US developer: China's Green Dam steals our code

US developer: China's Green Dam steals our code

Summary: This Green Dam story just keeps getting weirder. First, China issues this mandate that all new PCs will have to have software called Green Dam-Youth Escort preinstalled.


This Green Dam story just keeps getting weirder. First, China issues this mandate that all new PCs will have to have software called Green Dam-Youth Escort preinstalled. It's claimed the software is just a porn filter, even though China runs the powerful Great Firewall of China, already.

Then researchers reported that the software's data files contain long lists of political keywords. A lawsuit was filed in China to stop the edict.

Now, net nanny developer Solid Oak says Green Dam includes pieces of its Cybersitter software, apparently purloined by Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co., the government-aligned developer. This has been confirmed by University of Michigan researchers, the Wall Street Journal reports. Solid Oak says it will go to U.S. court to stop computer makers from shipping with Green Dam.

Solid Oak's president, Brian Milburn, said he will seek an injunction preventing U.S. companies from shipping computers with the Chinese software.

[Solid Oak president Brian] Milburn said Solid Oak received an anonymous email Friday stating that Green Dam may contain parts of his company's code. He said engineers at the 15-person software maker, which is based in Santa Barbara, Calif., spent the morning comparing the two programs. Similarities they found include a list of CyberSitter serial numbers and an update that makes the software compatible with an old version of CyberSitter, he said.

"I am 99.99% certain that if not the entire program at least a good proportion of it is stolen CyberSitter code," says Mr. Milburn.

Copyright experts say Solid Oak probably won't be able to stop the sale in U.S. court.

"It's not a violation of U.S. copyright" law if the computers are only sold in China, said Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard University Law School. "The question would have to be resolved in a Chinese court under Chinese law."

But the situation adds to the repugnance of Green Dam. Dell and HP could use the fact that the software may in fact be pirated to justify to China their inability to comply with the edict. They should push for a stay of the order in Chinese court until the copyright issue is sorted out.

Topics: China, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Legal, Software

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Why won 't they act more like Microsoft?

    "...he'd certainly prefer it be Microsoft's.

    Today Gates openly concedes that tolerating piracy turned out to be Microsoft's best long-term strategy. That's why Windows is used on an estimated 90% of China's 120 million PCs. "It's easier for our software to compete with Linux when there's piracy than when there's not," Gates says. "Are you kidding? You can get the real thing, and you get the same price." "

    Microsoft is successful. Outdo at what they do and you might win. If it's worth winning and what they've done is help undermine the whole global economy and promote dishonesty and thievery, but whatever... it's only business.
  • RE: US developer: China's Green Dam steals our code

    A great business strategy just like the drug cartel was/is/will be employing to maintain/expand their business empire, i.e. give free sample. And when the customers are hooked up, start charging little, then little more, and then charge full price. In the Middle East in the 90's almost 90% of software were pirated, and even the government were passive in implementing IP, but M$ allowed piracy of its products and let the governments and businesses accumulate documents using Microsoft products. Then at the right moment, and with the help of Business Software Alliance, M$ descended on the ME and demanded that the region either pay up or stop using their products. Since it would cost billions of dollars to convert all the accumulated documents, the whole region relented and started paying. As a side note, those softwares that used dongles to protect their IP are cursed since the beginning because of their high price and inconvenience when those dongles started acting erratically. Every time the dongle fails, it is lost productivity. So the user decided to use pirated M$ product and thus decimate the competition (my personal experience and observation as technical person. My take, stop bashing M$, because they are one hell of good businessmen.
    • Not realistic

      That strategy is not realistic. "The Middle East" has about 225 million primarily Arabic-speaking residents. But a huge portion of those do not use computers. Plus, it is spread out among a large number of different countries, many of whom are not on good relations with their neighbors. Also, they didn't produce either their own computers or their own software. Although those countries accumulated billions in petro-dollars, most of the money was in the hands of a very few people. In addition, Linux and open-source alternatives were not a factor.

      Another factor is that Microsoft's document formats [b][i]were[/i][/b] proprietary. Now with the push toward non-proprietary "standards", the document formats are open, meaning anyone can easily write software for them.

      Also, the Middle East does not produce many engineers, programmers, etc., and does not have the post-secondary education infrastructure to do so.

      On the other hand, China is a single market with a national government and about 1.3 BILLION potential users. Estimates are that China currently graduates about as many engineers annually as the U.S. (I don't know if that includes software engineers.) Educators say that China's [b][i]undergraduate[/i][/b] science and engineering programs are on par with the U.S. but their graduate programs aren't yet. China manufactures all sorts of hardware and can easily ramp up for even more production. With government control of software, the Internet, etc., ANY software the government mandates would instantly have a HUGE market. Plus, censorship software is not like software that produces documents, spreadsheets, etc. There won't be any backlog of legacy documents requiring use of particular censorship software.
      • losing the thread

        I lost track of what this has to do with China....
  • This is a surprise?

    The Chinese have been stealing code from the day they started making CDs. That's no surprise. It's also no surprise that an American company has no recourse against the Chinese companies. It's been like that since China started exporting more than ping pong balls.

    About the only thing the US could do is force some heavy duties on Lenovo (or similar products) to force the Chinese government into paying a licensing fee. That's about all you'll get.

    Nice posturing though....
  • See also:...

    Even more humorous!
  • RE: US developer: China's Green Dam steals our code

    How many copyright and patent infrigement suits have been filed and resolved in Chinese courts that Zittrain refers to?
  • Green Dam isn't Damning Enough... Sadien, Inc. Editorial

    Let's break this down, issue for issue...

    A. It's a Chinese issue. It's a Chinese venue. It's Chinese law that will take precedent in this matter.

    B. "A list of CyberSitter serial numbers..." is not copyrightable.

    C. I don't understand the statement "an update that makes the software compatible with an old version of CyberSitter." Does that mean it's a CyberSitter update? Or it's an update written by Green Dam that allows for cross-referencing with the CyberSitter software?

    Copying a Cybersitter update would be copyright infringement. Simply making your software compatible with another algorithm would likely not be infringement.

    Don't get me wrong... I'm a fan of Solid Oak and Cybersitter. My group would stand arm-in-arm with SO on this issue, if there is infringement.

    But the details in this article do not paint the most "damning" picture, no pun intended.

    That not withstanding, I agree with Richard that this whole Chinese Government / Green Dam issue stinks more and more, with every day that passes.

    Sadien Staff
    Sadien, Inc.

    • Silliness all around

      Go to court in China. I did and put an employee stealing my commercial secrets in jail for two years.

      Microsoft, Dell and HP do it, so let's fall in love. Geez, a plaintiff of some ripoff in the US goes to court there. Do the same in China. What? Chicken? If you are, then you totally don't get China--not one bit.

      By the way, I lost a lot of bucks pursuing the case, but it saved my company in China.
  • RE: US developer: China's Green Dam steals our code

    Just another reason to but the Chinese government down, now!