China’s Answer to Software Piracy

Microsoft’s worries about software piracy are finally over.  The Chinese authorities have acted.  It’s called “problem solving with Chinese characteristics.”  The solution comes in a package called Red Flag Linux, a home-grown operating system which does most of the things Windows XP does.  But this is only half of the solution.  The other half comes with rigorous enforcement and a price tag of 5,000 RMB (about U.S. $726).  It’s a rip off (a new, legitimate copy of Windows XP costs around 910 RMB in China).  We all know that.  But it seems some Internet cafes in China will not have a choice.  A radio free Asia report says:

Authorities in the southeastern Chinese city of Nanchang are requiring all local Internet cafes to replace their Microsoft Windows XP operating systems with a Chinese-made system, Red Flag Linux, according to officials and Internet cafe owners.

An official with the Nanchang Cultural Discipline Team, which oversees the roughly 600 Internet cafes operating in Nanchang city, said the new operating systems were mandatory.

“We have already started installing the new software in all Internet cafes. All of them must have this new one,” the official said.

The switch was mandated by the Nanchang Cultural Management Bureau in what it said was an effort to crack down on pirated software, local sources said.

Red Flag Linux’s developer confirmed for the RFA report that the operating system is a freeware that can be downloaded free for personal use.  That makes one wonders why the Nanchang Cultural Discipline Team is charging such a hefty registration fee for its installation.  How much of the charge goes to the software developer and how much to local authorities in Nanchang?

The Associated Press also carries a report on this story.  In a telephone interview with AP, a spokesperson from Nanchang’s Junlin Internet Cafe confirms that officials replaced all pirated software they were using during a visit last month. The interviewee declined to identify the new operating system but said the new regulations had increased costs “dramatically”.

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