Beijing outlaws 'naked computers'

Xinhua reports that Beijing is to ban the sale of naked computers, i.e. computers without pre-installed operating systems. Wang Yefei, deputy director of the Beijing Copyright Bureau has announced that the measure will come into force at the end of 2006. The aim is to cut down on copyright-infringing software. PCs are sold without operating systems and end users are said to purchase pirated copies which they then install.

The IPKat says that while this might be great for copyright enforcement, but he can’t see this being great for competition on the operating system market.

Where's the beef?

The Star reports that Japan is considering granting intellectual property protection to the genes of four breeds of cattle. A special panel of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will be convened on Tuesday to consider the issue. One possibility that has been mooted is making it illegal to sell cattle that is the result of a cross between Japanese cattle (known as ‘wagyu’) and other cattle under the name ‘wagyu’.

The IPKat isn’t quite clear what form this proposed IP protection would take (possibly because it’s still early days) but the proposal sounds similar to geographical indication protection based on genetic makeup, rather than geographical origin.
COMPUTERS AND CATTLE COMPUTERS AND CATTLE Reviewed by Anonymous on Sunday, April 16, 2006 Rating: 5


  1. "Naked Computers"

    My guess is that the operating system that is pirated the most in China is Microsoft Windows. People buy a naked pc, get a pirated copy of Windows, and install that cd.

    What will change after this new measure?

    Computers will be manufactured and before the sale, the manufacturer can install whatever OS he wants.

    He could install a licensed copy of MS Windows on that computer, but that would raise his prices.

    Or he could install a free (e.g. a GPL licensed) OS, such as a Linux distribution. This will not raise the cost of the computer, except for the small amount of time the manufacturer will need to install the OS.

    When the customer buys the linux computer, he can use the operating system that came with the computer, or he can get a pirated copy of Windows and install it on the computer as if there was nothing on it yet. It's as easy to install an operating system on a computer with a pre-installed OS as it is to install an operating system on a naked computer. Of course, he could also install another linux distribution he prefers.

    I sincerely hope that nobody will read this and say: "We should just make it illegal to sell computers without MS Windows!" or "Why don't we limit the possibility of installing a new operating system on a computer?". That would constitute a government monopoly. In a perfect world, a customer would be able to buy the computer of his choice, naked or with a preinstalled OS, and he would be able to buy all OS's as well, but only legal copies.

    In short, while I completely agree that countries need to fight piracy, I don't see how this measure will help that cause.

    On a different note, I would like to add that the manufacturers can't just do anything they want with the linux distributions they install. They will have to respect the license that comes with the distribution (e.g. an obligation to make the source code available with the programs or with any derivative works they create) and they will have to respect the trademarks associated with it.

    Countering piracy effectively would create a level playing field by showing the real cost of a legal copy of MS Windows, which in turn could reduce the Windows' market share. That market share itself is one of the main reasons of its continued success.

    In the end, the consumer will have to decide; and as long as I can read the IPKat, exchange moot court pleadings with my fellow students, manage the collection of my digital camera and watch an occasional movie, I will happily continue to use Ubuntu linux ;-)

  2. It gets more interesting:

    President Hu Jintao will be the guest of Bill Gates before he visits the White House!

    And 3 Chinese pc manufacturors have announced mass purchases of MS Windows to comply with their new obligation....


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