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Microsoft heralds 'record' prison terms for Chinese pirates

Happy New Year to you too

Microsoft patted itself on the back on New Year’s Eve by announcing that the alleged ringleaders of a Chinese piracy gang, who sold at least $2bn worth of counterfeit software, have been sentenced to harsh prison terms.

The company said that 11 defendants were handed sentences that ranged from one and a half to six and a half years.

Redmond claimed the Futian People’s Court in Shenzhen, China had dished out “the longest sentences, for this type of crime” in the country’s history. However, China has remained characteristically quiet about the piracy syndicate’s downfall.

Chinese authorities arrested the 11 ringleaders based in the southern China province of Guangdong in July 2007 after an international probe by China’s Public Security Bureau and the Feds, said MS.

According to the firm, the gang was responsible for manufacturing and distributing more than an estimated $2bn worth of “high quality counterfeit Microsoft software”.

The tech multinational has repeatedly grumbled about the damage bogus software does to the firm’s bottom line. It claimed the fake software supplied by te gang, which included dodgy copies of Office and Windows Vista and XP, was found in 36 countries and on five continents.

“Unfortunately, software counterfeiting is a global, illegal business without borders," said MS anti-piracy associate general counsel David Finn. "Criminals may be on the other side of the globe and may not even speak the same language, but they prey upon customers and partners all over the world.”

“This case is a testament to the importance of Microsoft’s commitment to close collaboration with government bodies and local law enforcement agencies around the world to bring these criminals to justice, wherever they may be.”

Microsoft said its Windows Genuine Advantage program detected much of the pirated software, with the remainder being seized by customs officials or through test purchases by the company and reseller. They then contacted authorities to alert them about the counterfeit goods.

However, it remains unclear how MS concluded that the gang sold around $2bn worth of fake Microsoft software.

But someone has got his or her figures wrong. The FBI estimated in July 2007 that the pirated software it seized had a retail value of $500m, a significantly lower figure than that claimed by Microsoft for a single gang. ®

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