Web Site, Lawsuits Take Aim At Software Pirates

Microsoft took another incremental step in its long-standing anti-piracy program this week when it filed lawsuits against 20 vendors in 13 states for allegedly selling pirated copies of its software.

The company also launched a new educational site, www.howtotell.com, to help teach buyers how to tell the difference between legitimate and counterfeit or pirated software.

These latest moves are part of Microsoft’s “Genuine Software Initiative”, a multi-pronged offensive that it hopes will decrease piracy and counterfeiting of its products worldwide.

This week’s lawsuits were filed in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

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 Interestingly, nearly all of the latest lawsuits concern out-of-date versions of Microsoft products.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

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.

In an attempt to at least slow down the trafficking of pirated software, the Software and Information Industry Association, a trade association representing more than 800 software companies, and several software vendors are changing their tactics, focusing instead on educating buyers about the consequences of buying stolen software.

Microsoft’s new Web site provides comparison guides to enable users to identify pirated software, tips on what to watch out for, and answers to frequently asked questions. It also includes a gallery of recently seized examples, including bogus Windows Vista and Office 2007 packages. It also provides a link for users to report suspicious vendors.

According to an IDC report issued in May, 35 percent of all software installed in 2006 on personal computers was obtained illegally, representing a retail value of more than $40 billion.

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