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Microsoft Sinks Alleged Software Pirates
It has been quite a busy year for Microsoft's attorneys--and not just on the antitrust front. The software giant, in continuing its aggressive bid to sink software pirates, this week has filed suit against multiple computer retailers across the U.S.

The complaints target several companies that allegedly distributed counterfeit license agreements for Office 97 and, to a lesser extent, Windows 95.

The offenders, Microsoft alleges, include 4 Star Trading Co., Centurion Computers and Software Inc., Gateway USA Inc., MJ Micro Inc., R.P.M. International Inc., Software Wholesale Club Inc. and Volume Software Inc.

Microsoft alleges that these companies distributed bogus End User License Agreements (EULAs) and/or sold counterfeit software to investigators or customers. None of the alleged software pirates were available for comment at press time.

However, content on Gateway USA's Web site, for one, raises several red flags. A price list on the Gateway USA site (no relation to Gateway Inc., the PC maker) states that "everything herein is priced for paying with cash, cashier's check or certified check." Sources at Microsoft say the emphasis on cash payments caught the attention of investigators, since software pirates often prefer cash in order to hide income from their accounting books.

Microsoft Has Its Hands Full

Microsoft has had its hands full this year on the anti-piracy front. In June, Microsoft helped state and federal investigators bust up an alleged piracy ring that made $56 million worth of bogus Microsoft software. In April, Microsoft filed piracy complaints against seven resellers in its home state of Washington. And back in January, the company recovered 55,000 counterfeit Office 97 CDs during a raid in Europe.

It's a good bet more raids are coming. "There are hundreds of [piracy] cases that we're working on over any one year," says a Microsoft attorney who requested anonymity. "We have informants who have connections to piracy groups. And we have a very detailed test-purchase program that involves working under cover and buying software from pirates."

So pirates beware. You may selling your goods directly to Microsoft--and effectively blowing the whistle on your own criminal operation.

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