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Microsoft tackles South African pirates

by Stuart Wilson, Friday 2 May 2008

Software giant Microsoft has cracked down on South African dealers selling counterfeit and illegal software. Microsoft has reached settlements worth tens of thousands of US dollars with 21 local computer dealers. The 21 dealers, based in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria and a number of smaller regional locations, were found to be selling computers loaded with unlicensed Microsoft software.

"The crackdowns are part of Microsoft’s global Genuine Software Initiative, which aims to help protect legitimate distributors and customers from the effects of software piracy," said Mark Reynolds, Microsoft South Africa partner executive.

John Newton, director of the intellectual property rights programme at Interpol, added: "The criminals behind software counterfeiting networks are organised, shrewd and willing to spend large amounts of money to develop counterfeit products and introduce them onto the world markets. First and foremost, piracy is a criminal offence, and it is of the utmost importance that we coordinate our efforts on an international scale in order to dismantle these criminal networks and put an end to their illegal activities."

The action in South Africa forms part of Microsoft’s worldwide efforts to protect its customers and partners from the risks of counterfeit software. According to a recent economic study by the IDC, spending on hardware, software and IT services in South Africa will reach US$8billion in 2007. IDC claimed that the piracy rate in South Africa in 2006 was 35%.

"Microsoft’s actions, in coordination with law enforcement agencies and other associations, represent an important effort in our ongoing effort to protect customers, partners and our intellectual property from dishonest dealers," said Reynolds. "We want to protect legitimate computer businesses and resellers who do the right thing in selling genuine software. Microsoft won’t stand by and allow their businesses and employees to be undermined by unscrupulous vendors."

Alastair De Wet, chairman of the Business Software Alliance in South Africa, added: "Piracy remains one of the major hurdles to realising the potential of the information economy in South Africa and on the continent," added. "There is great concern for our local economy that over a third of software in use is illegal."

Reynolds warned consumers to exercise caution when purchasing new PCs. "Hard-disk loading is one of the most common forms of piracy," said Reynolds. "What might be seen initially by consumers as a saving is actually a loss in the long run. Illegally loaded software is not upgradeable, users will not receive support and there is always a threat of a virus wiping out their computer’s hard drive."

According to Microsoft, genuine software users enjoy a range of benefits, including access to greater capabilities and easy integration with a variety of hardware, software, and services. Genuine, licensed users of software are able to access the latest product features, updates, and ongoing improvements to keep their PCs performing better. They also get access to additional add-ons and tools that make their computers run better and do more things, including useful downloads, add-ins, templates, learning tools and more.

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