Microsoft Brings The Heat To Software Pirates

Sharon Cates, an antipiracy attorney at Microsoft, says many of the resellers targeted have been using a tactic known as hard disk loading, which involves taking a single piece of software and loading on multiple PCs, and then selling those PCs to unwitting customers.

In this scenario, not only do customers run the legal risks involved with using unlicensed software, they also lose out on upgrade rights, access to technical support, and key security protections, Cates said. Hard disk loading also leads to Microsoft's honest channel partners being undercut by unscrupulous resellers, she added.

"A lot of people don't know what kind of media they are supposed to get when they buy a PC, and that makes it easier for the software pirate to fool customers," Cates said.

Cates says software piracy continues to be huge problem for Microsoft, which has been diligently tracking down those who distribute counterfeit or improperly licensed products as part of its ongoing Genuine Software Initiative.

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While today's lawsuits are civil cases, Microsoft has also been pursuing criminal cases against certain resellers. In August, a U.S. district court handed out a 46-month prison sentence in a criminal case to a Georgia man convicted of using fake certificates of authenticity to sell pirated versions of Microsoft software.

These efforts are beginning to have an impact on the software giant's bottom line: Last November, Citigroup enterprise software analyst Brent Thill predicted that Microsoft's efforts to battle software pirates could add up to an extra $1 billion in fiscal 2008 revenue.