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Judge Rules Against China In 'Green Dam' Suit 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the china-shrugs dept.
An anonymous reader writes "About a year after Cybersitter sued the Chinese government and several Asian OEMs for allegedly copying its code to create the 'Green Dam' software, a US federal judge has allowed the $2.3 billion suit to proceed. Judge Josephine Staton Tucker, a California district judge, entered a judgement of default against the People's Republic of China on Wednesday, after PRC officials failed to respond to the ruling. Although the PRC's embassy sent a letter to the US State Department protesting Cybersitter's suit, such a letter did not qualify as a formal response."
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Judge Rules Against China In 'Green Dam' Suit

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  • I wonder if we can knock $2.3b off our debt to China, then?
    • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:56PM (#35255540)
      The absurdity of claiming $2.3B in any copyright suit aside...

      It would be hilarious if we reneged on our foreign debts by using RIAA math to value the IP "stolen" from the US in the trillions, and seize foreign capital as "compensation."

      This does happen [nwsource.com] in the case of tangible assets such as oil, so I guess the fact we don't do the same for intellectual property is a tacit admission of some distinction between them vs other types of property.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Flyerman (1728812)

        I don't know about that. China declared the software added and licensed to every new computer in the country, and their population is 1,331,460,000 according to The Google. So the suit is really a lot less than what China would pay if instead of copyrighted code, it was a pirated song.

        • by rtb61 (674572)

          However that is the real problem, The alleged copyright infringement occurred in China not in the US. For the civil suit to proceed that US must now claim their laws take precedence over the China's laws within China.

          For the judge to accept the case is stupid, as any attempt to claim money will result in a major legal dispute, which will inevitably be lost.

          Any claims can only be made in the US for copyright infringement that occurs within the US. So the response by the government of China was the appro

      • by fishexe (168879)

        This does happen [nwsource.com] in the case of tangible assets such as oil, so I guess the fact we don't do the same for intellectual property is a tacit admission of some distinction between them vs other types of property.

        I see it more as a tacit admission that we don't want to fuck with China. Given that they could basically tank our economy simply by refusing to buy our bonds, we probably don't want to do anything too aggressive towards them right now. Granted, we could do what you suggested to other countries and leave China alone, but then China would start lookin' at us all shifty-eyed, fearing that they would be next...

  • "The Chinese side hereby expresses strong concern over it and firmly rejects it" Does that really work in China?
    • by fishexe (168879)

      "The Chinese side hereby expresses strong concern over it and firmly rejects it" Does that really work in China?

      Umm...Ahem. The Chinese government, in this day and age, can "firmly reject" whatever the hell it wants.

  • It's not like he'll ever see a dime. Does he really expect the Chinese government to cut him a check? At best he's gotten a moral victory and a big bill from his own lawyers.
    • Re:Good grief... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jayveekay (735967) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @03:56PM (#35255542)

      It won't be the PRC government that prevents them from getting money, it will be the USA government that stops them. The hostages held by Iran for 444 days tried to sue (there were substantial Iranian assets in the US that had been frozen and could be used to pay damages), but they lost their lawsuit not because of any defence put on by Iran but rather by the US government.

      http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/07/01/national/main561274.shtml [cbsnews.com]

      If the USA government does that to protect a state which it considers an enemy (Iran), imagine what they will do to protect the PRC to which they owe a trillion dollars or so.

      • Re:Good grief... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Agent.Nihilist (1228864) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @04:35PM (#35255706)

        It won't be the PRC government that prevents them from getting money, it will be the USA government that stops them. The hostages held by Iran for 444 days tried to sue (there were substantial Iranian assets in the US that had been frozen and could be used to pay damages), but they lost their lawsuit not because of any defence put on by Iran but rather by the US government.

        http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/07/01/national/main561274.shtml [cbsnews.com]

        If the USA government does that to protect a state which it considers an enemy (Iran), imagine what they will do to protect the PRC to which they owe a trillion dollars or so.

        Those hostages are alive and free today because of an agreement known as the Algiers Accords [wikipedia.org] (wikipedia). Part of the aggreement that freed them stated that they could not sue Iran. If we reneged after making the accord we would forever lose the option to recover hostages through such an aggreement. This type of action is down to protect US interests and its citizens abroad.

        • by jayveekay (735967)

          Agreements signed while someone has a gun pointed to your head (or 52 of your citizens heads) are considered valid by the courts? A crime can be committed against your person but your government can retroactively declare that it wasn't a crime?

          I guess I learned something new today.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    and write an update that simply disables/uninstall the software on any machine that requests updates from China (Green dam asks for updates to Cybersitter website).
    That could have been really interesting to see...

  • IANAL but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dasuraga (1147871) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @04:01PM (#35255562)
    isn't there some law against suing foreign governments? At the very least, the judicial branch can't possibly imagine having the power to demand money from foreign nations.....can they?
    • Re:IANAL but... (Score:5, Informative)

      by UltraOne (79272) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @05:00PM (#35255828) Homepage

      The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act [slashdot.org] is the US federal law that regulates suits in US courts (federal or state) against foreign governments. It lists exceptions to the general rule that foreign states are immune to suit because of sovereign immunity. The exception that this suit is probably based on is the one that says a foreign state can be sued when it is engaged in “commercial activity”.

      Assuming the plaintiff wins the suit, damages would be collected by seizing assets of the foreign state under US jurisdiction. Since US Treasury bonds owned by China are essentially promises by the US Treasury to pay a certain amount of money when the bond comes due, transferring ownership of those bonds to the plaintiff would seem to be a way of collecting damages. Of course, that might have diplomatic consequences.

      IANAL either.

      • by UltraOne (79272)

        The posting system mangled the link. I'll try again: Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act [wikipedia.org].

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Diplomatic consequences are just a polite way of saying pissing off someone that can hurt you.

      • by fishexe (168879)
        Protip: hit "Preview" and then right-click the link, open in new [tab/window] to make sure it works before hitting "Submit".
  • by Eil (82413)

    ... you mean it's possible to sue other countries in a U.S. federal court? Is there anyone you can't sue in the U.S.?

    • Yes, you can't sue the American government unless they say you can.
    • by BZ (40346)

      You can if they're doing certain things in the US. See the references to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act elsewhere in this thread.

      Note, by the way, that a similar question can be raised about the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, etc.

  • they say they are quite scared of an american court passing judgment on them.
    • by devman (1163205)
      There is probably at least 2.3b worth of PRC government assets on US soil that could be seized pursuant to a judgement.
      • by trewornan (608722)
        And there's probably at least 2.3b worth of US government assets on PRC soil that could be seized without a judgement. Sounds like PRC quite correctly take the view that US courts have no jurisdiction over what happens in another country and can go screw themselves. Go China! I only wish my government had a similar attitude.
        • by AK Marc (707885)

          And there's probably at least 2.3b worth of US government assets on PRC soil

          Really? What kind assets do you think the US government holds in China? Bases? Embassies? What else?

          • by unity100 (970058)
            china is the country basically funding u.s. govt. debt. leave aside 'assets'. the entire borrowing capability of u.s. now depends on china. if china sells the u.s. govt bonds it holds, their value will drop so low that us govt wont be able to borrow by selling new bonds. not to mention that dollar will sink to bottom and get replaced by another currency as the trade currency.

            you are talking about a pathetic amount of 2.5 b worth of prc assets .

            http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/mar/02/chinas-deb [washingtontimes.com]
            • The best assets to seize are these US govt bonds you refer to. They most likely are not physical printed bonds but rather digital records, but in the event that they are they will have serial numbers and can simply be declared void and reissued to the winner of the suit. Of course since they have not matured, they aren't worth as much yet, so a higher value may have to be transferred...

            • Our debt to china is not a US asset held in China. It is a Chinese asset held by the US...

              • by unity100 (970058)
                incorrect. in the world of finance, there is no such thing. if china decides to sell all those bonds, and u.s. declines, that will cause u.s. bonds to become worthless. and hamper the ability of borrowing for govt.
          • by trewornan (608722)

            I said "probably" because I don't know, but purely speculatively, US assets might include some or all of the following:

            US official reserve assets, Gold, Foreign Currency, Securities, Bond, Corporate Stocks, Physical Assets (Buildings, Land, Motor Vehicles, Storage Facilities), and probably a load of stuff I haven't thought of.

            Not that I'd be surprised if US Gov assets in PRC don't total 2.8 billion but . . . probably.

        • by BatGnat (1568391)

          Any attempt to take assets from diplomatic soil would be construed as an act of war.

          What I want to know is what the U.S. are going to do when china says to the U.S., Ch sh jí mújù

          • plenty of things may be construed as an act of war - doesn't mean it's in the 'victim's interest to start an all-out war about them. The US can claim that seizing an embassy is an act of war, but it's unlikely to get a lot of international sympathy from other countries who are equally uneasy about US courts just ignoring their own sovereign immunity (although they would probably be equally uneasy about China ignoring the sovereignty of their own embassies), or that there would be any chance of getting a sec

          • by fishexe (168879)

            What I want to know is what the U.S. are going to do when china says to the U.S., Ch sh jí mújù

            I strongly doubt China will ever say that without adding at least two more vowels first.

      • and there's probably at least $2.3b worth of US assets on Chinese soil which could be siezed in compensation for an illegal seizure. Where does it end?

        • by devman (1163205)
          I suppose the US could bill them for it in outstanding T-bonds :)
        • Re:China called (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jayveekay (735967) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @05:31PM (#35256078)

          It ends when the US wins because it owes trillions of dollars to China..

          To paraphrase Donald Trump: "When you owe someone a billion dollars, they have power over you. When you owe someone a trillion dollars, you have power over them!"

        • by unity100 (970058)

          Despite recent government reports that China’s holdings of U.S. Treasury debt declined during the second half of last year, the Asian economic giant almost certainly owns far more Treasury securities than official statistics indicate. After peaking at $801.5 billion, China’s holdings of U.S. Treasury securities declined to $755.4 billion at the year’s end, dropping the communist power into the position of second-largest holder of Treasury debt after Japan’s $768.8 billion, official government data reveal.

          http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/mar/02/chinas-debt-to-us-treasury-more-than-indicated/ [washingtontimes.com]

  • by syncrotic (828809) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @04:39PM (#35255724)

    The full title of this software is actually GREEN DAM YOUTH ESCORT.

    For guarding of the youth, to making safe and happy social harmony. Great and capable software for glorious ten thousand year nation. Code is not stolen; developed by brilliant engineers at November 23 People's Collective Software Refinery.

  • Candidly speaking, say the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, what then? What possible outcome could occur such that PRC is forced to pay any or all of the suit?

    If anyone is versed in international law (if that is what this is called), I am genuinely interested what the possible (albeit unlikely) outcomes could be.

    • by UltraOne (79272) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @05:27PM (#35256048) Homepage

      Almost all of the US Treasury debt owned by China (and in general) is in the form of book-entry securities [wikipedia.org]. This means there is no physical document for the treasury bill, note or bond. It exists as an entry in the database of a broker or the US Treasury. The court could simply order ownership of an appropriate value of those securities to be transferred from the Chinese government to the successful plaintiff.

  • The Chinese gov. will not recognize this coming from a) a small state court, maybe and MAYBE only supreme court.
    b) they would not recognize allegations against them from a nation that is guilty itself of doing the same, and also of a country
    that when confronted with the truth about its invasion of iraq, was neglecting to show any proper information of WMDs.

    This would be like being brought to court by a crack whore who says you broke into her house and stole something, the credibility is just not there...for

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