China signs licensing pact with UK and US

The Chinese Government has signed a memorandum of understanding on copyright issues with four British and American trade associations

The West's struggle to get the Chinese Government to deal with the issue of software licensing in the technology and communications industries took a new turn on Friday, with the news that China had signed a memorandum of understanding with four UK and US trade associations.

The associations include the Business Software Alliance and the Publishers Association in the UK, and the Association of American Publishers and the Motion Picture Association in the US. The Chinese Government has asked them to hand over a list of products they want protecting as well as information about their own ongoing legal action against alleged copyright infringers.

"This is primarily for enforcement," said BSA's regional director for the Asia Pacific region, Jeffrey Hardee, told Agence France-Presse. "We are concerned about... the use of unlicensed software within organisations."

The problem of unlicensed software and the misuse of copyright information is reportedly immense in China. The National Copyright Association of China will now be the custodian of information handed over by the four trade associations.

"China now has the world's second largest number of internet users," according to Xu Chao, director of the administration's copyright department.

In October, Microsoft began directly marketing new mobile phone technologies to China for the first time, as part of an agreement with the country.

But dealings between China and the West in technology have become fraught with controversy. In November, delegates to a United Nations summit attacked Microsoft, Google, Cisco Systems and Yahoo for co-operating too closely with China. The UN is looking for new global regulations of free expression to combat Chinese suppression of core freedoms, it said.