Microsoft out to keel-haul software pirates

Microsoft sent an ominous warning yesterday to the channel that it will not tolerate pirated software sales announcing a $5,000 reward for anyone giving evidence leading to the conviction of a dealer selling pirated or counterfeit software.

Microsoft's dob-in-a-pirate campaign is targeted at dishonest resellers, which the vendor claims is ruining the margin and integrity of the greater channel.

"Piracy poses a tremendous threat to honest system builders, distributors and resellers and we are concerned with the increasing number of Australian dealers being exposed for trading in illegal software," said Vanessa Hutley, corporate attorney at Microsoft.

Microsoft claims pirated software exposes customers to viruses and to products that are missing "key" elements which could render the software useless. Similarly, Microsoft warns that pirated software is also ineligible for technical support, warranty protection and upgrades.

"The 'too good to be true' pricing that disreputable software distributors advertise makes it hard for genuine distributors to compete on an even playing field," Hutley said.

The global Business Software Alliance (BSA) predicts software piracy to be as high as 32 per cent, indicating that nearly one in three corporate and consumer customers are using illegal software. Hutley concurs; estimating pirated software costs the retail channel US$150 million per year alone.

While the rewards program is slated to finish on the 30th of April, Microsoft has not ruled out the possibility of it becoming an ongoing campaign.

Hutley denied the program could incite mud-slinging between Microsoft's dealers who feel slighted by a rival's pricing structure saying that all calls will be investigated "on a case-by-case basis".

Microsoft's hard line on piracy comes just weeks after the Business Software Association of Australia (BSAA) announced a two-month amnesty for companies using unlicensed software.

Under the amnesty companies will have immunity from prosecution for two months (from May 1 to June 30) to ensure all their systems use appropriately licensed software. The amnesty covers any products belonging to participating BSAA members, including Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Macromedia, Micrografx, Lilly software associates, Microsoft and Symantec.

Microsoft's piracy rewards line is 1800 639 963

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