Microsoft SA marked "Global Anti-Piracy Day" – a simultaneous launch of education initiatives and enforcement actions in 49 countries – with two raids on dealers in Durban suspected of selling illegal software.
Other activities include intellectual property awareness campaigns, engagements with partners, educational forums, local law enforcement training, and legal actions against alleged software counterfeiters and pirates.
"Software piracy and counterfeiting is a sophisticated, global trade with a damaging impact on consumers, businesses and economies, and Microsoft is committed to working with other stakeholders to stay a step ahead of this illegal industry," says Charl Everton, the anti-piracy manager at Microsoft SA.
"We're working with national governments, local law enforcement agencies and our customer and partner communities to identify international connection points between software pirates and counterfeiters. The aim is to help stop them in their tracks and protect consumers and legitimate businesses from this illegal trade."
Guy Sebban, secretary general of the International Chamber of Commerce, says the global trade in fakes threatens consumers, businesses and the economy.
"It will only be possible to halt counterfeiting and piracy on a global scale through this kind of collaboration between governments and the private sector – both to educate people about the value of intellectual property and to take action against trade in illicit products," he says.
John Newton of Interpol's IP Rights Project says there is growing evidence that highly organised, transnational criminal organisations and networks are involved in the counterfeiting of software and other goods.
"This is a global problem with global sources of supply; this is why we need to work together – the public and the private sectors – to stop this trade," says Newton.
In South Africa, one third of PCs contain unlicensed, pirated or counterfeit software. As technological advances expand opportunities for criminal syndicates to manufacture and distribute fakes, it is clear that piracy and counterfeiting pose a real and growing threat to intellectual property and innovation.
The piracy of business applications in South Africa cost commercial software publishers almost R2,3-billion last year. Estimates suggest that reducing piracy by 10 percentage points over four years could generate an extra 1 200 jobs in the local IT sector, R6 billion in local industry revenue and R490-million in additional tax revenues.