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Software Theft on the Table at May 9–10 S&ED

Four out of five software programs installed on personal computers in China are stolen at a commercial value of nearly $8 billion dollars a year.

That issue will be on the table this week when President Obama’s economic team sits down in Washington with its Chinese counterparts for their annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The question is: Will this year’s S&ED mark a turning point or another in a long line of opportunities that China squanders?

The US delegation is keenly aware that China has made a number of recent commitments to curb software piracy, but it has yet to deliver. The most recent commitments came in January, when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited with President Obama in Washington, and last December, in ministerial sessions of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.

Among other things, China has promised to ensure that all its government agencies use properly licensed software, and it has announced pilot programs to promote the same practice in state-owned enterprises. But the software industry has yet to see progress it can measure in increased sales. So US officials are pressing for answers.

“One of our priorities is to make sure that the important commitments that President Hu made when he came to Washington in January are fulfilled,” said David Loevinger, a special representative for the S&ED from the US Treasury Department, in a briefing last week. “We have been talking a lot with our Chinese counterparts, and we’ll continue to talk about how we can turn these very important agreements into tangible results on the ground.”

This week’s sessions will be the third annual meeting of the S&ED, but the first time that software theft has been a major focus. Credit for that is due to the Obama administration, which is doing everything it can to convince China to exercise the power it has at its disposal to curb piracy. In the end, though, change will not happen through bilateral negotiation. It will happen when China shows true resolve.

Robert Holleyman


As President and CEO of BSA | The Software Alliance from 1990 until April 2013, Robert Holleyman long served as the chief advocate for the global software industry. Before leaving BSA to start his own venture, Cloud4Growth, Holleyman led the most successful anti-piracy program in the history of any industry, driving down software piracy rates in markets around the world.

Named one of the 50 most influential people in the intellectual property world, he was instrumental in putting into place the global policy framework that today protects software under copyright law. A widely respected champion for open markets, Holleyman also was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, the principal advisory committee for the US government on trade matters.

Holleyman was a leader in industry efforts to establish the legal framework necessary for cloud-computing technologies to flourish. He was an early proponent for policies that promote deployment of security technologies to build public trust and confidence in cyberspace. And he created a highly regarded series of forums for industry executives and policymakers to exchange points of view and forge agreements on the best ways to spur technology advances and promote economic growth.

Before heading BSA, Holleyman was a counselor and legislative adviser in the United States Senate, an attorney in private practice, and a judicial clerk in US District Court. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, a J.D. from Louisiana State University, and has completed the Stanford Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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