Microsoft SA has reached settlements totaling hundreds of thousands of rands with 21 local computer dealers as part of a global crackdown on counterfeit and illegal software. 

The 21 dealers, based in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria and a number of smaller regional locations, were found to be selling computers loaded with unlicensed Microsoft software.
The action forms part of the company’s worldwide efforts to protect its customers and partners from the risks of counterfeit software.
Earlier this month, Microsoft announced its second Fair Play Day in the Latin America region, where investigations led to the seizure of more than 160 000 counterfeit copies of Microsoft software – with an estimated street value of $18,2-million – in collaboration with Interpol and national law enforcement agencies in 14 Latin American countries.
“The crackdowns are part of Microsoft’s global Genuine Software Initiative, which aims to help protect legitimate distributors and customers from the effects of software piracy,” says Microsoft SA partner executive Mark Reynolds.
“The criminals behind software counterfeiting networks are organised, shrewd and willing to spend large amounts of money to develop counterfeit products and introduce them onto the world markets,” said John Newton, director of the Intellectual Property Rights Program at Interpol.
“First and foremost, piracy is a criminal offense, and it is of the utmost importance that we coordinate our efforts on an international scale in order to dismantle these criminal networks and put an end to their illegal activities.”
Alastair De Wet, the chairman of the Business Software Alliance in South Africa, comments: “Piracy remains one of the major hurdles to realising the potential of the information economy in South Africa and on the continent. There is great concern for our local economy that over a third of software in use is illegal.”
Reynolds warns consumers to be sure that the new computers they buy are not loaded with pirated software.
“Hard-disk loading is one of the most common forms of piracy,” says Reynolds. “What might be seen initially by consumers as a saving is actually a loss in the long run. Illegally loaded software is not upgradeable, users will not receive support and there is always a threat of a virus wiping out their computer's hard drive.”