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Microsoft takes UK TV soap offensive

Deirdre, Beal, Ken could help counter organised crime

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In a bid to stamp out piracy of its operating and application software piracy, Microsoft UK is hoping to persuade TV companies to include its message in popular soap operas. Julie Philpot, anti-piracy manager at Microsoft UK, revealed the plans at a meeting of the Personal Computer Association in Elstree last night. Philpott explained to the audience of system builders, distributors and PC companies that using pirated software not only cost Microsoft revenues but put money into the pockets of organised crime syndicates. Stealing software was not a trivial matter, she said, with organised crime choosing to counterfeit branded Microsoft markets rather than sell cocaine or heroin. Criminal gangs would rather make money from doing that than face the kind of prison sentences drug dealing attracted. For these reasons, Microsoft would try and re-inforce its anti-piracy message by getting popular TV soaps to include warnings in episodes of their programmes. She refused to be drawn on whether Microsoft was targeting Coronation Street, Eastenders, Brookside or Emmerdale. Philpott faced a lively debate after members of the trade association, faced with declining margins on PCs, asked her whether Microsoft could not publish recommended retail prices on its software so that they could have a better idea of whether products they were offered were grey market or possibly counterfeit products. Buying official product through established Microsoft channels sometimes meant that the software, particularly at the low end of the market, cost more than the entire system box. Philpott introduced a scheme for PCA members which would allow them to call a special 0800 free phone hotline to report possible distribution of pirated software. The scheme is intended to streamline the process of investigation, seizures and possible prosecutions. ®

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