Microsoft software pirates sent to jail

The owner of a Taiwan-based distributor responsible for more than 90 per cent of fake Microsoft products around the world has been sentenced to jail.

Huang Jer-sheng, owner of Maximus Technology, was sentenced to four years imprisonment with associates sentenced to terms ranging from 18 months to three years.

The syndicate was responsible for creating multiple pirate copies of 21 different Microsoft product lines in seven languages, worth an estimated $900 million (455 million). The products were distributed and sold to resellers and consumers in at least 22 countries and regions, including the UK, Europe and the US.

"The criminals behind counterfeit syndicates are organised, resourceful and willing to spend large amounts of money to develop and ship pirated goods to markets all over the world," said John Newton, manager of the intellectual crime project at INTERPOL.

As previously reported, UK businesses are facing increasing problems identifying and avoiding fake software, which is often sold as the real thing and bought in good faith as such.

The investigation, which took place over six years, showed how seriously law enforcement agencies are now taking the problem. Between 2001 and 2007, criminal cases related to this particular group of counterfeiters were brought against suppliers in China, Germany, the UK and the US.

Last year, IT PRO reported that Microsoft believed that more than a third of its customers ran fake software. Microsoft launched its 'Genuine Software Initiative' in 2006 and has made concerted efforts to combat efforts to pirate its Windows Vista operating system.