Eleven counterfeiters have been given jail sentences of
between one and a half and six and a half years by a Chinese court
after being found guilty of producing fake Microsoft
The "ringleaders of the world's largest
software-counterfeiting syndicate", as Microsoft described them in
a statement last week, were sentenced on New Year's Eve.
According to Microsoft, theirs were the longest sentences given for
this type of crime in China's history.
The syndicate was charged with making and distributing more than
US$2 billion worth of fake Microsoft software, which had ended up
all over the world. Nineteen Microsoft products were counterfeited,
in 11 languages. A Microsoft spokesperson told ZDNet.com.au sister site ZDNet UK on Friday
that the products had included Windows Vista and XP, as well as
Office 2007 and 2003, and Windows Server.
The conspirators were identified and arrested in July 2007,
following an investigation by the FBI and China's Public Security
Bureau (PSB). Microsoft said in its statement that "evidence
provided by Microsoft customers through the Microsoft [Windows
Genuine Advantage] piracy reporting tool proved to be essential in
tracking down this criminal syndicate". Over 100 Microsoft
resellers helped trace the software to its origins and provide
"Microsoft greatly appreciates the work of China's PSB and the
FBI in taking strong enforcement action against this global
software-counterfeiting syndicate," David Finn, Microsoft's
associate general counsel for anti-piracy at Microsoft, said in the
"Unfortunately, software counterfeiting is a global,
illegal business without borders. Criminals may be on the other
side of the globe and may not even speak the same language, but
they prey upon customers and partners all over the world. This case
is a testament to the importance of Microsoft's commitment to
close collaboration with government bodies and local
law-enforcement agencies around the world to bring these criminals
to justice, wherever they may be."
Microsoft's vice president for the Greater China region,
Fengming Liu, said in the company's statement that there had been
"a significant improvement in the environment for
intellectual-property rights in China". The country has long been
widely seen as a haven for software and media counterfeiters, with
one perceived factor being official laxity over the issue.
Microsoft, as a company with extremely popular software, has always
been a significant victim of this situation.
"We will continue to work with the relevant authorities in
China to ensure that counterfeit software does not undermine the
development of China's knowledge economy," Fengming said.
In November, Microsoft announced that it had decided to spend,
over the next three years, in excess of $1 billion on research
and development in China.