Microsoft Settles with German Software Pirates

Three men accused of software piracy Tuesday agreed to a settlement of damages with the software giant Microsoft.

The three software pirates from the Bautzen region of East Germany had manufactured and distributed some 200,000 illegal copies of Microsoft programs, and faced trial in a Leipzig regional court.

Microsoft had originally been claiming 10.5 million German marks in damages in the case, and the company could easily have had these claims enforced in court. However, the three accused now only have to pay 100,000 German marks to the world’s largest software company, in the form of several payments extending over the next four years.

The tech pirates seem to have got off relatively lightly. The judge forced the Microsoft attorney to agree to a settlement which would be within the realm of conceivable payment for the three accused. He referred to a Microsoft representative quoted in the daily newspaper of the region, the Leipziger Volkszeitung, who had emphasized the readiness of her employer to come to an appropriate settlement.

The compromise which has now been reached, still has to be agreed on however at the company headquarters in Redmond. Microsoft can still reject the settlement until the 10th of December.

The manufacture and distribution of pirate copies which came to light in 1994, has implications for the three culprits not only under civil law, but also under criminal law. The main culprit was already condemned to a four-year prison sentence in November 1995; his two accomplices were suspended on probation. In addition, the three will have to pay the court costs of around 200,000 mark.

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