Microsoft starts software fraud campaign in U.K.

It may be software but it's no soft crime, says Microsoft as it seeks to clamp down on counterfeiters with the Keep IT Real campaign.

Microsoft has launched a campaign in the United Kingdom in an attempt to cut the use of counterfeit and other unlicensed software in organizations.

The campaign dubbed Keep IT Real will see Microsoft conduct a series of educational tours around the country, in which it says it will "educate customers on how to purchase legitimate software". It will use newspaper advertisements and seminars to drive home this point.

The software giant will also focus on online retail and auction sites, which can be a popular source of unlicensed software.

Michala Alexander, who heads up Microsoft's fight against counterfeit software, said Microsoft wants to clamp down on computer vendors who install a single licensed copy of Windows or Office on multiple PCs. "A small number of IT vendors are at the moment putting customers at risk of unwittingly running illegal software," he said. "Microsoft will not tolerate illegal copies of its software being sold."

Microsoft exhibited some of its proposed advertising for Keep IT Real on Thursday at an event in London. One piece focused on an eBay trader that Microsoft says was forced to pay "substantial damages" after selling counterfeit copies of its software online.

"This isn't just a soft crime. There are links to organized crime, and it affects the economy," said Baker.

Microsoft hopes to cut the overall level of Windows piracy in the United Kingdom by 5 percent, as measured through its Genuine Advantage scheme, which lets users check whether they are running authorized versions of Microsoft's products.

ZDNet UK reported in September 2005 that Microsoft's UK partners were increasingly concerned about the amount of counterfeit and unlicensed software being sold in the United Kingdom. This came after Microsoft was revealed to be the most counterfeited tech brand in the world.