Microsoft this week filed suits against eight users of eBay's auction site for allegedly selling counterfeit copies of the company's software online. This marks the latest stage in a continued effort to crack down on distributors of illegal software.
Microsoft filed the suits in the states of Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York and Washington, where each of the defendants is located, the company said.
Defendants named in the suits are seven private citizens - Igor Goldshteyn, John Hilaire, Jaike Hornreich, Billy Williams, Edward Shklovsky, Jay D Smith and Agus Chandra - and one company, Great Product Deals.
Goldshteyn, Hilaire, Williams and Shklovsky are all accused of using eBay auctions to distribute counterfeit copies of Windows XP Professional and Microsoft Office components, while Hornreich, Smith and Great Product Deals are accused of distributing counterfeit Windows XP software components only on eBay, according to Microsoft. The company claims Chandra used eBay to distribute counterfeit Office 2003 Student and Teacher Edition software.
Microsoft said it identified seven of the eight defendants in the eBay suits through its Windows Genuine Advantage program. The program was launched in July 2005 and automatically checks that customers using Windows Update, Microsoft Update for Windows and the Microsoft Download Center have a legitimate version of the Windows operating system before they can download from those services. Microsoft filed eight lawsuits in September 2005 against defendants it said were identified in part through Windows Genuine Advantage.
Windows Genuine Advantage is part of an ongoing effort in the past several years by Microsoft to prevent the piracy of its software products. At the time of its launch, the program met with mixed reviews from customers and was immediately hacked so users could avoid running the program when using Microsoft update services. Microsoft has since repaired the flaw that allowed users to bypass Windows Genuine Advantage.
According to a joint report by commercial software advocacy group the Business Software Alliance and research firm IDC, 35 percent of software programs worldwide were pirated.
Cracking down on pirated or counterfeit versions of its software is especially important to Microsoft as the company is hoping for customers to upgrade in droves when it ships the next major update to its Windows client OS, Windows Vista, later this year.
Microsoft also is launching a stripped-down and low-cost edition of Vista it hopes to sell in emerging software markets, especially those in third-world countries where analysts say software piracy continues to be a major problem.