Chinese Developer Gets Three Years In Jail For Making IM Software Better

from the improvements-not-allowed dept

Almost exactly a year ago, we wrote about the case of a developer in China who had created an add-on for the super popular QQ instant messaging software used in China. The add-on, called Coral QQ, made the software work better, by getting rid of some of the annoying features of QQ and adding some additional features as well. For making the software better, the guy got charged with copyright infringement. This didn't make much sense. The guy wasn't copying anything. You still needed the original program in order to use Coral QQ. Coral QQ was just an add on that worked on top of regular QQ. Yet, now a court has sentenced the guy to three years in jail, all for making a software product better. It's difficult to see how this encourages anyone to ever make products better. If anything, it guarantees that bad products get less competition.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 4:00pm

    does QQ possibly have state sanctioned spywares in it? I can see why the chinese gov would get a little defensive if they do.
    seems like a clear message to anyone hacking apart chinawares.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 4:02pm

    Before the "You're wrong Mikey!" comments come in

    This literally did make the program better. It is an optional add on to QQ. Available for free. It would be like Mozilla suing the developers who make Firebug or AdBlock and so on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    MrScott, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 4:05pm

    Well, so much for the commercial we've all probably seen on TV. "If you have an idea for a new product, or have an improvement for an existing product, write down or call this number for your free inventor's kit..."

    I've honestly had an idea floating around in my head for a few years for improving an existing item, but I doubt I'll take it any further than that. It's just too scary to think of the consequences or the money-hungry corporate "leeches" that have more money than I will ever have, and claim to "invent" the idea I had already. (don't laugh, it's happened before) How many of you remember the case of the man who invented intermittent windshield wipers? It was real. and it took the man YEARS to claim his fortune after Chrysler supposedly invented them before him.

    Now, every new car on the road has them, and he's just now getting paid for them??? Greedy corporate bast*rds!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    SomeGuy, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 4:11pm

    Re:

    If I understand correctly your previous article on the subject (http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20071130/010429.shtml), The guy didn't make an add-on. At the time you talked about stripping-out a program of it's annoying features.

    Is CoralQQ an add-on for the original program ? In this case, nothing has been copied. Or is it 100% copy only with the "evil code" removed ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Random, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 4:23pm

    typical

    I feel sorry for this bloke. It's not his fault, it's the fault of the scumbag country that he lives in. If they spent more time encouraging development rather than monitoring everybody who lives there it would be better for everbody

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Stuart, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 4:39pm

    Re: Re:

    Come on. We all know that Mike will just keep changing the story till he gets the right piss of the masses feel to it.
    Its not like Mike writes a factual blog.
    This place is for Entertainment purposes only.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Nov 26th, 2008 @ 4:52pm

    Re: Re:

    The guy didn't make an add-on. At the time you talked about stripping-out a program of it's annoying features.

    No, it's an add-on. You need the original software to make Coral QQ work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Whirler, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 5:02pm

    Re: Re:

    If said IM core code is required for Coral QQ to run, it's an add-on componant. How hard is this to understand, bunch of retards (-)(-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Chad, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 5:18pm

    Missing the point.. it all depends on what QQ IM states in their terms of service. If they state that all attempts to modify their code is prohibited (in the manner of blocking out certain ads or whatever), then what he did was breach their TOS in releasing his product...

    In a sense, it's like getting those AIM ad blockers of years past or getting FrostWire as opposed to LimeWire.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Paulb, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 5:20pm

    DeadAim

    I wonder if the maker of DeadAim will be getting sued soon.
    Add on to Aim 5.9 That adds some nifty features.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    NullOp, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 6:30pm

    The Law

    Obviously this is way wrong. However, Chinese law may allow for this. The real trouble comes from copycat suits as mentioned above. Soon enough businesses will figure out how to stop all creative development in the name of IP. BS begets BS...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 9:02pm

    MSN Messenger = meh.
    MSN Messenger + Messenger Plus + StuffPlug = ya!

    It is the same situation, an addon.
    You are running the original code and then modifying the UI to it in memory (or directly, in the case of apatch.tk/messpatch/etc).
    Even then, it is a potential EULA issue between the software house and the consumer running the addon or modified code, not the developer of the addon or patch.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Oliver Clevont, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 9:15pm

    I read the article

    I read the article. It is an addon, but differs in 2 ways:

    1) It is offered on it own website "bundled" with QQ.
    2) You don't "install QQ", then "install the addon". Instead you install "the single software" which includes the addon and QQ together.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 9:50pm

    Re:

    Read what you said carefully. "breach their TOS". who cares about a TOS? so what? big deal.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 10:19pm

    Absent a firm understanding of the actual facts involved in this matter, it is intellectually dishonest to use the headline for this article.

    I tend to defer to the judgement of those who actually heard, viewed, and considered the evidence provided by both parties. It seems to me they, and not me, are better positioned to determine what was actually going on since I was not involved in the proceedings and have received only hearsay by others who likewise were non-participants.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    jonnyq, Nov 26th, 2008 @ 10:26pm

    Re:

    Mike had an excellent article on that, including the fact that other people were working on intermittent windshield wipers at the time and that the movie misrepresented the story quite a bit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2008 @ 7:25am

    Re:

    "Well, so much for the commercial we've all probably seen on TV. "If you have an idea for a new product, or have an improvement for an existing product, write down or call this number for your free inventor's kit...""

    Oh, you didn't know? That was the way for them to kill innovation. Got a good idea? Send it to us so we can steal it or kill it in the name of copyright.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Crazy Turk, Nov 28th, 2008 @ 12:23pm

    ... responce to a couple things...and individuals....

    Are you really so dense as to say who cares about a TOS, well since a tos generally ourlines what is acceptable use and what isn't it would actually matter a whole lot. Since breaking it could be infringing on the companys copyright.

    I'm not saying that he should be in jail, and I'm not saying I support the judgement, but what is a matter of fact is that he is distributing a program which was altered (at least stripped of it's installer and replaced with his own) without recieving permission to do so first.
    If it truely was an addon, it would add features without altering the original code of the software, at which point he probably wouldn't have been punished to this extent.
    This add on disables some of the softwares original features, which is probably less desirable by the company's standards and if he did so by again altering the original code would be in violation of copyright.
    in short
    I

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Bubba, Nov 28th, 2008 @ 1:49pm

    It Depends

    An addon that changes functionality in the core product will violate most TOS. An addon that removes every mention of Microsoft in Messenger would probably get M$ attention.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    DAvid, Nov 29th, 2008 @ 2:06am

    WTF

    Gee .. Pity he didn't Make Working Brains For The Brain Less Chinese Government First !!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    tired of idiocy and shoddy work, Nov 29th, 2008 @ 11:42am

    READ THE ARTICLE NEXT TIME, MIKE YOU MORON

    "Tencent had sued Chen for infringement when his company developed a patch called Coral QQ as part of a complete download package which included Tencent's software, allowing it to be downloaded from a website called Soff.net."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anon, Nov 30th, 2008 @ 7:11am

    Unfortunately, the developers of QQ were in their *legal rights* to seek criminal penalties against the guy who made Coral QQ. I am *NOT* condoning their actions. I am simply saying that they were legally entitled to make a choice in this matter, and what happened was indeed an option for them.

    The fact is, they own QQ and if they don't want someone programming public releases that involve their program, it is their right to do something about it. ***What they chose to do, however, was unacceptable.***

    What they SHOULD have done, given their position on this guy, is sent him a cease-and-desist letter requesting that he halt development and remove any related files from servers under his control and any mirrors.

    I'm not familiar with laws in China, but if they wanted to be pigs about it they could have just sued him for money in civil court.

    If they were smart, they'd have given him a job. It would've made them look good, and improved their product substantially.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2008 @ 9:34am

    Re:

    @Anon (#22)
    You said:
    "If they were smart, they'd have given him a job. It would've made them look good, and improved their product substantially."

    But the article states:
    "Mr. Chen's program changes how it's used -- in ways that many users like. Among them, it blocks advertisements, although it also includes some ads and spam from other Web companies as a way to get revenue for itself. It also resolves Internet addresses, pinpointing the computer from which a person is messaging, a feature Tencent offers, but for a fee of 10 yuan ($1.35) a month."

    It's not that Tencent didn't think of the features these modifications implemented: it has implemented the features, and is using these features as a source of income. I doubt any company would be happy if someone removes a source of income from the software, let alone reimplementing it so that the modifier now gets that income instead. Just imagine the income you'd get if you got a part of the ad revenue from the MSN client.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This