Microsoft keeps up the piracy battle

In its fight against piracy Microsoft may win a battle, but it still remains to be seen whether it will win the war.

That is how a couple of industry insiders are reacting to Microsoft Canada Co.’s latest lawsuits against six Ontario system builders for allegedly selling unlicensed copies of their software on computers.

“If you ask me whether targeting only six people is just, when hundreds and thousands are doing similar things, I would say no, but targeting people who are engaging in piracy is right,” said Michelle Warren, analyst at Toronto-based research firm Evans Research Corp. “Microsoft is doing a commendable job,” she said.

Warren was reacting to Microsoft Canada’s latest onslaught against piracy. Last month the Mississauga, Ont.-based corporation filed lawsuits in federal court against six system builders, which it claimed were loading Microsoft software onto PCs and selling them without the CD-ROMs. Microsoft has alleged copyright and trademark infringement against the six builders.

“As part of Microsoft’s larger anti-piracy strategy, it is important that system builders understand the legal ramifications of distributing unlicensed or pirated software to consumers and businesses,” said Susan Harper, license compliance manager at Microsoft Canada.

“By taking legal action, we hope system builders understand this is a serious matter that will be pursued to the full extent of the law.”

Warren conceded that the system builders market is a competitive one with more supply than demand of computer products. “So the option of providing pirated software would look profitable. But within organizations there is usually a struggle as to which way to follow — the right one or the wrong one.” She said the Ontario builders obviously made their choice. “That is why the laws are in place.”

Amongst other things, Microsoft has sought damages ranging from $20,000 to $160,000.

Experts said the suit would be an expensive one. “It could cost Microsoft anything from a hundred thousand to millions of dollars,” said Glen Perinot, litigation and intellectual property lawyer at Toronto-based law firm Heydary, Garfin and Hamilton.

He expects Microsoft to go ahead with the trial that he predicted would come at least after two years. “It is obvious that Microsoft wants to send a message to other infringers that they are willing to go right til the end.”

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