Pirates Get Blacked Out

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IP protection and pirated products get a lot of attention in China, but never more so than in the software and DVD market. Xinhua notes some follow-up on Microsoft’s latest anti-piracy tool:

    “Microsoft on Thursday issued a public letter defending its “black out” tool to stamp out piracy in China and attempting to clear up “misunderstandings” over the measure.

    The software giant’s program turns computer “desktops” black if the installed software fails a validation test, but it has been met with fury by Chinese computer users and renewed complaints over the price of genuine software… “

    “The black screen teaches us a better lesson than all preaching,” said Ni Guangnan, a leading researcher at the Institute of Computing Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering.

    “Now people understand why China needs its own software, especially basic programs…. Aren’t worse things likely to happen in the future?” Ni asked.

Ni is probably right that worse things may happen in the future, but is wrong to suggest it will simply be because of a foreign company’s software. We have already seen a rise in Chinese intellectual property development, and Chinese companies are starting to protect themselves, just like foreign brands have long done.

Microsoft has a dominant position in the market (to the point where there has been talk of an aniti-monopoly investigation), and piracy helped ensure, to some extent, that local rivals had trouble developing a commercial alternative. With the position they enjoy, they may be able to afford a few tricks like this. But, as others have found, consumer activities can make a lot of noise by playing the nationalism card.

In any event, as Stan Abrams at China Hearsay hsuggested:

    “The one problem: like all technology solutions to date, some kid in Shenzhen will be coming out very soon with a patch/crack to rollback the security measures in the update and stop the campaign. Maybe it will take a few days, though, and then it might take another few days/weeks before the app is widely distributed.”

Sure enough, the patches are already reported to be out there…

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