Microsoft steps up fight against Internet piracy

In a statement, the company said that it has assisted enforcement agencies that have taken action against organised criminal counterfeiters in 22 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Colombia and Germany.

In addition, Microsoft has sought the immediate removal of alleged counterfeit and illegal software offerings from Internet sites and auctions, bringing the number of takedowns to more than 47,000 over the past six months and 88,000 in the past two years, according to the statement.

Launched six months ago, Microsoft's Internet Scanning Tool, which runs around the clock to identify illegal online offerings, has allowed Microsoft to find Web pirates faster than was previously possible, the company said.

"The explosive growth of Internet users has spawned an equally explosive growth of Internet abusers," said John Varrone, assistant commissioner in the office of investigations at the US Customs Service, in the statement. "Cybersavvy criminals increasingly use the speed and anonymity of the Internet to sell and distribute counterfeit software, music and videos worldwide. The potential revenue losses to legitimate businesses are enormous."

According to Microsoft, nearly 5 million units of the company's software and hardware were seized worldwide.

"Microsoft has put significant resources behind its global anticounterfeiting efforts," Tim Cranton, Internet antipiracy attorney for Microsoft said in the statement. "We're also working cooperatively with law enforcement agencies, industry partners and business organisations to help protect consumers and bring counterfeiters to justice."

Since January 2000, 73 civil cases involving Internet piracy were settled in North America. Microsoft said it was awarded $US17.7 million in settlements from those cases.

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