This morning, the New York Times reported that Chinese authorities, working with the FBI, seized more than $500 million of counterfeit Microsoft and Symantec software and arrested 25 people involved in the counterfeiting operation. “This is a real milestone,” said David Finn, Microsoft associate general counsel. Finn is right. The Chinese deserve great credit for busting a ring that looks as if it were responsible for at least $2 billion of pirated software sales. (As Gao Feng, Deputy Director General of China’s Ministry of Public Security, has said, profit margins for software piracy exceed those for drug trafficking.)
Unfortunately, with those enormous profits, counterfeiters have been able to buy off the political system maintained by the Communist Party. Officials at the lowest rungs of that organization personally profit from protecting counterfeiters and often own part of the counterfeiting factories. The officials then buy protection for themselves from their superiors in the Party’s entrenched patronage system. The upshot of all this? Piracy in China is not going away anytime soon.
So what can foreign owners of intellectual property do? For one thing, they can publicly demand that Beijing protect their rights as vigorously as it has protected the five Fuwa, the cutesy mascots for the 2008 Summer Olympics. China has stopped counterfeiters from knocking off Beibei the fish, Jingjing the panda, Huanhuan the Olympic flame, Yingying the Tibetan antelope, and Nini the swallow. Yes, the latest raid reported by the Times is good news indeed, but there’s a lot more the Chinese government can—and should—do.
First the good news. The United States, Britain, and France are asking the UN Security Council to instruct UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to find ways to stop weapons flowing into Lebanon. The text they are proposing also calls on Syria to do more to control its border with Lebanon and for Iran to abide by an arms embargo on shipments to Lebanon.
Here is the critical paragraph:
The Security Council, in this context, expresses grave concern at persistent reports of breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanon-Syria border. It expresses deep concern about reports, which have not been refuted, that suspected armed Hizballah elements are alleged to be constructing new facilities in the Bekaa Valley. The Council takes note of the detailed information conveyed by the Government of Lebanon about the dangerous activities of armed elements and groups, in particular PFLP-GC and Fatah Intifada, and reiterates its call for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias and armed groups in particular in Lebanon. It underscores the obligation of all member states, particularly the Syrian Arab Republic and Iran, to take all necessary measures to implement paragraph 15 resolution 1701 to enforce the arms embargo.
Now for the bad news.
• Contrary to popular belief, not many critics are failed artists. (They might be better critics if they were.) Some, however, are what I call “recovering artists,” a category into which I fit, since I spent several years working as a professional musician prior to becoming a full-time writer at the age of 29. While my experience is anything but unique, it is one that, so far as I know, has never been written about in any detail. This is one reason why I found Glenn Kurtz’s Practicing: A Musician’s Return to Music so compelling. Kurtz studied classical guitar at the New England Conservatory of Music and, like me, pursued a performing career before deciding to take up writing. A few years ago he started playing again, this time for his own pleasure, and now he has written a book, half memoir and half meditation, about the broken arc of his musical life.
On Saturday, the New York Times criticized the Pentagon’s spending plans for buying, among other things, the F-22 stealth fighter, also known as the Raptor. According to the paper, that’s just concentrating on “the kind of weapons that might have made sense during the cold war but have little use in the kind of conflicts America is involved in and is likely to face in the foreseeable future.”
The Air Force acquired the F-22 to penetrate the Soviet Union and face its fleet of Su-27 fighters. The Times reasons that, because the USSR disappeared, so did our need for the Raptor. Even if the paper is correct—it’s not—there is one nation that indisputably requires the plane today. Japan at this moment is threatened by China’s growing fleet of Su-27s and has to replace aging F-4’s.