Microsoft launches 'terrorist-fuelling' piracy crackdown

'Keep IT Real' campaign will target small resellers and online auctions

'Keep IT Real' campaign will target small resellers and online auctions

Microsoft has launched a new software piracy crackdown in the UK which will target computer shops, resellers and online auctions selling counterfeit copies of its products.

The company claims software piracy costs the company £250m per year and has set a target of reducing the UK piracy level of Windows XP by five per cent over the next three years from the current figure of 16.7 per cent.

Speaking at the launch of the 'Keep IT Real' campaign, Alistair Baker, head of Microsoft UK, said the focus would be on cracking down on small resellers and system builders who are undercutting genuine channel partners by selling pirated Microsoft software.

He said: "We are going to try and cut the problem off at source. We believe over two-thirds of PCs shipped in the small system builder market are without genuine copies of Microsoft software."

Pirating software is still seen as a low-risk, high-reward crime. Michala Alexander, head of anti-piracy at Microsoft UK, said 1,500 copies of Office 2000 Pro cost just £30,000 to buy from a pirate but have a street value of £300,000.

Online auctions are one of the areas where Microsoft is stepping up its anti-piracy activities by levelling threats of legal action against the repeat offenders. Alexander said Microsoft's anti-piracy enforcement staff take down more than 200 bogus software sales per day on eBay's UK website alone.

Microsoft has identified several regional piracy "hotspots", such as Glasgow, Manchester and Middlesbrough, which its enforcement team will be targeting over the next year.

Alexander said the crackdown is not only about cutting Microsoft's own piracy losses but also about protecting the business of its legitimate channel partners who face being undercut by those selling pirated products.

She said: "We don't want to see good system builders going out of business and we don't want to see customers duped by illegal trading."

Paul Ramsden, deputy CEO at the Trading Standards Institute, added that software piracy is not a victimless crime and the proceeds help fund much more serious crimes.

He said: "These people we are dealing with aren't local criminals. This is big business. It funds terrorist organisations."