Vietnamese publisher sues Lazada for allowing sales of pirated books

By Mai Nhat, Dat Nguyen   September 9, 2020 | 08:30 pm PT
Publisher First News has sued e-commerce platform Lazada, charging it with repeatedly abetting the sales of pirated books and ignoring its warnings.

The Ho Chi Minh City-based company announced on Wednesday that it had filed a suit in the District 1 People’s Court against the e-commerce company for allowing merchants to sell fake copies of its bestsellers.

Its CEO, Nguyen Van Phuoc, said the issue had been raised with Lazada for the last 12 months by sending it documents and evidence of counterfeiting.

But the subsidiary of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba did not make any effort to stop the selling of the pirated books, and the issue had in fact worsened, he said.

The fakes sold on Lazada cost half the original prices, and his company has received hundreds of complaint letters from customers about them, he said.

Some of the fake titles include the self-help classic "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by American writer Dale Carnegie and the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series.

First News allows customers to trade their fake books for originals, but "we cannot keep doing that forever," Phuoc said.

A fake copy of a First News book (right) placed next to the original. Photo by VnExpress/Mai Nhat.

A fake copy of a First News book (right) placed next to the original. Photo by VnExpress/Mai Nhat.

In the suit, the publisher has demanded that Lazada remove all fake books and stop allowing their sale in future.

Lazada Vietnam said in a statement on Wednesday that all merchants on its platform are required to comply with local laws and piracy would be punished according to the law. But it did not make any reference to First News’ allegations.

First News said last year 686 of its titles were counterfeited and sold on e-commerce platforms. It had organized two public events last year just to furnish evidence against book piracy.

It has not revealed its losses due to piracy, but Phuoc said without it the company’s revenues could have been dozens of times higher in the last 15 years.

First News was established in 1994, and has published or distributed over 2,000 titles so far.

Vietnamese publishers have in recent years been grappling with widespread illegal reproduction of books.

HCMC-based Tre Publishing House last year discovered a pirated version of its book, "Japanese For Everyone," being sold on Tiki, a Vietnamese e-commerce platform. The website later suspended the account of the fake book seller.

Publishers lament that e-commerce platforms often deny their involvement in the selling of pirated books, claiming they are merely intermediaries who provide trading space and do not store the goods themselves.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade requires e-commerce sites to remove all information related to counterfeit goods if they receive complaints backed by evidence.

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