Shops pinged for pirated software

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 17:10 09/11/2012

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One of the six Auckland companies that Microsoft today accused of supplying pirated software to undercover investigators says it fears reprisals if it discusses the circumstances of the "sting".

Microsoft New Zealand said today it had received a total of $34,000 in compensation from six independent computer stores in Auckland that it caught selling unauthorised copies of its software.

Investigators posing as customers had visited the six companies in various guises, to see if they would be willing to sell them unlicensed Microsoft products.

ComputerXpress director Andrew Clasby said he had been advised a gagging clause meant Microsoft was free to say what it liked about the offences and settlements, but it was unable to explain its actions, meaning some people had assumed the very worst.

Microsoft clarified that ComputerXpress was able to discuss the sting but not the terms of the settlement it had entered into. "I have no problem with them discussing the case."

However, Clasby remained reluctant. "Microsoft have got an unlimited supply of lawyers and an unlimited supply of funds and if they want to make my life miserable ... I have to stay in business."

Microsoft legal counsel Clayton Noble declined to himself release the details of what passed between the investigators and the companies, but said its investigators had strict rules against "entrapment".

"Each of the six companies admitted they dealt with illegal copies of Microsoft software and promised not to do it again."

Any time a computer supplier gave away a free copy of Microsoft software with a computer purchase, even an outdated product, that risked disadvantaging their legitimate competitors, he said.

Another of the six accused firms denied being involved in supplying pirated software despite a claim by Microsoft that it had made an admission. Noble said it would not provide evidence to back up its claim. "We don't want to hand the media copies of our confidential settlement documents."

Smaller, locally-owned computer stores tended to be the ones that sold unauthorised software and Microsoft had taken into account their ability to pay in the settlements, he said.

"We are not in the business of bankrupting businesses. We don't put these people out of business, but it's important that we stop them selling the unauthorised software."

Microsoft said its Digital Crimes Unit had found cybercriminals were trying to install malware in pirated copies of software destined for retail stores.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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