RealTime IT News

Website, Lawsuits Take Aim at Pirates

Microsoft made another incremental step in its long-running antipiracy program this week, suing 20 alleged sellers of pirated software in 13 states, as well as launching a new educational site for users.

The moves are part of Microsoft's continuing "Genuine Software Initiative," a multi-pronged offensive meant to decrease piracy and counterfeiting of its products worldwide.

Dubbed www.howtotell.com, the new Website aims to help teach users how to tell the difference between legitimate and counterfeit or pirated software, according to a company statement.

The site provides comparison guides to enable users to identify pirated software, tips on what to watch out for, and answers to frequently asked questions, as well as a gallery of recently seized examples, including faked Windows Vista and Office 2007 packages. It also provides a link where users can report suspicious vendors.

Microsoft periodically files batches of suits against companies it believes are selling, or have sold, illegal copies of its products.

Interestingly, nearly all of the latest batch of lawsuits concern out-of-date versions of Microsoft products. These include Windows XP, Office 2003, and even SQL Server 2000.

The latest lawsuits were filed in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia, according to company statements. The suits were filed against "alleged dealers of counterfeit or infringing software," Microsoft's statement said.

Microsoft has been a stalwart in pursuing counterfeiters as well as promulgating other measures aimed at cutting down on illegal software copying since the early days of the company. The lawsuits are merely the latest filed against alleged sellers of illicit Microsoft products.

According to annual global piracy studies by researcher IDC sponsored by the Business Software Alliance (of which Microsoft is a member), software counterfeiting and piracy are as big a problem as ever. In the U.S., IDC's study for 2006 showed that 21 percent of software in use on PCs was pirated and that number has held steady since 2004 – in 2003, IDC said, the figure was 22 percent.

The dollar volume of losses in the U.S. due to piracy in 2006 was $7.3 billion. Compare that to the global average – for a total of 102 countries – of 35 percent. IDC estimates that worldwide losses in 2006 ran to nearly $40 billion overall.