Software giant Microsoft has squeezed more than $52,000 out of four Melbourne PC dealers in copyright damages for peddling counterfeit and unlicensed software.
Green System Technologies, whose directors agreed in the Federal Court to pay the behemoth $20,000 for loading a hard disk with Windows 95, Office 97 and Publisher 97, had already paid the Business Software Association of Australia (BSAA) $10,000 for loading Microsoft software.
The other guilty parties were La Computer Group and MCG Computer Australia, who together paid $25,000 for selling counterfeit copies of Windows 98, and Powerhouse Computers, which paid $7000 for selling counterfeit versions of Windows 95 and Office Professional 97.
Chairman of the BSAA, Jim Macnamara, recently told IDG that software piracy was indirectly costing the Australian economy up to $1 billion a year. In fact, Macnamara believes 33 per cent of all PC software in Australia is pirated.
"The most common piracy is happening inside the business," Macnamara said. "It ranges from the individual who makes one copy for a friend through to companies that have hundreds and hundreds of PCs and . . . just run one or two programs right across.
"People treat software as though somehow it's exempt from all the other laws in our society. The copyright act is very clear. Company directors need to take note of it," he warned.
Microsoft Australia said in a statement issued yesterday it was currently involved in 25 software copyright investigations, with "a further 17 legal actions pending".
None of the guilty companies were available for comment.