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Microsoft steps up anti-piracy efforts

Software pirates beware: Microsoft is stepping up its efforts to find you, stop you, and press criminal charges.

    Software pirates beware.

    Microsoft is stepping up its efforts to find you, stop you, and press criminal charges.

    Citing a "global campaign" against piracy, the software giant said Monday that it has taken action against criminal counterfeiters in 22 countries including Argentina, Brazil and Poland and will continue its efforts.

    The Redmond, Wash.-based company said it is responding to an increase in the cases of software piracy. Microsoft said that in the past year, 5 million units of its pirated software and hardware have been seized from around the world.

    "This number is up dramatically from the previous year," Tim Cranton, an Internet anti-piracy attorney for Microsoft, said in a statement.

    Although software companies have always railed against piracy, the recent downturn in the economy has made the presence of lost revenue even more painful, analysts say. The cash-strapped conditions might even be contributing to the rise in piracy, some experts say.

    "We've found that as things get tighter for a number of technology firms, some companies are cutting corners--and one of the ways they're doing that is by pirating software," said Scott Edwards, associate general counsel for the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA).

    Software piracy caused the loss of $12 billion in revenue worldwide in 1999, which translates into nearly 107,000 lost jobs and more than $5 billion in unrealized wages in the United States alone, according to a study by the SIIA and the Business Software Alliance.

    The numbers for individual countries are even more alarming. A recent report from the Brazilian Association of Software Companies, for example, reported that more than half the software in use across Brazil last year was pirated, costing the tech industry an estimated $1.3 billion.

    In response to these numbers, Microsoft has taken legal action over the last six months against 47,000 auction postings and Internet sites for allegedly offering counterfeit and illegal copies of software.

    The company has made other moves to protect itself as well, such as including a product activation feature in some software that requires customers to activate the software by phone or on the Internet after buying it.