Strike two for Big Ben

A reseller has made a $55,000 compensation payment to Microsoft after being sued for selling pirated copies of Windows software loaded onto PCs.

It is the second time Big Ben Computers – based in the inner western Sydney suburb of South Strathfield – has been hauled before the courts by the software giant. In February 2001, it paid $10,000 in damages for copyright violation.

But company owner, Ben Zhong Fan, was adamant he had done nothing wrong and claimed he would have won the case if he had not run out of funds.

He said fighting his corner had already cost him about $100,000 and that he would have needed to shell out a further $50,000 in legal costs if he had chosen to appear in Federal Court.

It has been a rough few months for Big Ben Computers. The reseller was also one of nine stores targeted by an armed gang in recent months.

Fan put the value of stolen equipment at $80,000.

Microsoft, on the other hand, was delighted with out of court settlement and said it would continue to take action against suspected counterfeit dealers.

“The message to the channel is that we are committed to protecting them from the negative impact of software piracy,” law and corporate affairs spokesperson for Microsoft, Chris Woodforde, said.

“The vast majority of resellers operate legitimately but there will always be a few that do not,” he said.

The software giant received up to 100 leads a month in Australia alone from disgruntled dealers or members of the public blowing the whistle on suspected counterfeiters, Woodforde said.

There was often a spike in the number of reports received following publicity surrounding a prosecution.

As reported in ARN last week, counterfeiting in the Australian toy, software and video game industries resulted in an estimated $677 million of lost sales during 2002, according to a study carried out by the Allen Consulting Group.

“Piracy is clearly a problem and it’s becoming easier, faster and cheaper to make counterfeit products,” Woodforde said.

“Every Microsoft employee is aware of this issue and will be looking at the products they see on the shelves during their normal day-to-day dealings with the channel. We engage in a lot of education and litigation is always a last resort.”

While Microsoft had succeeded in making an example of smaller resellers that step out of line, Woodforde said it was very focussed on tackling larger scale counterfeiting operations.