It has been quite a busy year for
Microsoft's attorneys--and not just on the antitrust front. The
software giant, in continuing its aggressive bid to sink software
pirates, this week has filed suit against multiple computer
retailers across the U.S.
The complaints target several
companies that allegedly distributed counterfeit license
agreements for Office 97 and, to a lesser extent, Windows 95.
The offenders, Microsoft alleges,
include 4 Star Trading Co., Centurion Computers and Software Inc.,
Gateway USA Inc., MJ Micro Inc., R.P.M. International Inc.,
Software Wholesale Club Inc. and Volume Software Inc.
Microsoft alleges that these
companies distributed bogus End User License Agreements (EULAs)
and/or sold counterfeit software to investigators or customers.
None of the alleged software pirates were available for comment at
However, content on Gateway USA's
Web site, for one, raises several red flags. A price list on the
Gateway USA site (no relation to Gateway Inc., the PC maker)
states that "everything herein is priced for paying with
cash, cashier's check or certified check." Sources at
Microsoft say the emphasis on cash payments caught the attention
of investigators, since software pirates often prefer cash in
order to hide income from their accounting books.
Microsoft Has Its Hands Full
Microsoft has had its hands full
this year on the anti-piracy front. In June, Microsoft helped
state and federal investigators bust up an alleged piracy ring
that made $56 million worth of bogus Microsoft software. In April,
Microsoft filed piracy complaints against seven resellers in its
home state of Washington. And back in January, the company
recovered 55,000 counterfeit Office 97 CDs during a raid in
It's a good bet more raids are
coming. "There are hundreds of [piracy] cases that we're
working on over any one year," says a Microsoft attorney who
requested anonymity. "We have informants who have connections
to piracy groups. And we have a very detailed test-purchase
program that involves working under cover and buying software from
So pirates beware. You may selling
your goods directly to Microsoft--and effectively blowing the
whistle on your own criminal operation.