Microsoft Takes Action Against Nine Companies in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey in Continuation of Anti-Piracy Efforts
Understanding Warning Signs Necessary to Avoid Acquisition of Illegal Software
REDMOND, Wash. - April 8, 1999 - Microsoft Corp. officials today announced that the company has filed software piracy lawsuits in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey as part of the company's increased commitment to protect legitimate distributors and customers from the negative effects of software piracy. Complaints were filed against nine businesses suspected of illegally distributing counterfeit products and installing unlicensed software on computers sold to consumers.
"As a computer reseller, it is very frustrating to compete for business with merchants who are profiting from distributing illegal products, often to customers who believe that what they are getting is genuine," said Tom Franceski of DJS Marketing Group dba Computer Professionals International.
In most cases, investigations are initiated by tips called in to the Microsoft® anti-piracy hot line by honest resellers or customers who obtained suspicious products. Microsoft customarily notifies the businesses that it suspects them of acting illegally and then determines whether the behavior has continued before filing a lawsuit.
Three businesses in New York, two in Pennsylvania and two in New Jersey allegedly distributed counterfeit copies of Microsoft software to undercover investigators. The complaints are as follows:
"The amount of counterfeit software being distributed in the area should serve as a warning sign to consumers that they need to exercise caution when obtaining software, whether standalone packages or preloaded on computers," said John Bliss, president of the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC), a multinational organization dedicated to combating product counterfeiting. "Prices that seem too good to be true, or documentation that seems incomplete or mismatched, are key warning signs that the product may be illegal. Piracy is obviously a problem in the mid-Atlantic region, and awareness is one of our best defenses."
Two other Pennsylvania lawsuits allege hard disk loading, the practice of loading unauthorized copies of Microsoft software onto the hard drives of computers they sell:
"We lose a significant amount of business to other so-called legitimate solution organizations that do not respect the legal implications of software copying and distribution," said Dan Rodgers, vice president of professional services at West Chester, Pa.-based StrategicLink Consulting, a business software and network solutions provider. "We see the lawsuits announced today as a positive step toward keeping the industry clean of piracy, which is a major concern especially here in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, where we have a high percentage of literate computer users."
"Software piracy threatens the economic livelihood of every region it touches. Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey each lost more than half a billion dollars in combined wages, tax revenues and retail sales in 1997," said Nick Psyhogeos, Microsoft corporate attorney. "Unfortunately, many software pirates are fully aware that what they are doing is illegal, but persist in dealing in illicit product despite prior notice and despite the significant risks that they are passing on to consumers."
Microsoft cautions that, in addition to the increased potential for viruses, consumers who acquire pirated products could find they are missing key elements, such as user manuals and product identifications, Certificates of Authenticity and even software code. Counterfeit product also comes without warranty protection, technical support, or the right to free or discounted upgrades. Microsoft is continually researching the viability of new anti-piracy technologies that create more value for customers while maintaining the integrity of the distribution channel and reducing the costs of piracy.
The company encourages consumers to become familiar with the warning signs that can help them identify counterfeit or illegal software.
In addition, when users acquire a new computer system, it will include operating system software. If that software is the Microsoft Windows 98 operating system, it should be accompanied by a user manual that incorporates a Certificate of Authenticity as the cover. The customer will also receive a CD-ROM with the software program. There must be an end-user license agreement (visible on screen when the program is first run). If any of these elements is missing, the product is suspect.
Customers or resellers with questions about the legitimacy of Microsoft products should contact the Microsoft anti-piracy hot line, toll free, at (800) RU-LEGIT (785-3448), or send e-mail to email@example.com. In addition, a list of authorized distributors and details regarding the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) System Builder program is available at http://www.microsoft.com/oem/. Consumers can obtain more information about software piracy by calling the Business Software Alliance anti-piracy hot line at (888) NO-PIRACY (667-4722) or sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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