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China Faces Piracy Suit Over Censorship Software 113

Posted by kdawson
from the green-dam-blues dept.
angry tapir writes "Web software filtering vendor CyberSitter has filed a $2.2B lawsuit against the Chinese government, two Chinese software makers, and seven major computer manufacturers for their distribution of Green Dam Youth Escort, a controversial Web filtering package the Chinese government had mandated to be installed on computers sold there. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that Green Dam copied code from CyberSitter."
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China Faces Piracy Suit Over Censorship Software

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  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @10:43PM (#30664618)
    If the USA did this, it could remove itself from the lawsuit claiming "Sovereign Immunity" and it's game over. Are you telling us that China doesn't have this out clause?
    • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @10:48PM (#30664682) Homepage

      Are you telling us that China doesn't have this out clause?

      It does not have this clause in China, because in countries like that suing the government is as bizarre and unimaginable as, say, defecating on the Moon (without spacesuit).

      It does not have this clause in the US either — for entirely different reasons... If you were to RTFA, you would've known, that the suit was filed in the Los Angeles federal court.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by LostCluster (625375) *

        Asking the USA for a judgment against China? Sounds like even if they win they don't get anything.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mi (197448)

          Asking the USA for a judgment against China? Sounds like even if they win they don't get anything.

          China has plenty of assets in the US, which can be ceased, if the judge says so...

          • by lorenlal (164133) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @11:12PM (#30664924)

            So... Maybe a judge could "alter" the judgement such that the Chinese Government would actually owe over say.... $6 trillion? You know... in that whole punitive way?

            It'd certainly lower the burden of those interest payments our lovely federal government has to make... Even if only for a few months.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by lorenlal (164133)

              And to clarify... the punitive part would be awarded to the federal government in scenario above... Probably should've specified that.

              ^bad

            • There's no need going over this legal shit. You may as well just print the money and pay the debt ;-)
            • That would work brilliantly, until China does the exact same thing to us. The whole "being invested in other nations" thing works both ways. China owns plenty of US debt. Of course, that's assuming that us fucking over the entire relationship between us and china won't cause china to declare war. The main disincentive for war between us and china is that we depend on each other economically. If either country is stupid enough to collapse that link, we're all potentially fucked.
              • by causality (777677)

                That would work brilliantly, until China does the exact same thing to us. The whole "being invested in other nations" thing works both ways. China owns plenty of US debt. Of course, that's assuming that us fucking over the entire relationship between us and china won't cause china to declare war. The main disincentive for war between us and china is that we depend on each other economically. If either country is stupid enough to collapse that link, we're all potentially fucked.

                They knew we had the Federal Reserve and fiat currency before they lent all of that money to us.

              • The US debt might be what the US court declares impounded, that is, the US would (according to the US court) owe the money to plaintiff instead of China.

                The Chinese could claim they are not under US jurisdiction, and retaliate by impounding the US part of US-Chinese joint ventures in China.

                Possible consequences:
                -Other nations (especially China) would no longer buy US government securities because they don't trust the US anymore.
                -Dollar gets weaker, on top of the effects that "printing" lots of money by the

              • by mi (197448)

                Of course, that's assuming that us fucking over the entire relationship between us and china won't cause china to declare war.

                Let's hope, our Judiciary is duly independent from the Executive and thus unconcerned about matters of foreign policy...

            • (insert smiling Chinese here)

              Very well, we will pay. To do that we will have to call all our foreign debt due first. In other words, fork it over! You can't? It would cripple your economy and essentially make you bankrupt? Too bad. US, would you please be so kind and file for chapter 7?

              • Very well, we will pay. To do that we will have to call all our foreign debt due first. In other words, fork it over! You can't? It would cripple your economy and essentially make you bankrupt? Too bad. US, would you please be so kind and file for chapter 7?

                Chapter 7?

                Deal. Oh, sorry, looks like the US court that governs Chapter 7 determined that YOU actually owe us money, and flapjacks.

                (Honestly, do any of these lamebrained internet scenarious make a lick of sense?)

                • The whole idea of international debt makes little sense. Especially when the debitor is the one who has the ability to print the currency you're expecting to be paid in.

                  But I wouldn't trifle with China. You're after all dealing with your colonial power who has pretty much all your consumer and industrial products in their grasp. So China decides, since you don't wanna pay, they don't deliver to you anymore. What will happen? Well, you can start producing domestic again. Which cannot be done competitively. W

                  • The issue that always arises in these armchair economic general discussions is that people tend to go to the most extreme responses that seem designed to intentionally provoke the most extreme reactions. I think the only thing they prove is that if every actor in the scenario behaves in the most negative manner possible then every actor will end up screwed. (And eventually the quantity of nuclear weapons each actor posesses inevitably comes into play).

            • Sure, you'd just have to stop running a deficit on your government balance as after that, noone in the whole wide world would ever consider giving a loan to the US anymore.

              Think y'all could manage that?

            • by Benfea (1365845)
              How does one go about "ceasing" assets? Do you rub them out with a giant pencil eraser? Or did you mean "seize" their assets? :P
          • Not really, there's a little something called diplomatic immunity on the way.

            • You have absolutely no idea what the term "diplomatic immunity" means. I'd love to see your attempt to apply the legal principles behind that concept to the matter at hand.

              The phrase "this ought to be good" comes to mind.
          • by RiffRafff (234408)

            Asking the USA for a judgment against China? Sounds like even if they win they don't get anything.

            China has plenty of assets in the US, which can be ceased, if the judge says so...

            Or seized, even.

        • Umm.... is it possible in the US to reject a judge based on knowing he is biased? Although, in this case, it might be necessary to reject the court based on a biased position.

      • by abigor (540274) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @10:55PM (#30664776)

        Exactly. The makers of this software aren't hoping for a settlement. They just want to make the rights infringement public, and lawsuits attract publicity.

        Everyone knows that Chinese "programmers" cheerfully copy whatever they get their hands on. This lawsuit is the legal equivalent of a press release.

        • I know this is /. and bashing China gives you sweet free karma, but *I* am a Chinese programmer, you insensitive clod!
          • If programmers in China pirate, does that make you a Chinese programmer if you pirate? The US is filled with Chinese programmers!
          • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

            by BhaKi (1316335)

            I know this is /. and bashing China gives you sweet free karma

            I've observed that bashing Iran gives you sweeter Karma.

        • by jsse (254124) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @12:22AM (#30665536) Homepage Journal

          Exactly. The makers of this software aren't hoping for a settlement. They just want to make the rights infringement public, and lawsuits attract publicity.

          On top of making a publicity, it's actually a profitable move. It's so obvious(at least to civilians Chinese like me) the China Government is intending to create another listed company by giving monoplization power to a private company created Green Dam. Law suits like that, international or local, would greatly affect the risk profile and directly affect the estimation of stock value. For mutual benefit, that listed company would pay for the royality eventually. CyberSitter could cheerfully accept compensation as a settlement in the future.

          Everyone knows that Chinese "programmers" cheerfully copy whatever they get their hands on. This lawsuit is the legal equivalent of a press release.

          To tell you the true, in the case of Green Dam, these programmers are not copying codes, they copied the binary directly, and they don't even bother to change the company name in the executables. XD

          But you're right in the sentance "Chinese porgrammers cheerfully whatever they get their hands on". In fact, they're the huge supporter of opensource programming. (I'm recruiting opensource programmers there and I've never found short of them. :)

          • But you're right in the sentance "Chinese porgrammers cheerfully whatever they get their hands on". In fact, they're the huge supporter of opensource programming. (I'm recruiting opensource programmers there and I've never found short of them. :)

            In Communist China, closed source opens you?

          • by VoltageX (845249)
            Ah, but do they give back to the open source community? My experience with the AF9015/35 TV tuner drivers says no.
            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by Anonymous Coward

              From a Chinese dictionary:

              Free Software / Open Source - a term used by western barbaric white apes to denote a futile gesture of recognizing a superior culture by providing it with a token gift of source code, with no obligations, in attempt to claim participation in its great cultural advances.

      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by Larryish (1215510)

        defecating on the Moon (without spacesuit).

        I would be down with that.

        It could be like 2 girls, 1 cup... ON THE MOOOOOOOOOONNNNNN!!!!!!!

      • They aren't suing them in China, that'd be amazingly stupid. Instead they're suing the Chinese Government in Los Angeles, California, so it's just a publicity stunt.

        From TFA: 'Santa Barbara, California-based Solid Oak Software, which sells the Cybersitter program, filed the $2.2 billion civil action in federal court in Los Angeles. '

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by BitterOak (537666)

      If the USA did this, it could remove itself from the lawsuit claiming "Sovereign Immunity" and it's game over. Are you telling us that China doesn't have this out clause?

      Actually, sovereign immunity means you can't sue the government if they pass a law that affects you in a negative way. It doesn't give the government free reign to ignore existing laws. The government has to pay license fees for copyrighted material just like everyone else. Do you think the U.S. government didn't pay for all the copies of Microsoft Office it uses. (Granted they probably get a great deal on some sort of bulk licensing agreement, but still, I'm sure Microsoft gets paid.)

      • Whether or not the country is "allowed" to do something is entirely irrelevant. If the government has the force to back it up, it's allowed to do it. Unless you want to start an armed coup and overthrow the government based on a licensing snafu, you're shit out of luck if they decide that they don't want to pay you anything.
        • by cpghost (719344)

          Unless you want to start an armed coup and overthrow the government based on a licensing snafu,

          Why so extreme? There are a lot of punitive measures that can be leveraged against a foreign government, like protectionist tariffs etc... But in this special case, the US is in no position to strongarm their biggest creditor, because China could just as well flood the market with billions of USD in retaliation, letting the US economy crash and burn.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by AK Marc (707885)
            They'll wait another 20 years to do that. They haven't finished ripping off everything we have. The US didn't honor international copyrights and patents for years, when they were growing fast in the industrial revolution. Then, they became a powerhouse, and started protecting such things more tightly that most others. China is doing the same, and is about 100 years behind the US in that part of history. But when they catch up (shouldn't be more than 20 years from now) they can shift from the dollar to
        • by Zencyde (850968)
          This is a good point. I feel most people don't seem to realize that "allowed" comes with a sticker attached that says "with appropriate power." Countries only have power because populations give them power. Step outside the box for a second and there really aren't any rules.
      • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @11:49PM (#30665294)

        Sovereign immunity really does mean that you cannot sue the government for monetary damages for any reason, unless they explicitly consent to it. The reason Microsoft could sue the U.S. government for copyright violation is that the U.S. federal government has waived its immunity in advance, for wide classes of torts, via the Tucker Act [wikipedia.org] and Federal Tort Claims Act [wikipedia.org].

        In a much earlier era, the standard way for someone with a grievance against the U.S. government to collect on it was to file a petition with Congress, which would pass special-case legislation agreeing to pay them, if Congress felt that the person in question was indeed owed redress. The fundamental separation-of-powers justification is that an individual claiming that they're owed money is a request for money from the U.S. Treasury, and only Congress may appropriate such money.

        This obviously became rather tedious as the volume of claims increased, and didn't give a great perception of fairness, so in 1855 Congress delegated the hearing of most such claims to a newly created Court of Claims [wikipedia.org], a special court that served as essentially a claims-hearing arm of Congress (a "legislative" or "Article I" court, not a part of the judicial branch), which would report a recommendation back to Congress; Congress typically then appropriated the money as a sort of rubber-stamp, but was still technically in charge. The system gradually shifted to a more and more judicial one, first by having the U.S. Treasurer automatically dispense judgments from pre-appropriated money, and later increasingly by consenting to have claims heard in regular courts.

      • "Actually, sovereign immunity means you can't sue the government if they pass a law that affects you in a negative way. It doesn't give the government free reign to ignore existing laws."

        Maybe the OP was confusing Sovereign Immunity with The Supreme Court ;-)

    • Do you have proof that USA can do that? I mean they can in NATIONAL SECURITY issues, but they still pay "fair market value". At any other time, they pay what the market for a large company pays. So, where is your proof about America?
      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by LostCluster (625375) *

        Let me Wikipedia that for you... [wikipedia.org]

        It's not a perfect defense, but it is in many cases a excuse to end a case that the Feds or 50 States don't want to argue out.

        • Please show me where it says that the Feds will regularly steal something, not pay, and then claim immunity for it. Even now, if the feds take something, the courts will uphold that they must pay fair market value. Sovereign immunity is not used for theft of property.
    • Are you telling us that China doesn't have this out clause?

      They don't need a "clause". China is an aggressive authoritarian communist government; they do whatever they want until someone threatens to start shooting if they don't stop. I predict that the response will basically be "piss off" (albeit a bit more politely worded). If they are trying to embarrass the Chinese government then they will also achieve nothing. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if someone in the US government called CyberSitter and asked them to quietly drop it in the interest of not harming U

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @10:45PM (#30664638)

    It seems odd that a Chinese government-run effort would have to respect the American copyright laws... couldn't China just declare the work to be in the public domain as far as they're concerned?

    • by mi (197448)

      couldn't China just declare the work to be in the public domain as far as they're concerned?

      It could — in China. But the claimant can still go after whatever interests and assets the targets of the lawsuit have in the USA... And that is, what the claimant is doing — by filing the suit in the Los Angeles federal court.

    • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @10:54PM (#30664762)

      A lot of copyright laws are international, and China is a signatory. There are good business reasons to do this, even though such laws are frequently and casually violated in China, even moreso than in the USA.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by toastar (573882)

        They are a WIPO member, I think they've signed a couple copyright treaties

    • by hedwards (940851)
      There's literally trillions of dollars of Chinese government money in the US, it wouldn't be too tough to get whatever amount was won out of one of those sources. Or just seize it at the border as somebody's trying to take it back to China.

      They could try that, however, the Chinese need us a lot more than what you're suggesting. We're currently in a situation where we really can't afford to piss each other off too much. Evaporating those dollars would be devastating to the US, and calling the debt would c
    • China is signatory to the TRIPS [1] agreement, which is an international treaty on Intellectual Property rights. TRIPS is in turn a prerequisite requirement for WTO membership. In this case China really can't ignore copyright unless it's prepared to say good bye to the WTO -- which considering the amount of vested interests there, is close to impossible.

      [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agreement_on_Trade-Related_Aspects_of_Intellectual_Property_Rights [wikipedia.org]

  • The title says it all. So how would something like this be enforced to the losing party? Yeah I thought so.
    • by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @10:54PM (#30664768)

      Well, the USA could take that to the WTO... wait, we don't even respect the WTO anymore.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)
      You do realize that the Chinese state owns most of our debt, right? All the court would have to do is order the institutions holding the cash to release the appropriate sum to the winning party.
      • The actual amount is around $800 billion [wikipedia.org], or 23%. The rest of your point is right on, although getting into some kind of retaliation fight with China over this is probably not a great idea.
        • by gmhowell (26755)

          Go recheck that link. China's government holds about 23% of the US debt that is held by foreign governments, which is only about 25 percent of the total. At least how I'm reading that wikipedia article. The paragraph in question is a bit dense and not the clearest, mixing various standards and groups and percentages. But I am pretty sure that only a fraction of 25% is held by the Chinese.

          IOW, piss on 'em now rather than later.

          • Oops, you're right; I should have paid more attention. Of course $800 billion is not 25% of $12 trillion.

            In any case, it's just paper, so if we have to pay them back, they're the ones who get screwed.
  • Do you really think that they will pay this? They copy everything with total disregard for IP rights. Even if they succeed with this suit, how would they enforce it?
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @10:48PM (#30664684)

    1. Get the government to require your product be shipped with all computers, and used by all households with children.
    2. Make your product by stealing code to save on development costs.
    3. Bill the computer makers for license rights to the program you stole and the government requires, they can't turn you down or they're out of the PC business.
    4. PROFIT!!!

  • Going all the way back to 2005, China stated that it would take steps to comply with, and enforce copyright laws. See #1 under "Serious Challenges Remain" in this article. http://www.copyright.gov/docs/regstat052505.html [copyright.gov]
  • That is why China continues to have growth in GNP year after year.

    Time to reform the U.S. patent system, or even the entire legal system in general. Patents have done nothing except preventing truly creative inventions, especially when you have too many lawyers on the streets right now.

    For those who try to start a business, think twice. A single tiny wrong move means you will go to bankruptcy, lose your house, and end up bring your family into suicide.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ah yes, if only we abandoned the terror of "Intellectual Property", we too could have oppressive censorship software forced upon us. Why must we languish in such outdated technology as an uncensored Internet?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by cpghost (719344)

      Patents have done nothing except preventing truly creative inventions.

      Some inventions deserve to be prevented by patents. This case being an excellent illustration.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by matzahboy (1656011)
      This has nothing to do with patents... Also, how can anything in the digital world survive without intellectual property laws? They are what makes pirating illegal. One company thinks of a brilliant idea, and suddenly all their competitors have copied it identically. There would be 0 reason to put any money into R&D. I agree with you that patent law needs help. But you can't completely get rid of all intellectual property rights. Most companies innovate to make money. There is no economic reason to in
    • by Zenzilla (793153)
      That's why you start a business behind a LLC.
    • For those who try to start a business, think twice. A single tiny wrong move means you will go to bankruptcy, lose your house, and end up bring your family into suicide.

      Hyperbole much? Sure, things can go wrong, but it's quite rare that it ends in suicide.

      And yes, it's best to not bet the house on it.

      Also, China has a bit of a Machiavellian attitude about things, more so than any major power, even the US, IMO. Economic freedom is largely the main freedom there is in China.

    • For those who try to start a business, think twice. A single tiny wrong move means you will go to bankruptcy, lose your house, and end up bring your family into suicide.

      That's a load of bollocks. If you have assets to begin with, there are many ways to protect them from bankruptcy. Just ask Maddoff or O.J. Simpson. Create an LLC, create a Trust, start a Foundation, buy property in Florida (and stop making payments on your current house), take insurance, max out your pension/401K plan, put your assets under

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...a backdoor in your proprietary software. They could sell unblocking software that way.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @11:51PM (#30665318)
    Business in North America has realized that they can no longer compete with the developing world in resources, manufacturing or services, and the only way they can make money is by selling access to the intellectual and cultural property they have acquired rights to. So the movies, music, code, patents and any idea that business can get their hands on is something to be exploited for money. This is the reason for the ACTA negotiations: To create a world where such "intellectual property" created in North America can be peddled to the developing world to get the money back that we have been sending them for their cheap goods and cheap services.

    The problem is that average people in both the developing world and the developed world simply don't believe that draconian rules about so-called "intellectual property" are justified. Why do "artists" get to perform once and get paid over and over when regular people need to go to work every day to make a living? Is it not absurd to fine some 14-year old hundreds of thousands of dollars for a few songs on Kazaa? Why is it OK that copyright duration keeps getting extended over and over just so W*lt D*sney can keep making money recycling the same old tired stuff? It also seems that young people see no problem with sharing music with their friends, or making mix CDs or other reasonable use of music, since that music is broadcast free over the radio anyway. This is not to advocate piracy or law-breaking, but if people think that laws are too restrictive and unjust on what people can do with their copies of software, music and video and what they can do with new ideas they hear about then they will ignore those laws and do what's best for themselves.

    I understand the reason for this lawsuit and I wish the plaintiff well, but I suspect that in the long run there will be much more of this "intellectual property theft" and people will eventually realize that most people don't agree that it is a terrible crime to steal ideas or music or videos that can be easily shared or freely copied. Eventually the laws that try to enforce huge penalties for such "theft" will make about as much sense to the public as the old "Red Flag" laws that tried to nobble the automobile in a desperate attempt to protect the vested horse, stagecoach and railroad industries.

    the USA has a lot of debt in the hands of China. The only way to get out from under that debt in the USA is to figure out what they can sell to the Chinese to bring back all the $$$ that USA has paid for goods and services. I don't see how "intellectual property" can be the product that the Chinese want to pay for as it's easy to copy and share and historically that's what citizens and business are used to doing, both in the USA and in China.

    There ain't no easy answers.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Counterfeiting_Trade_Agreement [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_flag_laws [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_public_debt [wikipedia.org]

    (Yeah, I know it's only Wikipedia but I am AC after all)
    • AC, but the damned best post on slashdot since long. Chapeau!

    • by khchung (462899)

      The only way to get out from under that debt in the USA is to figure out what they can sell to the Chinese to bring back all the $$$ that USA has paid for goods and services.

      There are lots of things the Chinese would want to buy from the USA, e.g. high tech stuff. The problem is, the US govt refuse to let Chinese buy them (national security, etc) through export restrictions.

      Unfortunately for the US, they are no longer *the* leader in science and technology, and the Chinese can just buy the same stuff from Europe or Russia.

  • by Jenming (37265)

    It seems like the other defendants (at least the US ones) could be much easier targets than the Chinese government. Possibly the supply chain could be stopped at that level if China is unwilling to settle.

  • What's to stop someone from just reinstalling Windows when they get their new pc home anyways? How retarded. I bet every Chinese kid from age 5 up can do that. lol
  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @12:42AM (#30665678)

    So the short version is that an American company is suing the Chinese government because China is violating the basic human rights of its citizens without having a proper software license?

    I'm not sure which circle of Hell is reserved for a complete and total inversion of priorities, but I'm sure CyberSitter will find out.

  • Don't they understand that in China, the Chinese are virtually never guilty of copyright violations and foreign entities are almost automatically guilty upon accusation?
  • Quote Cory Doctorow: (Score:3, Informative)

    by cheros (223479) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @03:50AM (#30666702)

    The USA was a pirate nation for the first 100 years of its existence, ripping off the patents and trademarks of the imperial European powers it had liberated itself from with blood. By keeping their GDP at home, the US revolutionaries were able to bootstrap their nation into an industrial powerhouse. Now, it seems, their descendants are bent on ensuring that no other country can pull the same trick off.

    I could not have said it better, other than summarising it: hypocrites..

    • ...In the forefront of which is Hollywood ... built on a obscure peninsular as far away from the Movie industry patent holders as possible so they could make movies without paying them ....

  • Old as the hills [slashdot.org].

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