Microsoft goes after

Microsoft Canada announced today that its parent company Microsoft Corp. has launched the first wave of a new global campaign against Internet consumer fraud involving software products.

Fraudulent software sales over the Internet have prompted thousands of consumer complaints to Microsoft’s anti-piracy hot lines around the world, Microsoft corporate attorney Tim Cranton said in a statement. In some cases, consumers never received any product at all, while in others they received a defective CD or a download infected with a virus that prevented proper installation of the software, Cranton added.

“Microsoft’s new campaign should help eliminate some of the risk for consumers, but they must also become savvy Internet shoppers and learn to spot the warning signs of counterfeit and pirated software, such as deals that are too good to be true,” Cranton is quoted as saying in the company’s release.

Already 64 criminal raids and 17 civil lawsuits in 15 countries worldwide – including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States -have been conducted to remove “fraudulent” software from the Internet.

In this first wave of its new global campaign Microsoft said by employing an Internet monitoring tool, and working with industry partners (such as the Business Software Alliance – BSA) and law enforcement agencies, Microsoft has taken legal action against more than 7,500 Internet Web and auction site postings allegedly offering counterfeit and other illegal copies of software. The illegal content resided on Internet servers located in 33 countries, including Canada on six continents.

Company officials claim that Microsoft investigative teams using the new Internet monitoring tool discovered the majority of illegal Internet postings involved in today’s worldwide enforcement efforts.

According to Microsoft, the Internet monitoring tool can search suspect sites on the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week to identify illegal online offerings and those behind them. By automating some of the most time-consuming work relating to illegal offerings, Microsoft will be able to identify and address thousands of illegal sites in a single day and work with Internet service providers and auction sites to remove illegal products from the Internet.

Microsoft backs up the automated search tool with a growing number of online and traditional investigators who examine suspect sites, make test purchases, work with ISPs and track down the pirates behind the illegal sites, company officials said.

The new campaign comes as emerging technologies such as Gnutella, Freenet and others seek to make it easier to distribute pirated copies of movies, music and software on the Internet, BSA president and CEO Robert Holleyman commented in a release.

“While the recent Napster debate highlights the illegal downloading of content for free, we’re also witnessing an upsurge in unauthorized Internet sites fraudulently offering ‘special low prices,’ collecting money, and then delivering fake CD-ROMs to unsuspecting consumers,” Holleyman is quoted as saying. “Although Napster is not designed to aid directly in the piracy of business software, new technologies can and should enhance ways to access and distribute copyrighted works legally. Unauthorized file sharing and the distribution of illegal creative works, through any means, pose a serious threat to consumers and the global economy.”

Microsoft, headquarters is in Redmond, Wash., and their anti-piracy Web site is at