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Microsoft's High-Tech Crusade Against Piracy

Piracy is a huge problem for software companies and it's one that is becoming increasingly difficult to combat. However, Microsoft has a way to trace counterfeit discs to the factory where it was produced, and as a result, the crime syndicate responsible for it.

BusinessWeek this week carries a report on Microsoft's 10-year-old anti-counterfeit unit, and details the testing that takes place in the company's Dublin-based crime lab. Senior forensics manager Donal Keating uses a custom-built microscope to take 72 high-resolution images the disc in question, and then uses the abrasions and grooves on the stacking ring to match it to other fakes. Keating can then trace it to the factory where it was produced. Once he figures that out, he alerts the police.

According to BusinessWeek, this kind of testing is just one part of a massive campaign to stop counterfeiting. Microsoft has eight more labs besides the one in Ireland, and also employs 75 investigators, lawyers and analysts – many of which have gleaned experience from narcotics and mafia cases.

It may seem like overkill, but the unit has been successful on several occasions. BW reports that in 2007, Microsoft helped Chinese authorities take down a syndicate that had generated $2 billion in fake Microsoft products. Last December the Redmond-based company aided Indian police in a raid on one of the country's largest resellers of Microsoft products, which was selling a mixture of genuine and fake products.

Read the full story here.

  • randomizer
    This is the type of piracy that really needs to be stopped. It's the one that actually hurts software companies' income. Where those who deliberately pirate software can argue that they would never have paid for it anyway and thus it is not a lost sale, counterfeit software is often paid for. The customer is willing to pay money and that money went elsewhere. That's a lost sale. People who pay for a product have a reasonable expectation that they are getting a genuine product. Dodgy system builders, who often install pirated copies of software and sell it with their overpriced gaming PCs on eBay, need to be locked up along with these factory owners.
    Reply
  • dragunover
    Piracy, TH? You're looking at counterfeit, piracy is what people do on their uTorrent clients with no gain or loss.
    Reply
  • Gin Fushicho
    So they're stopping counterfeiting.... not piracy. I approve of this.

    And for me, you guys start news early in the morning. =p
    Reply
  • mitch074
    @dragunover: since the counterfeited software is also cracked and illegitimately copied, it's both:
    - cracking of legitimate software (piracy)
    - distribution of illegitimate copies (piracy)
    - lookalike distribution media (counterfeiting)
    - lookalike ancillaries: booklets, certificates of authenticities (counterfeiting)

    Torrent-based piracy is small-scale, generates no revenue for the guy distributing copies (except those selling passwords to encrypted archives, but that's marginal) and even has a tendency to increase revenue for the original content's editor (those who download stuff would probably not have bought the content at all, and may end up buying the real thing after trying it); counterfeited pirated software, on the other hand, deceives the buyer who may then think he has the genuine article - and is, instead, ripped off. So, it hurts the original editor and the final user, and has a purpose of generating illegal revenue.

    Keep in mind that software piracy was counterfeiting with the intend to sell illegal copies first and foremost; it's only when content editors started shouting 'Pirates! Pirates!' at everybody who made a copy of their content that some groups, tongue-in-cheek, started calling themselves 'pirates' instead of 'crackers' (the major difference is that crackers always advertised that the version they distribute is not genuine, that the crack was made because they enjoyed both the challenge and the software, and that if you liked it, you should buy the original).
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  • rohitbaran
    They can track it on optical disks, but how are they stop p2p networks? MAFIAA has tried again and again but bitten dust. They want to reduce piracy? I suggest they lower their prices to more reasonable levels at least in poorer countries which could attract customers because of the support legal software comes with.
    Reply
  • randomizer
    9225672 said:
    They can track it on optical disks, but how are they stop p2p networks? MAFIAA has tried again and again but bitten dust. They want to reduce piracy? I suggest they lower their prices to more reasonable levels at least in poorer countries which could attract customers because of the support legal software comes with.
    Stopping P2P networks is not their aim. They are trying to protect would-be legitimate customers from buying counterfeit software. Well, to be more precise, they are trying to protect their revenue streams from these customers :)

    It's been shown several times that lowering prices doesn't stop P2P piracy, so don't bother bringing up that point. Some people pirate because they can, and that's it. Of course they come up with every justification under the sun but in the end it's really because it's so easy. I have more respect for those who admit to piracy for honest reasons and not some fanciful dream about sticking it to the man or being so poor that they can't afford to buy a copy of Windows for their $2000 gaming rig :lol:
    Reply
  • kikireeki
    I bet The amount of money they spend on these campaigns, is much more than the loss due to piracy.
    Reply
  • tomas_gajan
    randomizerStopping P2P networks is not their aim. They are trying to protect would-be legitimate customers from buying counterfeit software. Well, to be more precise, they are trying to protect their revenue streams from these customers It's been shown several times that lowering prices doesn't stop P2P piracy, so don't bother bringing up that point. Some people pirate because they can, and that's it. Of course they come up with every justification under the sun but in the end it's really because it's so easy. I have more respect for those who admit to piracy for honest reasons and not some fanciful dream about sticking it to the man or being so poor that they can't afford to buy a copy of Windows for their $2000 gaming rig

    Thats simply not true.., i think, that for somebody, who lives in a normal/rich country, it is hard to imagine, that when you make 500Euros a Month, and that is a pretty good Wage, where i live (Slovakia), that then you are not able to spend 50Euro on a Game. If ti would cost 10-15 Euro, then i am sure, that at least here, it would lower the Piracy tremendously. 2000 Dollars gaming Rig?..thats just a myth, i for example have a Computer, in wich i invest annually around 300 Euro, and still can play all Games, at maximum Settings, (Phenom IIX4 965. 4GB Ram, HD 5870), and i never had to pay 2000 Dolars for it....
    Reply
  • back_by_demand
    kikireekiI bet The amount of money they spend on these campaigns, is much more than the loss due to piracy.Epic fail
    It may seem like overkill, but the unit has been successful on several occasions. BW reports that in 2007, Microsoft helped Chinese authorities take down a syndicate that had generated $2 billion in fake Microsoft products.
    So this one was $2 billion saved, plus all the others that they take down.
    Reply
  • alyoshka
    Yup, that's a good way to go about it, for the first time I think some of the agencies have shown some sense in their MOI. But it makes me wonder, since tracing will go to the stamping machines, and since that is the problem, the counterfeiters are just going to go back to writers, thereby increasing computer an duplicators sales....
    Wonder which one would be easier to stop.... 10 Stamping machines dishing out 1 Million disc in 10 days, or 15000 Duplicators placed all over 200000 sq kms???
    Reply