Piracy was the issue of the month as Microsoft swung into action, filing a complaint with China's copyright authorities against three companies for stealing. The curtain-raiser, though, was Vice Minister of Commerce Zhang Zhigang's announcement September 1 that China had seized two million compact discs in the first six months of the year.
He called it China's biggest sweep yet on piracy. Certainly, the government didn't spare the manpower, deploying 13,000 staff to investigate 8,000 CD dealers. Fines meted out totaled RMB 30 million (US$3.6 million). While the campaign was seen as a further response to US pressure to end copying of software and films, the results of the dragnet must have looked paltry to anyone who cared. According to the Business Software Alliance, the industry watchdog created by Microsoft and other big software houses, 90% of software used in China is stolen.
With the air charged with piracy talk, US Commerce Under Secretary Grant Aldonas arrived in Beijing and met with Deputy Prime Minister Wu Yi, who had vowed in an April technology summit that China would redouble its anti-piracy efforts.
The Americans might wish instead for the sterner hand Beijing reserves for purveyors of porn. A new law that took effect early last month empowers courts to hand out life sentences to anyone convicted of posting porn on the Internet. The new measure came on the heels of a summer sweep in which authorities tracked down and closed 700 alleged porn sites, arresting over 200.
Doing a little investigating of its own on the non-porn front, Microsoft Corp said it had filed complaints with the copyright bureau against Beijing Zhong Xin Lian, Tianjin Tian Bao Guang Die and Tianjin Minzu Wenhua Guang Die for unauthorized copying of its software.
The bureau said it would seek to prosecute if it is found that any of the three copied and sold software without Microsoft's clearance. One company is alleged to have been making 20,000 pirated disks a day. One source close to the investigation called the evidence glaring.
Reports said the fake makers, suspected of shipping disks into the US, might be linked to the military and other groups.