We all know that software piracy is rampant, especially in developing countries. Among the larger nations, China must be the largest consumer of such illicit products. A new development is the regulation that a particular screening software named Green Dam Youth Escort must come pre-installed on all systems sold in China. The regulations come into force in a fortnight’s time from July 1. Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said: “The purpose of this is to effectively manage harmful material for the public and prevent it from being spread….. The Chinese government pushes forward the healthy development of the internet. But it lawfully manages the internet.”
There is a limit to what the responsibilities of a government are. An initiative to remove all sex-screening ads from Indian search was laudable, for it helped fight the evil of female infanticide. But what is happening in China and has been happening for long now, is cyber dictatorship. You cannot browse any site that the government says you should not. Mr. Qin Gang added the software would filter out pornographic or violent material. There is no clear definition of those terms, so I wonder what all the fuss is all about. The internet is a source of knowledge, good and not so good, and it is left to the user’s discretion to decide between what to use and what to ignore. This type of patronising attitude on the government’s part is worrisome in that the users have no choice but to follow whatever the government does. We very well know bloggers who do not agree with the communist philosophy are sent to solitary confinement, and these bloggers have been intellects like professors and teachers.
Now to the point, the software named Green Dam Youth Escort is not actually their own product, but the rip-off a child internet safety software, Cybersitter made by a California based company Solid Oak.
“If China had gotten hold of free pirated copies of Microsoft’s Windows and told Dell and HP to put this on all computers you ship, you would hear a loud outcry. China has a very loose interpretation of what is intellectual property,” said Mr Brian Milburn of the Santa Barbara based company.
According to the BBC the company is contacting Dell, Hewlett-Packard and other computer makers to stop the compromised material from being shipped. Chinese programmers vehemently deny these facts, but cannot hide behind their veils these days. After all, the Chinese have reverse engineered Russian warfare technology, rebranded it and proclaimed it as their own. That is surely not indigenous, sir! It is plagiarism, and an act of theft committed knowing full well that you are making fools of the Russians who sold you that defence equipment.
I believe that this is the first instance of a government promoting use of pirated software, throwing to winds international laws on intellectual property rights.