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China signs licensing pact with U.S., U.K.

Memorandum of understanding with four American and British trade associations aimed at enforcement of copyright.

The West's struggle with China over software licensing issues took a new turn on Friday with the news that the Chinese government had signed a memorandum of understanding with four U.K. and U.S. trade associations.

The associations involved are the Business Software Alliance and The Publishers Association in the U.K., and, in the U.S., the Association of American Publishers and the Motion Picture Association of America. The Chinese government has asked them to hand over a list of products they want protected as well as information about their own ongoing legal action against alleged copyright infringers.

"This is primarily for enforcement," said BSA's regional director for the Asia Pacific region, Jeffrey Hardee, told Agence France-Presse. "We are concerned about...the use of unlicensed software within organizations."

The problems of unlicensed software and the misuse of copyright information are immense in China. The National Copyright Association of China will now be the custodian of information handed over by the four trade associations.

"China now has the world's second-largest number of Internet users," according to Xu Chao, director of the government's copyright department.

In October, Microsoft began directly marketing new mobile phone technologies to China for the first time, as part of an agreement with the country.

But dealings between China and the West in technology have been fraught with controversy. In November, delegates to a United Nations summit attacked Microsoft, Google, Cisco Systems and Yahoo for cooperating too closely with China. The U.N. is looking for new global free-speech regulations to combat Chinese censorship, it said.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.