A Web search engine that trolls the Internet 24 hours a day for pirated software is helping Microsoft sue Web sites for distributing illegal copies of Windows 2000, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Lists of pirated software in 33 countries have been detected. These have led to 17 civil lawsuits being filed in 15 countries.
The automated search tool is reviewing sites seven days a week to determine whether they are involved in illegal piracy. "We can identify and address in excess of 500 illegal sites a day -- while it might take a month to manually shut down that many sites" says Tim Cranton, lawyer for Microsoft.
Microsoft claims to be responding to a surge in software piracy on the Web that cost the industry an estimated £2.38bn last year in Western Europe alone. The anonymity of the Internet is enabling sites ranging from auction sites through IRC chat and FTP sites to sell illegal software.
In the UK 16 auction sites have been taken down this year, and over 43,000 have been removed globally.
The problem of Internet fraud has been brought to the forefront of everyone's attention by the recent court order to cease the distribution of copyrighted digital music via Napster.