A computer reseller accused of selling pirated software to consumers in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg has been handed a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay compensation.
On 15 June, the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Port Elizabeth found that computer shop manager Vikesh Singh, who traded as PE Technologies in Port Elizabeth and later as Vision Technologies in Johannesburg, had sold counterfeit and unlicensed copies of Microsoft software.
He was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, suspended for five years, provided he doesn’t contravene the Counterfeit Goods Act or the Copyright Act. He was also sentenced to a fine of R80 000, or four years’ imprisonment conditionally suspended for five years, for contravening the Companies Act and the Close Corporations Act.
Singh was also ordered to compensate four customers, who had been sold counterfeit Microsoft software and acted as witnesses in the criminal case, three times the value of their purchases, and ordered by the court to pay compensation to Microsoft of R150 000.
The case followed a two-year investigation by Microsoft and raids by the SAPS Commercial Crime Unit.
Dale Waterman, Microsoft’s corporate attorney for anti-piracy for the Middle East & Africa, says thousands of South African consumers and businesses are affected by counterfeit software which they have acquired unwittingly.
“Consumers are coming to us daily with complaints about counterfeit software. And they want industry and government to stand up and take action. Our commitment is to do everything we can to help our customers and protect our legitimate partners,” says Waterman.
He warns that counterfeit software could contain viruses, spyware and other malware that has the potential to harm consumers through identity theft, loss of data and system failures while opening the door to online spam, virus and fraud networks.