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Microsoft’s Anti-Piracy Program Under Fire In China

October 28, 2008

A leading Chinese copyright official on Monday said he disagrees with a new program launched by Microsoft aimed at ending the use of counterfeit versions of its Windows operating system.

Launched last week, the “Windows Genuine Advantage” program turns the background of the Windows operating system’s desktop black if the software fails a validation test.

The new program has angered many of China’s 200 million computer users, most of which are assumed to be using counterfeit software, unwittingly or not.

National Copyright Administration (NCA) Vice-Director Yan Xiaohong said his agency supported “the rights-safeguarding move taken by institutions including Microsoft.”

But companies should “pay attention to the methods,” Yan said. “Whether the ‘black-out’ method should be adopted is open to question. Measures for safeguarding rights also need to be appropriate,” Yan told Xinhua news agency.

As soon as news of the new program broke, Chinese bloggers began to react in disapproval.

“Why is Microsoft automatically connected with my computer? The computer is mine!” one angry blogger wrote on popular Chinese web portal Sina.com. “Microsoft has no right to control my hardware without my agreement.”

Another Chinese computer user asked who would return his losses if and when the computer screen went black.

“If, when I’m programming, the computer screen goes black, that will probably cause some important information to be lost,” he said from a Beijing Internet caf©. “Who will pay me for my loss then?”

Dong Zhengwei, 35, a Beijing lawyer, said Microsoft the “biggest hacker.” He added that the company was abusing its market power and had filed a complaint to China’s trade watchdog, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the China Daily said in separate report.

“Microsoft should be fined $1 billion,” he said.

“I respect the right of Microsoft to protect its intellectual property, but it is taking on the wrong target with wrong measures. They should target producers and sellers of fake software, not users.”

The Business Software Alliance and market research firm IDC reported in The Global Software Piracy Study that software piracy contributed to nearly $40 billion in global losses.

Yan said Microsoft needs to tailor its program to meet the needs of Chinese computer users.

“The company adopted unified prices in the past without considering the income gap between developed and developing countries, so we need to kindly remind them that Chinese customers’ affordability should be considered.”

Microsoft responded to Yan’s comments in a statement on Tuesday saying that it appreciated “the NCA’s understanding and support on efforts made by right holders including Microsoft to protect IPR.”

“Building a market environment that respects intellectual property rights is critical to the development of the entire software industry and of knowledge economy in China.”

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