How evil is China?

I have no doubt that China is going to get serious about "intellectual property piracy" in my lifetime. Because I have faith in their inventors and writers.

Samuel Slater
Matt Asay has a headline today that's doubtless worth a click -- Microsoft and Novell seek to exonerate Chinese piracy.

The news peg is that Microsoft and Novell extended their existing agreement on IP to China. They call it "an incremental investment in their relationship" aimed at selling SUSE Linux contracts there based on interoperability with Windows.

Matt's point is they're stealing our stuff and this won't matter. Maybe not. Most Chinese Internet cafes run pirated versions of Windows anyway, he says. (I'm going to Chengdu next month -- I'll check it out and report.)

From the viewpoint of history, of course, all this "piracy" and "theft of intellectual property" is, well, charmingly American.

Pictured above is Samuel Slater, America's first great industrialist. He built a textile mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, just miles from where my mom was born. He's a hero, and in his time was quite wealthy.

He stole the plans. He smuggled them out in his head, from England, despite laws which promised severe penalties for such "patent theft."

Or consider the story of Martin Chuzzlewit. It was one of Dickens'. He painted America as a den of thieves and knaves. Had good reason to. America in the mid 19th century refused to recognize foreign copyrights.

On his last trip to this country, in fact, Dickens donated future royalties on the book to America, hoping to shame us into obeying "intellectual property" laws. Which we eventually did, after writers like Mark Twain brought us a positive balance-of-payments on such property.

I have no doubt that China is going to get serious about "intellectual property piracy" in my lifetime. Because I have faith in their inventors and writers.