Microsoft sues repeat software pirate who owes company $1.2M from prior case

Files third federal lawsuit since 2000 against activation key seller

Microsoft has sued a Wisconsin man for allegedly selling stolen Windows and Office activation codes, claiming in court documents that he is a repeat pirate who still owes the company $1.2 million from an earlier judgment.

In a complaint filed Sept. 8, Microsoft accused Anthony Boldin, of Brookfield, Wisc., of selling software activation codes to company investigators from four different websites he maintained. Two of those websites are now shuttered -- only a message stating that the sites are no longer selling software remained Monday -- but two others continued to operate.

The 25-character activation codes are a core component of Microsoft's anti-piracy technology. Although the software can be copied an unlimited number of times, the keys individually lock a license to a device or a specific user. Minus a legitimate key -- and thus, activation -- Microsoft's software retreats to a hobbled or even crippled mode.

Although Microsoft did not name the sources for the keys it said Boldin sold illegally, the firm pointed a finger at China. "Over the past several years, criminals in China and elsewhere have created a global black market for decoupled product activation keys that have been stolen from Microsoft's supply chain," the complaint stated. "The decoupled product activation keys end up in the hands of downstream distributors, such as Defendants, who then pass off the stolen keys to the general public as licensed software."

According to that complaint, and other documents Microsoft lawyers submitted to a Wisconsin federal court, company investigators bought activation keys to licenses of Windows 8.1 and several versions of Office, some at significantly reduced prices, from Boldin's websites. All the keys were illegitimate: Two were issued for use with academic programs in China, one was for Microsoft's internal use, and four keys were stolen "tokens" assigned to an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) for pre-loading software on a new device.

Microsoft also said that Boldin was well known to the company's legal team.

"Microsoft sued Boldin in this Court on two prior occasions for violating its intellectual property rights (in March 2000 and again in December 2006)," the complaint read. "Notably, this Court entered two separate orders permanently enjoining Boldin from any infringing use or distribution of Microsoft software."

Not only did Boldin continue to sell stolen or misappropriated activation keys, Microsoft alleged, but a $1.2 million judgment levied in the second case has gone unpaid.

"Now, 16 years after Microsoft brought its first action, Boldin continues to flagrantly disregard the clear and unambiguous injunctions of this Court by selling decoupled product activation keys," Microsoft's complaint said.

Microsoft asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order preventing Boldin from illegally selling Microsoft software, and to expedite discovery so that the company may determine whether there are others in cahoots with Boldin and locate his financial accounts.

"Boldin has taken steps to conceal his involvement with the Infringing Websites and, based on his current and past activities, is highly likely to dissipate his assets and conceal or destroy relevant evidence should he be provided with prior notice," Microsoft warned the court.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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