China orders PC software preload to curb piracy

The Chinese government has ordered all computers sold in the country to have legal software preloaded on them, in an effort to reduce piracy, according to a report Monday on the English-language Web site of Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency.

The news comes on the eve of trade talks between the U.S. and China where intellectual property protection, including software piracy, is expected to be a topic of discussion.

Computers shipped to buyers in the country must have a legitimate operating system installed, according to two government circulars issued by the Chinese National Copyright Administration, the Ministry of Information Industry, and the Ministry of Commerce.

The circulars, apparently released in late March, also require software providers give computer producers “favorable” prices to support the pre-installation, Xinhua said.

Chinese customers are free to choose any legitimate operating system they want, according to the report. The Chinese circulars are part of the government’s efforts to curb piracy among government users, but the Chinese government also wants to promote legal software among corporate users, Xinhua said.

The circulars require computer manufacturers and software providers to report sales volumes and the number of pre-installed software systems by the end of February each year.

Intellectual property protection will be one of the agenda items as officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Department of Commerce meet with Chinese officials in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

In a March visit to Beijing to prepare for the talks, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez said that curtailing software piracy would bring in more tax revenue and create jobs in China.

The Business Software Alliance, representing several major U.S. software vendors, didn’t have a comment on the Chinese announcement Monday.

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