The fight against computer software piracy in Africa has received a boost following raids and arrests made in southern China over the last two weeks – the result of the largest investigation of its kind in the world.
The Public Security Bureau (PSB) in China, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and hundreds of private companies and partners had been working together to crack a major software counterfeiting syndicate.
The syndicate was allegedly responsible for distributing US$2bn worth of counterfeit Microsoft software to 27 countries around the world, including Nigeria. Not only did this prevent software resellers from making legitimate revenues, it also exposed users to the risks associated with using pirated software.
The counterfeit goods seized in the raids comprised 13 of Microsoft’s most popular products, including Windows Vista, Office 2007, Office 2003, Windows XP and Windows Server.
“Microsoft appreciates the work of China’s Public Security Bureau in taking such strong enforcement action with these arrests and raids in Southern China,” says Abednego Hlatshwayo, anti-piracy manager at Microsoft East and Southern Africa.
“This case should serve as a wake-up call to counterfeiters. Customers and other organisations around the world are turning you in, and decisive action will be taken to protect intellectual property.”
Microsoft software users and resellers around the world played a significant role in bringing the software pirates in China to book. Numerous customers identified counterfeit software utilising anti-piracy technologies like those used in conjunction with Windows Genuine Advantage. The software could be forensically linked to the syndicate in China.
Software piracy costs the international software market in the region of US$40bn every year. In the last 18 months, law enforcement agencies worldwide have seized almost one million units of counterfeit software and with the help and co-operation of private organisations, anti-piracy activities are intensifying.
According to research firm, IDC, Africa has an average piracy rate of 80% and amounts to losses in the region of $201-million per year.
“Microsoft invests a lot of time and money into protecting its legitimate customers and resellers from the threat of counterfeit software,” Hlatshwayo adds.
“With initiatives such as Windows Genuine Advantage, we focus on education, engineering and enforcement as the key pillars in helping customers and resellers to fight the problem of software counterfeiting and piracy. The raids and arrests in China are a great boost in that fight.”