Folklaw 9 June

03 March 2012 By Lawyers Weekly

Chinese software piracy declining — but we love it anyway The International Herald Tribune, in an article entitled ‘Step in ‘right direction’ on piracy’, noted that the software industry…

Chinese software piracy declining but we love it anyway

The International Herald Tribune, in an article entitled ‘Step in ‘right direction’ on piracy’, noted that the software industry is making modest progress in encouraging Chinese computer users to pay for their software, rather than copying it illegally. According to the Business Software Alliance, the rate at which software is pirated fell by four percentage points last year in China, to 86 percent, while the global piracy rate remained at 35 per cent. The Chinese Government also announced that all Chinese governmental agencies would be required to use only legal software.

The Alliance attributed the decline in Chinese software piracy to strenuous lobbying efforts and to increased sales of laptops, which tend to come with more software already installed by the manufacturer. The Alliance contends it lost $34 billion in potential sales last year because of illegal copying.


There are benefits, however, in having one’s software stolen. Some analysts point to what is called the ‘network effect’, in which the installation of an operating system such as Microsoft Windows, even if it is pirated, leads to greater demand for other software that the company produces.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates (in a 1998 interview) said as much: “As long as they’re going to steal it, we want them to steal ours,” Gates told Fortune magazine. “They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.” Ah, capitalism. It always wins out in the end.

And still in China … the China Law Blog reported that authorities are poised to crack down on foreign law firms operating within Chinese borders, printing a menacing memorandum issued by the Shanghai Lawyers Association which the blog obtained from a Shanghai lawyer.

The memo details illegal activities that most foreign law firms doing business in China are allegedly engaged in, describing the activities as severe threats to China’s legal system. Shanghai is most threatened, according to the document.

The principal sin seems to be practising Chinese law without a license. But the lawyers’ association also bemoans foreign law firms’ hiring of Chinese lawyers.

Lawyers Weekly Discover

In 2005, there were 82 foreign law firms in Shanghai, and an additional 16 established by Hong Kong law firms. While recognising that foreign law firms bring new concepts and management experience to China, the illegal business activities must be stopped, the memo asserts.

Overseas lawyers working out of the Chinese offices of overseas law firms are prohibited from practising Chinese law. Instead, their activities are limited to consulting on international treaties and usual practices in the lawyers’ own country, handling legal affairs relating to the lawyers’ country, representing their foreign clients, and providing general information about China’s legal environment.

Anything — just don’t interpret Chinese laws, say the lawyers.

China Law Blog says its legal sources in Shanghai are taking the memo quite seriously and predict a major crackdown on foreign firms operating there, with rumours flying that one or two large offices of overseas firms will be shut down to set an example. These sources say the crackdown also reflects mounting resentment by local law firms over the commercial success of foreign firms in the Chinese market.

Hmmm, maybe time to ensure your Shanghai office is squeaky clean, Folklaw suggests.

Spanked worker wins damages

A Californian jury has awarded US$500,000 ($661,183) to a woman who sued her employer after she was spanked in front of her colleagues.

Janet Orlando, 53, claimed she suffered humiliation during what the company, Alarm One Inc, a home security company in Fresno, California, called “camaraderie building exercises”.

These exercises apparently included being poked fun at, being forced to eat baby food and wear nappies, and getting spanked on the buttocks with the pole of a rival company’s yard sign, court documents showed.

Orlando quit Alarm One in 2004. Not much sense of camaraderie, obviously.

Love in the office OK but no moaning please, were German

American retail giant Wal-Mart, which has been in Germany since 1998, ran up against resistance in attempting to introduce a 28-page ethical code that forbids “sexually meaningful communication of any type”. In the US, it seems, rules that govern personal relationships are perfectly acceptable. In Germany, however, they are verboten.

The code in question had stipulated: “You may not go out with or have a relationship with someone who could influence your employment situation or whose employment situation you could influence”. Wal-Mart also required its 10,500 German employees to report violations of the code, including alcohol and drug use, to a telephone hotline.

The Wuppertal industrial tribunal and the regional industrial tribunal in Dusseldorf held that such rules were incompatible with German labour laws and that agreement with the regional labour council would be necessary to implement them. Wal-Mart has one more chance to appeal the verdict, at the Federal Labour Court in Erfurt. Who’d have thought those Teutons were such staunch defenders of the gentle art of love?

In other news, however, whingeing is one thing that German companies are allowed to forbid. According to web site Ananova, employees at IT company Nutzwerk Ltd in Leipzig have agreed to be in a good mood every day as part of their employment contract. Manager Thomas Kuwatsch said those who get up on the wrong side of the bed should stay at home and work out their grumpiness rather than come into work. But, he warned, those taking too much time off for bad moods would face the sack.

The company made the ban on moaning and grumpiness at work official after one female employee refused to subscribe to the company’s general philosophy of always smiling. “Mood is an important factor in productivity and everyone here works hard and is happy,” said Kuwatsch.

Under German law, it seems, employment contracts can cover just about anything, and Folklaw can’t help but wonder whether there are provisions in the WorkChoices regs for specifying no grumpiness.

Folklaw 9 June
Intro image
lawyersweekly logo