updated 11/8/2006 8:54:18 PM ET 2006-11-09T01:54:18

Vietnam will increase fines for software piracy, moving quickly to implement its new World Trade Organization commitments, an official said Wednesday.

The top penalty for piracy is now the equivalent of $6,250, but the Ministry of Culture and Information is working on a decree that would raise that limit, said department director Vu Manh Chu. Individuals and companies using pirated software could be fined up to five times the value of the software when the new rule takes effect, he said.

In other words, a company that uses software with a value of $6,250 could be fined up to $31,250.

The WTO formally invited Vietnam to join the Geneva-based group on Tuesday, and the communist country is working to upgrade its laws and regulations to bring them in line with global standards.

"This demonstrates the resolve of the government to crack down on copyright violations as the country deepens its international economic integration," Chu said.

The decree will be submitted to the prime minister for approval later this year.

Vietnam's piracy rate is about 90 percent, one of the highest in the world, according to the Business Software Alliance. A version of Microsoft Windows can be bought for as little as 50 cents.

"We hope the decree will deter potential software pirates," Chu said.

Last month, authorities fined an affiliate of South Korea's Daewoo Corp. for using pirated software, the first time a corporate user of illegal software has been targeted in Vietnam.

Police and inspectors from the Ministry of Culture and Information raided the Hanoi-based Daewoo Hanel Electronic Corp., and discovered all the software installed in their computers was pirated.

The illegal software included copies of Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office and Auto CAD with a total value of nearly $62,000. The company, a joint venture between South Korea's Daewoo Corp., and Hanel, a local company, was ordered to pay a fine of $940.

When the new regulation takes effect, a company using software of that value could be fined as much as $312,000.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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