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Microsoft Sues Online Auction Scofflaws for Piracy

Microsoft has sued eight people for selling counterfeit copies of its software through online auction site eBay, the company said this week.

In a statement, the company said it had identified seven of the defendants through customer submissions to the Microsoft Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program, which began last summer. That is, seven of the eight were turned in by eBay customers.

WGA is an online validation tool for customers to determine whether their software is genuine and gives them the option of submitting counterfeit reports on their suppliers if they did not receive genuine software. It is primarily a program to make sure that end users going to Microsoft’s Update sites to get patches and upgrades have legitimately licensed software running on their computers thus helping to lower piracy rates.

However, it also offers what might be seen as a cross between an employee discount sales promotion coupled with a bounty on pirates for users who unknowingly purchased pirated software and who turn in the pirate they got it from. "Qualifying customers who submit a piracy report may receive a genuine copy of Windows XP Home Edition for $99 or Windows XP Professional for $149," Microsoft's announcement last July stated.

Defendants in the lawsuits are located in eight states -- Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York and Washington.

Microsoft routinely monitors online auction sites for pirates selling fakes, and claims that it request the shut down of as many as 50,000 illicit auction sites last year. Statements on the Business Software Alliance’s site – an organization of which Microsoft is a member – say that 23 percent of software in use in the United States in 2002 was counterfeit.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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