of Information and Communications' Publishing Department show that there are 1,500 printing enterprises in the country now, ten times the 160 such businesses that existed in 2004.

The ministry has claimed that only about a third of these enterprises are operating within the terms of the Publishing Law and Decree, and others are taking advantage of loopholes and a lack of clarity in the regulations.

Pham Trung Thong, head of the Printing Management Division under the Ministry's Publishing Department, admitted that illegal printing has been on the rise despite efforts to stop the trend.

He called for stronger punishments, arguing that the highest administrative fine of VND40 million (US$1,900) and the highest penalty of one year imprisonment were nothing to violators. He added that inspections need to be more effective, and laws and regulations need to be reviewed and completed to help govern the issue.

"There are currently no statistics available showing how many unauthorised books are being printed each month, but it is obvious that illegal book barons can earn great profits," he said.

Director of the Ha Noi Market Watch Nguyen Thi Nhu Mai said that from now until the end of this year the department would set up many inspection teams to check printing enterprises and book shops in the city.

In the first six months of this year, the Ha Noi Department of Information and Communications conducted three inspections, and fined two companies VND15 million ($700) each for printing books without a contract to do so.

They also confiscated books worth a total of VND450 million ($21,600) and destroyed 5,200kg of books which had no certification of their origin.

VietnamNet Bridge - November 17, 2012