Pirate raid nets fake Windows XP

More than 4,000 illegal copies of Microsoft products were seized in Singapore--the street value of the hot OS: between $2.75 and $5.50.

SINGAPORE--More than 4,000 copies of Microsoft software products have been seized in recent police raids in Singapore.

Seven raids were conducted in October, across the island's HDB heartlands like Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio, Marine Parade and Bedok North. This is because activity at the traditional center of pirated goods, Sim Lim Square, has largely been stamped out by police action. The raids turned up over 4,000 pieces of illegal Microsoft goods.

About 80 percent of these were of the software giant's Windows XP system, which premiered on October 25, and arrived in Singapore a day later. The pirated CDs were retailing at S$5 (US$2.75) to S$10 (US$5.50) apiece, compared with S$389 (US$213) for the genuine Windows XP Home edition and S$569 (US$312) for the Professional edition.

Microsoft corporate attorney Katharine Bostick said in a statement that the pirates wanted to exploit the worldwide marketing effort for Windows XP.

"Not only are these pirates ripping off legitimate software retailers," she said, "they are exploiting the creativity, hard work and investment made by software developers and industry partners."

According to research commissioned by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the Republic suffers from a 50 percent piracy rate--higher than the global average of 37 percent.

However, the copes seized in October are by no means the first copies of XP to appear in the region.

As early as September, it was reported that illicit copies of the OS were available in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for as little as US$1.50.

"Piracy is theft," said Bostick. "Those selling counterfeit software are stealing the income of legitimate Singapore retailers and saddling consumers with inferior copies."

Microsoft issued the same warning it gave to consumers in Kuala Lumpur. Counterfeit software, it said could be defective, missing key elements such as code, and could even have viruses. users of illegal software are also ineligible for technical support, warranty protection or upgrades.

The number of people apprehended in the raid was not given. However, those convicted of piracy can face up to seven years' imprisonment.