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.

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Comments on “Chinese Developer Gets Three Years In Jail For Making IM Software Better”

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23 Comments
SomeGuy says:

Re: 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 ?

MrScott says:

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!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Chad says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Crazy Turk says:

... 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

Anon says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

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