Public pressure on Microsoft over its controversial anti-piracy campaign in China has been stepped up with news that a Beijing man is taking the software giant to court to uphold the principle of the integrity of his computer.
The man, surnamed Liu, said he was not seeking damages, but just demanding that Microsoft remove a notice that he has been the victim of software piracy from his desktop.
The court has yet to announce whether it will hear the case, which could set a precedent for thousands of other Chinese computer owners to demand the restoration of their software.
"Microsoft has no right to judge whether the installed software is pirated or not. It has no right to penalize users by intruding on their computers," said Liu, who lodged his suit at Haidian District People's Court.
Meanwhile, the China Computer Federation has issued a public statement condemning the Microsoft moves, which include a program that blacks out the desktop window if it detects pirated software and permanent warnings on screens.
The federation statement said the company breached the basic ethics of software developers with the unsolicited remote control of computers.
"If a company believes others have infringed their intellectual property rights, it can collect evidence and take judicial measures to deal with the infringement according to Chinese law," the statement said.
"It is improper to take illegal measures to deal with (piracy), and the public will not accept the black screen move."
The federation suggested that the government order Microsoft to stop the screen black-outs and investigate foreign monopolies in China's software market. It warned that national security was threatened if the country lacked its own computer operating systems and office applications.
Meanwhile, Dong Zhengwei, a 35-year-old Beijing lawyer, has made a submission to the State Administration for Industry and Commerce suggesting a fine of US$1 billion for Microsoft.
He also asked anti-monopoly authorities to investigate the "black screen" move and order the company to desist, after complaining to the Ministry of Public Security that the Microsoft move was the "biggest hacking activity in China infringing on privacy and damaging information security".
A source from the administration said it would look into the application, without giving more information.
A Microsoft spokesman said the company, according to its practice, would not comment on lawsuits.
Microsoft launched the "Windows Genuine Advantage" (WGA) and "Office Genuine Advantage" (OGA) tools last week to test the legitimacy of the software in China's computers. Those whose software failed the tests would see a black desktop or a permanent warning of pirated Office software.
Although the company repeated it would not collect personal information with the tools, which would not affect computer use, controversy over the move has escalated.
The headline-hitting incident also triggered on-line surveys on almost every major portal website. The majority of respondents said they were unhappy with the move.
Ni Guangnan, a researcher at the Institute of Computing Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering academician, said, "Now people understand why China needs its own software, especially basic programs ... Aren't worse things likely to happen in the future?".
National Copyright Administration vice-director Yan Xiaohong told Xinhua on Monday, "The administration understands and supports the rights-protection moves taken by institutions, including Microsoft."
But he pointed out that they should "pay attention to the methods".
"Whether the 'black-out' method should be adopted is open to question. Measures for safeguarding rights need to be appropriate, We've paid great attention to the 'black-out' issue, so do many experts," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency October 28, 2008)