This must be a bit embarrassing. A report out in Bloomberg today has Microsoft asking China to end the use of pirated copies of its software at four state-owned businesses. These are not small shops; one of the four is the China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), a company whose 2011 revenues were north of $240 billion.

From the Bloomberg report, here are the supposed piracy rates that Microsoft is unhappy with:

  • At CNPC: 40% piracy of Office and Windows Server
  • China Railway Construction: 84% Office piracy
  • China Post: 93% Office piracy
  • TravelSky: Nearly complete Office piracy

Those are no mean figures. 40% is stunning, 84% is a joke, and 93% makes you wonder if they just pass the same pirated DVD around the office to new hires, helping them set up their machines.

Obviously, this is more than lost business for Microsoft, it’s exceptionally bad PR for China itself, to have its own firms engaging in the exact form of illicit business practices that the country is dinged for in American politics; this gives critics of trade with the country, and how it manages its currency, ammunition.

According to a spokesperson, China Railway Construction states that the figures are “greatly exaggerated,” but does allow for ”the possibility [that] some subsidiary units may have used unauthorized software.” That’s a pretty poor admission of guilt, I think.

How effective Microsoft’s protest will be I can’t say, but it certainly has shown a bright light on a highly embarrassing issue.

Top Image Credit: Renato Ganoza