Green Dam: Bureaucracy dumps its Partners

“Green Dam” censorship (or “youth escort”) software (绿坝-花季护航) was initially meant to be mandatorily installed on all personal computers in China, private and public ones alike. When Chinese academics Zhou Ze (周泽) and Wei Yongzheng (魏永征) pointed out legal obstacles for the software project in June last year, one of their points was the Anti-Unfair-Competition law‘s article 7. It says that

[t]he government and its organ shall not abuse its authority to force the others to purchase the commodities from the pointed seller or prohibit the fair competition from the others. The government and its organ shall not abuse its authority to prohibit outside commodities from going into home market, or prohibit domestic commodities from going to outside market.

The government had pledged to pay the license fees during the first year, but there was no information on who would pay during the following years – if the consumer had to, it would be a violation of article 7, argued Zhou and Wei.

This may now be one of the licensors’ – Zhengzhou Jinhui Computer Systems Engineering Co Ltd  (郑州金惠计算机系统工程有限公司) and Beijing Da Zheng Language and Knowledge Handling Technology Co Ltd (北京大正语言知识处理科技有限公司) – major headaches. Who is going to pay the license fees from now?

The authority in charge of stipulating laws and regulations of the manufacturing industry of electronic and IT products, the communications industry and the software industry (2.), and to handle other matters entrusted by the State Council (16.). In August 2009,  minister Li Yizhong (李毅中) said that poorly written regulations had led to the misunderstanding that the installation of Green Dam software would be mandatory on every new computer. However, all public computers in schools and internet cafes would have to install the software.

And then, it seems, the bureaucracy lost all its interest in the project. Not only that the state budget for the software licenses has run out now. That was, after all, announced more than a year ago and should as no surprise. If schools and internet cafes all over China really had to install the software – and pay license fees to the two software makers -, it’s hard to see how a licensor would be compelled to shut down the office in Beijing which runs the Green Dam website and promotes the software now.

But then, who in China would pay licenses (unless it was comprehensively enforced), and who would want to call a support office in Zhengzhou to make sure that his or her computer is being censored effectively?

Rather, Beijing may now try another approach: an end to anonymous phones and online comments.

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