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Microsoft UK cracks another head over grey software

Man slapped with a sandwich board

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Microsoft has collared another pirate in the UK for flogging grey software on eBay. The software giant has scored £35,000 in damages against an internet trader for copyright violations and illegally importing cheap American software to Europe.

R J Campbell and his company R J Campbell Ltd, which traded as "Software Price Beater," on auction sites, admitted to selling counterfeit software and so-called "parallel importing."

Under EU law, parallel imports describe branded goods bought in one country and sold elsewhere within Europe at a cheaper price than the trademark holder intends.

The High Court ordered the company to make an initial payment of £35,000, with the stipulation that more fines would follow. The trader was also ordered to sandwich board his legal tribulations by placing an advertisement in the trade publication PC Retailer announcing the verdict. (See below)

Microsoft seems to think folks going around higher European software prices are destroying the market.

"This is a significant win by Microsoft as we continue in our efforts to reduce the sale of counterfeit software and also look to clamp down on illegal importers who are destabilizing the whole reseller ecosystem," said Michala Wardell, head of anti-piracy at Microsoft UK.

Wardell said Microsoft's piracy crackdown in the UK, dubbed "Keep IT Real," (did they pirate our slogan?) has noticed that grey software is becoming a serious issue which has a "detrimental effect" on the channel.

"It's great to see justice being brought against rogue traders like R J Campbell as Microsoft continues to protect the software industry and ensure a level playing field for the reseller community."

US $1m steal & squeal program extended

Meanwhile stateside, The Business Software Alliance is outing pirates by placing a bounty on their heads. The group announced it is extending its "Blow The Whistle" campaign which offers $1m to workers who squeal on their employers.

The BSA said the success of the program has prompted them to extend the offer to the end of the year. The program encourages individuals with detailed information about software piracy to come forward and confidentially submit a report. Since the program's inception in 2005, the group has successfully settled with hundreds of companies resulting in approximately $22m of damages paid since that time, the BSA said.

"There has been a significant increase in software piracy reports in the last few months," said Jenny Blank at BSA. "We hope that the extension of the rewards program sustains this momentum."

According to a study conducted by IDC on behalf of BSA, 21 per cent of software installed in 2006 on personal computers nationally was obtained illegally, amounting to $7.3bn in losses. ®

Bootnote

Campbell's court-ordered public spanking read as follows:

On 26 July 2007 Judgment was entered in the High Court in London against MR ROBERT J CAMPBELL trading as "SOFTWARE PRICE BEATER" and his company, R J CAMPBELL LIMITED, for trade mark infringement, copyright infringement and passing off. The liability arose out of a trade in unlawful parallel imports of Microsoft-branded software from the United States which were sold by Mr Campbell and his company to UK customers on the Internet and via eBay.

The High Court granted an injunction against Mr Campbell and his company and ordered them to pay Microsoft substantial legal costs. There will now be a damages inquiry or accounts of profits to decide the level of compensation Mr Campbell and his company must pay Microsoft.

The High Court also ordered Mr Campbell and his company to place, and pay for, this advertisement.

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