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An American received Germany's first prison sentence for software piracy yesterday. The Texan, identified only as John S, was sentenced to four years without probation. The German regional court of Aachen found the 39-year-old guilty of importing illegally copied Microsoft computer programs. The landmark case was the first time Germany had issued a prison sentence for counterfeiting software. The move followed the seizure by German customs officials of thousands of illegal copies of Microsoft software programmes and manuals last August. Microsoft said fraud had been proved in several instances in the case, with total damages totalling around 120 million marks (£40 million). "This sentence is a breakthrough in Germany and shows that counterfeiting software is really a serious crime," said Rudolf Gallist, general manager of Microsoft GmbH. Earlier this month the Business Software Alliance and the Software and Information Industry Associated reported that almost 40 per cent of all business software installed last year was done so illegally

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