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Microsoft sues more resellers in piracy battle

The software giant used tips from customers to target eight companies in five states that allegedly sold pirated software.

Information from an antipiracy hotline and "secret shoppers" has led to eight lawsuits against companies accused of peddling pirated Microsoft software.

The lawsuits were filed in Arizona, California, Illinois, Minnesota and New York against companies that allegedly sold counterfeit copies of software such as Office 2000 Professional and Windows XP, Microsoft said in a statement Monday.

Some of the resellers also allegedly dealt in fake and used Certificate of Authenticity labels, which are used to identify Microsoft products as genuine, the company said. A Certificate of Authenticity includes a product key code and is designed to prevent counterfeiting.

The lawsuits are part of Microsoft's continued crackdown on software piracy, which the company acknowledges cuts into its earnings. According to the Business Software Alliance, of all the software installed on personal computers worldwide in 2004, 35 percent was pirated, resulting in $33 billion in losses.

Tips from users who called Microsoft's piracy tip line (1-800-RU-LEGIT) and information derived from the company's Windows Genuine Advantage program helped identify some of the accused sellers of pirated products, Microsoft said. The software maker also used its own "secret shoppers" to gather evidence, it said.

Windows Genuine Advantage is a system designed to prevent people with pirated copies of Windows from downloading additional software from Microsoft. The WGA check became mandatory in July for people attempting to get product updates.

People who find out through WGA that they were duped into buying bogus Microsoft products in some cases can get free licensed versions of the software.