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PC World

Microsoft fights piracy with swap offers

October 21, 1999
Web posted at: 12:03 p.m. EDT (1603 GMT)

by Eileen Smith image

(IDG) -- Microsoft wants it nice and legal--your software, that is.

Are you the owner of pirated software? Well then, Tuesday was your lucky day in Chicago as Microsoft sponsored "Be Sure It's Legal Day," a kind of amnesty program that let you get legal if you inadvertently bought pirated software. Microsoft has staged similar events in San Diego and San Francisco, and expects to schedule others around the country.

A team of Microsoft ID specialists was standing by, ready to examine any possible counterfeits. If the software turned out to be illegal, Microsoft replaced the product with the genuine article for free, as long as you had proof of purchase. The first 500 people received T-shirts with the slogan, "Be Sure It Is Legal." Some people just showed up to see if they could tell the difference between a fake product and the real thing--most couldn't.
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Sometimes you get a really good deal on software, but if the price seems too good to be true, guess what? It probably is. Combine that with a lack of a Certificate of Authenticity or end-user license agreement, and you could be the proud user of some really hot software.

Cheap Software Can Be Costly
Software piracy is no laughing matter; using illegal software can be hazardous to your digital health. You don't benefit from technical support, you have trouble upgrading versions, and you risk harmful viruses and permanent damage to your PC environment.

"Look at the overall impact as an industry," says Adam Warby, general manager of Microsoft's midwest district. "It affects everyone involved in the whole supply chain."

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Microsoft certainly takes its fair share of hits: In just one year, from June 1998 to June 1999, authorities seized 650,000 counterfeit units of Microsoft software. Last week Microsoft filed suit against five Illinois computer resellers for alleged distribution of pirated software.

One out of four business software applications is pirated, according to a recent study by the Yankelovich Partners for the Business Software Alliance. Employees contribute significantly to the problem by bringing in software from home, sharing programs with coworkers, and downloading unauthorized copies from the Internet, the study found.

Software piracy can be broken down into two main parts: counterfeiting and end-user copying, says Janice Block, Microsoft attorney. Counterfeiting involves distributing fake software by making it look real. End-user copying refers to swapping disks with friends or installing software onto PCs without the proper licenses.

Microsoft expects to donate $25 million over the next five years to a number of nonprofit organizations. Half of the money is expected to come from piracy recovery.

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