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Chinese firms using legal software increase 53% in 5 weeks
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China saw a 53 percent increase in the number of firms using copyrighted software, bringing the total since new laws came into action in April, 2006 to 2,300. The figure was released by the National Copyright Administration (NCA) over the Spring Festival period, and highlighted an increase from 1,500 in December 2007 to 2,300 by the Spring Festival, February 7 this year.

However, no-one was available from the NCA to comment on why the figure had risen so sharply over such a short period. In April 2006, NCA with eight other ministries jointly issued a circular promoting legal use of software among large companies. As part of a crackdown on pirated software, the government ordered municipal and local authorities to buy computers with pre-installed legitimate software and required all domestic and imported computers to be sold with legitimate software pre-installed to prevent software piracy at source.

Central and provincial governments have investigated 3,600 enterprises. More than 1,100 companies have faced penalties for using pirated software, Liu Binjie, director of the General Administration of Press told a conference in Dec. 2007. Sales of legitimate software in China have benefited as a result. Microsoft, for instance, projected in April last year a 20 percent rise for the year's sales in China due to a combination of government anti-piracy efforts and new products.

China's software industry registered a 23.1 percent rise in sales from 390 billion yuan (52.77 billion U.S. dollars) in 2005 to 480 billion yuan in 2006. China has consistently worked against piracy, destroying pirated books and DVDs, cracking down on peddlers selling counterfeit products and raiding factories churning out fakes. Statistics from the Supreme People's Court indicate that Chinese courts handled 769 IPR cases in 2006 and prosecuted 1,212 offenders, up 52.2 percent and 62.21 percent, respectively, from 2005.

The top court has ordered stricter penalties for IPR violators, saying "all illegal gains and manufacturing tools of IPR violators should be confiscated and their pirated products destroyed." The top court even stepped up the fight against intellectual piracy by lowering the threshold to prosecute people manufacturing or selling counterfeit intellectual property products.

The interpretation issued by the top court last April states that anyone who manufactures 500 or more counterfeit copies (discs) of computer software, music, movies, TV series and other audio-video products can be prosecuted and imprisoned for up to seven years. The new rules also widen the definition of a "serious IPR offender" -- anyone who produces more than 2,500 counterfeit copies can now be thrown into jail for up to seven years. Fines for convicted counterfeiters were also raised, to range from one to 15 times the illegal earnings, or from 50 to 200 percent of the business turnover.

(Xinhua News Agency February 11, 2008)

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