Microsoft takes on suspected pirates

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Microsoft announced yesterday it was launching 55 separate lawsuits against suspected software pirates in 11 countries selling counterfeit Microsoft products via eBay and other auction websites.

The suits were part of a big new push to eradicate piracy of the world's most popular software programs and buoy consumer confidence on the eve of a major new product launch. Microsoft is on the verge of releasing new versions of Windows, its operating system, and Office, its word-processing and office management software package.

Five of the suits are directed at suspected software pirates in the UK. Fifteen are in the United States. Other countries affected include Germany, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Australia and Argentina.

Microsoft said it had worked with eBay to identify users allegedly abusing their account privileges to sell counterfeit software. Each had got a written warning before receiving a lawsuit.

Microsoft raised the dangers of buying unauthorised code in its release. "Counterfeit software is defective and dangerous because counterfeiters tamper with the genuine software code, which leaves the door open to identity theft and other serious security breaches," said Matt Lundy, a senior company lawyer. "It is simply not worth putting your personal and confidential information at risk to save a few dollars on software; it can cost much more in the long run."

In an analysis of counterfeit Windows XP operating system discs last June, Microsoft found 34 per cent of them could not be installed.