Microsoft Targets Auction Pirates

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Microsoft has filed 63 separate lawsuits against online auction sellers who have been offering fake “Blue Edition” versions of its Windows XP operating system. The company says the breadth of its legal action serves as an indicator of how widespread and globally-interconnected the software piracy business has become—in one case, the company alleges software counterfeiters in New Zealand obtained fake software in China and sold unwary customers in six countries.

“Dishonest auctioneers are too often using these online auction sites to sell counterfeit and illegal copies of Microsoft software, taking advantage of unsuspecting customers around the world,” said Microsoft’s associate general counsel for Worldwide Anti-Piracy and Anti-Counterfeiting David Finn, in a statement. “These dealers are peddling bogus products that can put customers and their personal information at serious risk.”

Windows XP is becoming a hot item on some online auction sites as Microsoft tries to bring the operating systems’ life cycle to an end. Although Microsoft says sales of XP’s successor Vista have been strong, many Windows users continue to embrace Windows XP—and Microsoft itself has exasperated the confusion by extending the operating systems’ official life cycle and continuing to offer XP for nettops and other lower-end systems.

Unscrupulous auctioneers have been burning counterfeit software to CDs and offering it for sale via online sites, saying the software is a new “Blue Edition” of Windows XP. There is no “Blue Edition” of Windows XP.

The counterfeiting suits were filed in 12 countries, including 16 suits in the United States, 12 each in Germany and France, and 7 in the U.K., with the remainder in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico, and New Zealand.

According to Microsoft, 34 percent of fake software obtained through auction sites failed to install properly, and 43 percent contained components that had been altered or tampered with, potentially exposing users to identity theft, security breaches, and other forms of attack or exploitation.

Microsoft offers a consumer information site, howtotell.com, with information the enables consumers to distinguish between pirated and legitimate Microsoft software.

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