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China Cracks Down On Software Piracy

Inspectors will sweep local and central government computers to combat rampant illegal copying of software and other goods, including DVDs, CDs and apparel.

The Chinese government has embarked on a major crackdown on illegal copying of software and other goods a day after the U.S. government shut down 82 websites for a similar reason.

For the next six months, Chinese copyright inspectors will be examining local and central government computers to make sure they are using only genuine software from original manufacturers, according to Xinhua, the country's official news agency.

The government should complete the sweep of central government computers by May of next year, officials said. Businesses also will be subject to a campaign by the government to prevent them from using illegal software, according to Xinhua.

Software piracy is rampant in China; it's one of the countries Microsoft and other U.S. software vendors often target with their own anti-piracy investigations.

Still, Chinese officials Tuesday tried to show that the country is making progress on efforts to use only genuine software.

At a press conference announcing the crackdown, Yang Xueshan, vice minister of industry and information technology, said that more than 98% of government computers were pre-installed with licensed operating systems in 2009, according to Xinhua.

Central government organizations in China spent 794 million yuan, or $119 million, on genuine software purchases from 2007 to 2009, according to the news agency.

These efforts by the government to use genuine software may not have much of an effect on the overall problem in China, however. The Business Software Alliance (BSA), which studies the effect of software piracy on the global software market, said that 79% of software used in China last year was copied illegally.

The group estimates that the worldwide piracy rate increased from 41% in 2008 to 43% in 2009 and cited China -- alongside Brazil and India -- as one of the fast-growing piracy markets responsible for the jump. In all, $51.4 billion worth of unlicensed software was put into the global market in 2009, according to the BSA.

Pirated software isn't the only thing Chinese authorities said they are going after. Officials Tuesday said the government also will ramp up efforts to stop the distribution of counterfeit medicine over the Internet, according to Xinhua.

China's crackdown on piracy comes a day after the U.S. government seized 82 websites for selling counterfeit or pirated goods.

A joint operation between the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency shut down domains that were selling an array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel and sunglasses, according to the agencies. The sites also illegally offered copyrighted materials, such as DVDs, software and CDs.

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