01.15.08

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How Microsoft Changes Laws (the China Example)

Posted in Asia, Bill Gates, FSF, Law, Microsoft, Steve Ballmer at 11:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Changing/rewriting the law when it’s not on your side

It it no secret that diplomats play a significant role in this debate which involves the power struggle between IPR and Free Culture. On the one hand you have companies that wish to legalise software patents, for example, while the other side claims them to be absurd (which they are).

Yesterday, Forbes published an article about NBA Asia. Having looked closely at this article, I found the following paragraph.

Tim Chen, the former CEO of Microsoft Greater China, who joined the NBA in mid-October last year, will lead the new entity as CEO. In four years with Microsoft, Chen forged a productive relationship with Chinese regulators, managing to convince local and provincial governments to buy licensed software instead of pirated versions.

You can truly see the lobbying machine at work. Corporate power assists in changing national laws and transform a government’s take on important matters. By the way, the person in question left Microsoft a couple of months ago (quite abruptly in fact). To elaborate on what was briefly mentioned in the comments the other day, there is an executive exodus in Microsoft at the moment. Even the departure of a veteran Windows figure was announced just yesterday, with more likely on their way. In general, the Windows development team is not what it used to be. Consider this older article:

“With Alchin retiring, MarkL and MarkZ, two of the most talented architects in MS already having left, the picture gets really ugly for the Windows division,” my friend claimed, and the BV’s core team members, Ian McDonald, Jack Mayo, Todd Wanke, Clyde Rodriguez and others are starting to connect the dots.

[...]

He concluded ominously. “A trainwreck of biblical proportions looms. Pick a good seat on the sidelines, trainwrecks this large take awhile to complete. Vista may be the last MS OS for some time to come, especially if Cutler decides to play hardball.”

Going back on topic, the manipulation of Microsoft in the Chinese government was demonstrated in more a comprehensive post that we unleashed a fortnight ago. Therein you will find evidence of high figures such as Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer playing a major role and possibly having direct impact on policies in China. It’s a move against preloads of GNU/Linux (Red Flag), which is common in China, not to mention unbundling (Microsoft uses the term “naked PC” to add a negative connotation). This whole scenario blends fairly well with a post that Glyn Moody put together only yesterday. Have a look:

A dissertation on copyright in 19th-century America may not sound exactly like beach reading, but the fact is that US law in this area affects the rest of the world – not least because of the US’s heavy-handed attempts to extend its application around the globe:

With the rise of digital reproduction and the expansion of the Internet, copyright issues have assumed tremendous prominence in contemporary society. Domestically, the United States is awash in copyright-related lawsuits. Internationally, fears of copyright violation strongly influence U.S. foreign policy, especially with China. Hardly a week goes by without some new copyright-related headline in the news. In a globalized world with cheap digital reproduction, copyright matters.

That law has been shaped by the 19th-century experience.

The gist of it is that corporations and policy makers are able to mix policies and make laws assimilated. It is therefore hardly surprising that Microsoft's CEO is being offered a position which is the United States ambassador in China. If you knew nothing about it, then now may be time to get curious and understand how flawed parts of the system have become.

In other news, be aware of things that Microsoft is trying in India at the moment.

The moves by Microsoft to offer free or subsidized software in India have however come in for criticism from the Free Software Foundation, which compared Microsoft’s philanthropy to that of a cigarette manufacturer handing out free samples of cigarettes to students.

Let’s end this with a quote:

“Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don’t pay for the software [...] Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

Bill Gates

There are many signs of GNU/Linux growth in India. The government actively encourages Free software. If you want large number of links to support this, look here. It is another complicated story that we can cover if there is enough interest. It just seems unrelated to the patent game Microsoft has been playing. Naturally, we try not the broaden the scope to the point where we completely lose focus on key issues.

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