“Free” might not really mean free, but an operating system that doesn’t require user licenses makes it a lot easier to avoid piracy, in accordance with a four-year-old government push to get Chinese companies to respect intellectual property.
Since Linux doesnt require user licenses, its also a way to combat software piracy, which is an epidemic in China.
Under pressure from the world community and from local technology companies and other industry sectors, China has started thinking about cleaning up its act.
A recent study by the International Data Corp. and the Business Software Alliance found that 90 percent of all software used in China was pirated.
Altogether, software vendors claim that they suffered $3.5 billion in losses last year due to Chinese piracy.
“Recently, the Chinese government has begun the promotion of legal software,” said Shouqun Lu, chairman of the China Open Source Software Federation.
“In the past, Linux wasnt mature enough, but now the situation has changed. It still isnt a total replacement for Microsoft, but it is an additional choice for users. And the cost to purchase Microsoft products is very high. It will cost much less if you use Linux.”
It takes a lot of work to do this. One hopeful sign, albeit a small one, is that Chinas 2004 piracy rate was two percentage points lower than in 2003, where it tied for first place in piracy rates. In 2004, China was third after Vietnam and the Ukraine.
The Chinese government has been paying attention to intellectual property rights in the area of software since 2001, said Qi Zhang, who heads the ministrys electronics and information products department.