Microsoft Busts Cocky Pirates

Hawkers trading at the Computer Faire, the South Africa’s premier computer exhibition, were raided by police, resulting in the confiscation of R6000 worth of suspected counterfeit Microsoft computer games.

Both Microsft employees and members of the public alerted the Business Software Alliance (BSA), an anti-piracy organization, that an exhibitor was selling games they believed were counterfeit, based on, among other things, the price.

Upon hearing the allegations, Microsoft duly sent their Channel Integrity Manager to issue a warning and ask for the games to be removed. According to Mark Reynolds, head of Microsoft SA’s anti-piracy and legalization drive, it is “helpful” in terms of the Counterfeit Goods Act to inform merchants that they are dealing in counterfeit goods. The games were removed for a short period of time, but were back on display the next day, Reynolds said.

The commercial crimes unit was informed and raided the stall, taking the games in question to police stores for safekeeping. Microsoft is verifying the legitimacy of the games, which amounts to writing detailed affidavits confirming the forgeries, “which are obviously fake,” according to Reynolds.

Reynolds said that software pirates normally sell products of companies not represented in South Africa, or products with patents still pending. Mostly they deal quite openly.

It is the impunity of the alleged pirates that angered Reynolds most. He noted that the same people (whom he “unfortunately” cannot name until they appear in court) not only ignored warnings at this year’s fair, they also allegedly sold counterfeit games at last year’s computer faire.

Reynolds said Microsoft is hoping for a significant penalty, the maximum being R5,000 or three years in jail per item.

The last few months have seen Microsoft step up its battle against piracy. Early in May the company announced what it called a “Declaration Drive,” asking companies to detail what Microsoft software they are using and attest to the legality of the software.

Reynolds said 300 companies have responded, a return rate of 3 to 4 percent, which he believes is satisfactory. Companies have until 11 June to respond.

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