11 in China sentenced for software piracy

Eleven members of a Chinese software piracy syndicate are sentenced to prison.

A court in Shenzhen, China, sentenced 11 members of a software counterfeiting operation Wednesday, with the defendants getting between one and a half and six and half years in prison, according to Microsoft.

The sentences included the longest sentences handed down for software piracy in China's history, the company said in a press release. Microsoft, as well as hundreds of customers and partners, assisted in the investigation by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Futian People's Court handed down the sentences.

The 11 defendants were leaders in a syndicate responsible for manufacturing and distributing more than US $2 billion worth of counterfeited Microsoft software, Microsoft said. The counterfeit software, found in 36 countries, contained fake versions of 19 of Microsoft's products, available in at least 11 languages.

Microsoft applauded the PSB and FBI for their work in the case. "Software counterfeiting is a global, illegal business without borders," David Finn, associate general counsel focused on piracy at Microsoft, said in a statement. "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."

PSB raids in July 2007 lead to arrests and the convictions. The PSB, with tips from Microsoft and the FBI's Los Angeles bureau, found about 55,000 copies of counterfeit software and traced them back to the same syndicate, based in the province of Guangdong.

Microsoft customers and software resellers helped authorities identify the syndicate. Tens of thousands of customers used Microsoft's antipiracy technology in Windows Genuine Advantage to identify the software they were using as fake. More than 1,000 of these customers then submitted physical copies of counterfeit Windows XP for analysis at Microsoft.

More than 100 Microsoft resellers helped to trace the counterfeit software and provided physical evidence, including e-mail messages, invoices and payment slips.

The case is "a strong demonstration of the improvement in criminal law legislation and enforcement of intellectual property rights in China," Zhao Bingzhi [cq], president of the Criminal Law Research Committee of the China Law Society and vice president of the China Group of the International Association of Penal Law, said in a statement.

Among the counterfeit products were Windows XP, Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2003. The copies were available in English, simplified Chinese, Spanish, German, Korean and other languages.

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