RealTime IT News

Microsoft v. Pirates: 26 New Lawsuits Filed

Microsoft filed suit against more than two dozen companies charged with loading pirated software on computers they sold.

The company said it filed the 26 U.S. lawsuits this week, spanning seven states, to protect consumers, partners and software rights.

"We are committed to finding unscrupulous dealers of pirated software and making piracy a business model that doesn't work," according to a statement from Mary Jo Schrade, senior Microsoft attorney.

Microsoft said most of its software is sold through businesses that do consulting or recommend the software giant to companies.

Schrade said those partners cannot compete with businesses providing unlicensed Microsoft software.

Microsoft uncovered evidence against the 26 accused software pirates in what it called its own spin on the "secret shopper" concept.

After purchasing hardware and software from computer sellers across the country, Microsoft said in a statement it checked the items to determine authenticity.

The company then sent letters to the companies alerting them to the illegal items and informing the firms and inviting them to use genuine versions. Only after the companies ignored cease-and-desist letters did Microsoft sue, according to the spokesperson.

One plaintiff, Sales International LLC, already faces a federal indictment for selling Microsoft's certificates of authenticity identifying hardware or software is legitimate, according to Microsoft.

The lawsuits were called an integral part of Microsoft's Genuine Software Initiative, launched earlier this year.

Along with educating the public, ways in which to identify pirated software enforcement is also a goal of the initiative.

Microsoft recently was the defendant in a lawsuit revolving around its efforts to ensure only genuine versions of its Windows products are used.

In 2005, Microsoft sued eight software resellers charging them with providing customers pirated Windows software.

Earlier this month, the Business Software Alliance (BSA), an industry trade group, awarded more than $15,000 to individuals who reported instances of piracy.

Twenty-one percent of software in the U.S. is unlicensed, according to IDC.

BSA earmarked up to $200,000 to pay tipsters leading to investigations and prosecution. With 21 percent of U.S. software reportedly unlicensed, the practice cost the industry $6.1 billion in 2005, according to the BSA.

"Microsoft is not looking to close any businesses down," said a spokesperson. "Our intention is to raise awareness."