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Report: Microsoft aided $900 million piracy bust

Would-be pirates, beware: Redmond says its own sleuthing role helped to bring down phony software outfits in 22 countries around the world.

In an apparent effort to scare off would-be pirates, Microsoft is trumpeting its role in bringing down an international operation that amassed an estimated $900 million through pirated and counterfeit copies of its software.

Now that the last criminal sentences have been handed down in Taiwan, Redmond is going public about sleuthing by members of its 80-person worldwide antipiracy team, which it says helped to fuel investigations in 22 countries, the Associated Press reports.

It's hardly a secret that over the years, Microsoft has been quite proactive in its antipiracy efforts, filing scores of lawsuits against resellers accused of profiting off phony goods.

But the company's antipiracy involvement apparently picked up in earnest after a 2001 Los Angeles bust, in which U.S. Customs officers nabbed a container filled with $100 million in fake software, including 31,000 copies of Windows, the AP reported.

The AP story also offers a glimpse into apparent detective work on the part of Microsoft employees, who, for instance, sought leads by doing "test buys" to see if merchants were selling phony disks. And it appears they also sought forensics experts to scrutinize holograms and microscopic printed codes printed onto software packaging materials for authenticity.

All of that helped to lead to high-profile raids in Taiwan last year, which netted some $226 million in pirated software, as well as additional busts and dozens of arrests in the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Germany, Singapore, Australia, Paraguay, and Poland.

Still, the company fully recognizes its piracy problems aren't over yet, the AP notes: After a slight dip in counterfeits after the Taiwan raids, high-quality bogus copies of Windows Vista and other software continue to surface. (Microsoft has, however, claimed recently that piracy rates for Vista are half that of XP, thanks in part to tougher anticounterfeiting measures.)