Profits from piracy

Friday, 27 September 2002, 2:05 PM EST

Earlier this summer, Microsoft and China, two inscrutable monoliths waging a protracted cold war over copyrights and software pricing, finally decided to settle their differences via a three-year, $750 million "memorandum of understanding," the largest deal ever between the Chinese government and a foreign software company.


Details of the "understanding," announced in June, were both vague and open-ended. About the only overlap between both parties' descriptions was that Microsoft was supplying the $750 million and China was supplying the human resources. Still, given the background of the relationship, it seemed a safe bet that China's 92 percent software piracy rate -- second worst in the world, according to the Business Software Alliance -- had been a central issue during the negotiations.

Or maybe not. Asked about the glaring lack of a copyright enforcement clause in the new deal, Microsoft president and CEO Steve Ballmer did a quick Nixonian shuffle.

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