In a continuing effort to crack down on distributors of illegal software, Microsoft this week filed suit against eight users of eBay's auction site for allegedly selling counterfeit copies of the company's software online.
Microsoft filed the suits in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Washington, each a state where a defendant is located, the company said.
Defendants named in the suits are seven private citizens-- Agus Chandra, Igor Goldshteyn, John Hilaire, Jaike Hornreich, Edward Shklovsky, Jay D. Smith, and Billy Williams--and one company, Great Product Deals.
Goldshteyn, Hilaire, Shklovsky, and Williams are all accused of using eBay auctions to distribute counterfeit copies of Windows XP Professional and Microsoft Office components, while Hornreich, Smith, and Great Product Deals are accused only of distributing counterfeit Windows XP software components on eBay, according to Microsoft. The company claims Chandra used eBay to distribute counterfeit Office 2003 Student and Teacher Edition software.
Microsoft said it identified seven of the eight defendants in the eBay suits through its Windows Genuine Advantage program. The program, launched in July 2005, automatically determines whether customers using Windows Update, Microsoft Update for Windows, and the Microsoft Download Center have a legitimate version of the Windows operating system before they can download updates or new content from those services. Microsoft filed eight lawsuits in September 2005 against defendants it said were identified in part through Windows Genuine Advantage.
Microsoft also learned about some of the latest defendants' actions through its antipiracy hot line, 800/RU-LEGIT (785-3448), the company said.
Windows Genuine Advantage is part of an ongoing effort in the past several years by Microsoft to prevent the piracy of its software products. At the time of its launch, the program met with mixed reviews from customers and was immediately hacked so users could avoid running the program when accessing Microsoft update services. Microsoft has since repaired the flaw that allowed users to bypass Windows Genuine Advantage.
According to a joint report by commercial software advocacy group Business Software Alliance and research firm IDC released last year, about one of every four software programs in the United States is pirated. In 2004, 35 percent of software programs worldwide were pirated, according to the study.
Cracking down on pirated or counterfeit versions of its software is particularly important to Microsoft, as the company is hoping customers will upgrade in droves when it ships the next major update to its Windows client OS, Windows Vista, later this year.
Microsoft also is launching a stripped-down and low-cost edition of Vista that it hopes to sell in emerging software markets, especially in third-world countries where analysts say software piracy continues to be a major problem.