Although it will send a message that being a blatant pirate has its problems the sentencing of Hong Lei, seen below, maker of Tomato Gardens, China’s most popular pirated edition of Windows XP, to 3.5 years in the slammer will not stop software piracy in Asia.
This verdict did not sit well with the internet community. According to Sina.com, more than 90% of users they surveyed are or were users of Tomato Garden pirate editions. And 79% said they were on Tomato Garden’s side. Less than 5% said they supported Microsoft.
Hong, author of the Tomato Garden Windows XP, in which he disabled the authentication and certification process, was sentenced by the People’s Court of Huqiu District in Suzhou. He was also fined RMB1 million ($146,400).
Hong and his partners offered downloads of the Windows XP Tomato Garden Edition to at least 10 million users for free and made profits from advertisements around the offer. In other words, this was not just piracy, this was piracy on a very grand scale.
The Chengdu Gongruan Networking Technology, which ran the download website, had its income of RMB2.92 million confiscated and was fined RMB8.77 million.
Hong set up the tomatolei.com site in 2004 and created the Tomato Garden version of the Windows XP, which soon became one of China’s most popular pirated software system. Note that it took four years to get the most blatant piracy site into court.
China Daily said that the Business Software Alliance, of which Microsoft is a member and, indeed, the prime mover and at one time the principal financier, complained to China’s National Copyright Administration and the Ministry of Public Security about the copyright infringement of Hong’s team.
Will this stop the sale of pirated software? No. It will just make it more discreet.
The bigger question is whether the major software companies would like to see all pirated software disappear.
On this they are somewhat ambivalent.
If you take new staff into an office, you can work on the basis they are familiar with Windows, pirated copy or not. Thus, they are coming into an enviroment in which they are comfortable, where they already know the system intimately.
Yesterday, this writer went to a major organization which had switched over to Linux, which is as near free as dammit. After a year in operation, there were still problems because users were saying, "But this is not the way it works in Windows".
If every pirated copy of Windows was removed from the earth, Microsoft would find itself with major problems because companies would face a choice in operating systems. And Linux, or one of its derivates, would financially be the far better choice.