Crack down on legal persons in breach of computer software ownership

09:46 | 20/03/2018 Science - Technology

(VEN) - The Vietnam Copyright Office recently dispersed letters to thousands of businesses across the country, recommending them to revisit uses of computer software at their own establishments, and adhere to existing copyright laws and regulations, which also helps avoid cyberattack risks.  

crack down on legal persons in breach of computer software ownership

In the letter to the businesses, Mr. Bui Nguyen Hung, head of the Vietnam Copyright Office, stressed: “Over the years, enforcement and protection of copyrights and related rights, particularly computer software copyrights have achieved impressive results. Nevertheless, computer software piracy is still on-going in different forms and at varying degrees of abuse. This is mostly attributed to the poor awareness and responsiveness for law compliance of many individuals and organizations that use and benefit from computer programs.”

For the first time in the penal legislation history in Vietnam, the Penal Code of 2015 has added penal obligations for commercial legal persons. Accordingly, starting from Jan. 1, 2018, commercial legal persons will be held penally accountable for the wrongdoings they commit. Specifically, commercial legal entities will bear penal obligations for violation of copyrights or related rights, and abuse of brand names and geographic indicators.

As established in Article 225, 2015 Penal Code, regarding violation of copyrights and related rights, private individuals committing this offense will be subject to a 3-year non-custodial sanction or jail term of up to five years. Commercial legal entities found guilty of this misconduct will be levied a fine of 300 million up to a billion dong. Recidivism by twice or more, and foul-play commodities worth of 500 million dong or more may be subject to a financial fine of VND3 billion or suspension of operation for up to two years. Besides that, various penalties may also apply to a single commercial legal person, such as suspension of business, moratorium, banned activities in specific areas, and fund raising ban.

The revised Penal Code is also more explicit on the red flags signaling misconducts related to intellectual property rights. In addition to indications “on a commercial scale”, the revised Penal Code also makes use of other signals to resolve intellectual property rights infringements, including illicit interests, and losses/damages to the copyright holders/owners. Additionally, the historical criminal record or civil offense record of the corporate wrongdoer will also be used as legal ground to address a misconduct. Now with these red flags made more specific, copyright owners as well as relevant regulatory authorities will deal with intellectual property right infringements more easily.

Mr. Bui Nguyen Hung also informed that, every year, the Copyright Office sends out written reminders to businesses regarding use of licensed computer software and gives advisory about a primary cause of information system incidents that happen in many firms involving the use of computer programs of dubious sources, resulting in computers affected with malwares.

Sources familiar with the Ministry of Culture-Sports-Tourism reveal that interagency scrutiny taskforces audited 63 businesses and imposed financial fines amounting to VND1.56 billion in 2017. Mr. Pham Cao Thai, Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Culture-Sports-Tourism said: “Every year, the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Culture-Sports-Tourism disperses thousands of reminders to businesses, calling for proactive review of their information technology systems and preparation of relevant documentation justifying license ownership for all the software they are using or distributing, and advising businesses that non-compliance with existing laws on copyrights and related rights may expose them to administrative liabilities or penal obligations, while at the same time may also make Vietnamese firms less competitive than their regional counterparts.”

Changing cross-border commerce is embracing increasing numbers of global standards, requiring manufacturers and suppliers to manifest that they have been using proper and adequate genuine third party computer software, in an effort to guarantee legitimacy, confidence and security in global trade. Indeed, the most recent updates of the 2015 Penal Code, with hardened punitive sanctions for infringements of copyrights and related rights, including computer software ownerships, have refreshed the government’s resolve in combating copyright abuse in Vietnam.

Uyen Ly