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April 10, 2006

Progress against piracy?

Posted by Kristi Heim at 5:39 PM

Chinese authorities announced a step toward reducing software piracy today, requiring manufacturers to ship new computers pre-loaded with legitimate operating system software. Many Chinese computers are sold without any software installed because consumers want them that way. It's easy to buy and install pirated versions of Microsoft Windows and other programs, sold on the street for less than $1 a copy.

But a government order issued last month requires all domestic and imported computers to be sold with legitimate operating system software pre-installed, according to China's National Copyright Administration. The regulation does not specify which software is to be used, and Microsoft has competition from Kingsoft, Linux and others. It does require software providers to give computer makers favorable prices and services, a hint that regulators don't want the price tag jumping $100 or more just for the software.

Microsoft has long pressed PC makers in China to agree to install legitimate software, and it made some progress recently with companies such as Lenovo. "We applaud the Chinese government for taking this significant step toward ensuring the use of genuine software in China, and for promoting a healthy intellectual property environment, which we believe is vital for China to realize its full potential as an innovation leader," the company said in a statement. But like any law in China, its effectiveness depends on enforcement.

The timing of the announcement was planned to coincide with a visit by Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi to the U.S. as she tries to defuse trade tensions and smooth the way for Chinese President Hu Jintao's official visit next week.

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