The largest known producer of fake Microsoft products, who operated between 1997 and 2003, will do hard time in jail.
Huang Jer-sheng, owner of the Taipei-based distributor Maximus Technology, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment by a Taipei court, equalling the longest sentence ever handed down for this type of crime in Taiwan’s history. His three co-defendants were sentenced to terms ranging from 18 months to three years.
Between 1997 and 2003, Huang and his associates were responsible for the production and distribution of more than 90% of the high-quality counterfeit Microsoft software products either seized by law enforcement or test purchased around the world.
The syndicate produced counterfeit versions of at least 21 Microsoft software products in seven languages, including English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Simplified Chinese, worth an estimated $900-million.
These products were then distributed and ultimately sold to unwitting resellers and consumers in over 600 cities and at least 22 countries across the globe.
Huang and his associates worked with counterfeiters in both Taiwan and southern China. CD replication plants in Taiwan, Chungtek Hightech Enterprise and Cinway Technology, were the main production centers for counterfeit software disks and components that were later found throughout the world.
Microsoft SA’s Mark Reynolds says the company will continue to crack down on counterfeiters and rogue computer dealers found installing illegal software on new computers being sold to customers.
The move is part of Microsoft’s Genuine Software Initiative (GSI), which aims to help protect legitimate distributors and customers from the effects of software piracy.
The local subsidiary recently reached settlements worth thousands of rands with eight companies found selling computers which were illegally loaded with Microsoft software, and further announcements are expected in this regard in the coming weeks.
“We want to protect legitimate computer businesses and resellers who do the right thing in selling genuine software. Microsoft won’t stand by and allow their businesses and employees to be undermined by unscrupulous vendors,” says Reynolds.
“We intend to make it increasingly difficult for dishonest resellers to succeed at the expense of those who are running their businesses lawfully.”
According to a recent economic study by the IDC, spending on hardware, software and IT services in South Africa reached R61-billion in 2007. The IT industry employs more than 355 000 people.
However, the IDC’s 2006 Piracy Study reported that piracy of business applications in South Africa cost commercial software publishers R1,117-billion in 2006, with a reported piracy rate in 2006 of 35%.
John Newton, manager of Interpol's Intellectual Property Crime Project, says the criminals behind counterfeit syndicates are organised, resourceful and willing to spend large amounts of money to develop and ship pirated goods to markets all over the world.
“Piracy is a crime, pure and simple and it is imperative we coordinate our efforts across the globe to stop these criminal syndicates and this illicit trade,” says Newton.