A recent investigation undertaken by Microsoft New Zealand has identified an Auckland-based online auction trader, OnlineSale Computers Limited, selling pirated Microsoft software. Using non-authentic software can have serious negative implications for consumers as it can often be full of spyware, malware and viruses.
Microsoft’s investigators purchased a personal computer with Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium from OnlineSale Computers Limited via Trade Me. The computer was analysed and found to have been pre-installed with an unlicensed copy of Windows 7 Home Premium.
OnlineSale Computers Limited and its directors admitted infringing Microsoft’s copyright and apologised for doing so. They paid $15,000 of damages for selling pirated Microsoft software on personal computers.
Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit continually searches internet auction sites, like Trade Me, for sellers offering pirated Microsoft software, and takes action to stop them.
Clayton Noble, Legal Counsel for Microsoft, says it's important for the general public’s sake that Microsoft stops them selling thissoftware.
“Microsoft is committed to protecting consumers from downloading or purchasing non-genuine software, because it’s often full of spyware, malware and viruses that can lead to identity theft, loss of data and system failure.
“Some strains of counterfeit software products contain hidden key-logging software that allows criminals to steal passwords, bank account details and other personal information,” says Noble.
People who sell computers installed with pirated copies of Microsoft software infringe Microsoft’s copyright and other intellectual property rights. They also gain an unfair advantage over the legitimate resellers who comply with the copyright law by supplying genuine, licensed software.
Paul Kao, General Manager of Playtech, one of Microsoft New Zealand’s largest system builder partners, says it's tough as a reseller trying to compete with others who try to bend the rules to get prices down.
“Customers mainly look at price and would never think the pre-installed software wasn’t genuine, so we appreciate the effort Microsoft invests to discourage the use of pirated software, as well as educating consumers on the risks of using unlicensed software," says Kao.
Consumers using non-genuine software risk losing sensitive data, spending time and money trying to fix their infected computer and could even suffer security breaches as a result.
“Trade Me works with Microsoft and a range of other rights holders across many industries to prevent counterfeit items being listed on our website. If consumers have concerns about a particular listing, they should report it through the CommunityWatch function at the bottom of every listing and our team can take it from there,” says Jon Duffy, Head of Trust and Safety at Trade Me.
When purchasing software consumers should follow the ‘Buyer’s Checklist’ to ensure their software is genuine.
1. Are you buying from a known and reputable retailer/seller?
Buy from a retailer or seller you know and trust.
2. Is the software you are looking to purchase much cheaper than from other retailers?
The general rule of thumb is proven time and time again – if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.
3. Are you able to contact the seller after you receive the software?
Be wary if the seller is reluctant or won’t provide a phone number, address and other pertinent contact details.
4. Does the seller have satisfied and happy customers?
When buying online, always look for feedback from other customers. If there is negative feedback, steer clear.
5. What is the seller’s return policy?
Make sure there is a way to return the product, and make sure that you feel confident that your seller will be willing and able to help you with after-sales service if there is a problem with your product.
6. When buying online, are the photos in the advertisement of the actual software being sold?
Be wary of stock standard marketing photos that may not be of the actual software you are buying.
7. Can you physically check the product?
If you can, check the product thoroughly before you purchase it. Use the How to Tell website to help you tell if it is legitimate software. Always be wary of sellers who are reluctant to let you view the product.
8. Are you purchasing the correct license?
For example, if you use academic software and you are not a student, lecturer or teacher, you are in breach of the license.
9. Does the software have a genuine Certificate of Authenticity?
A Certificate of Authenticity is a label that helps you identify genuine software. This is a visual identifier that helps determine whether or not the software you are buying is genuine. Check the Microsoft ‘How to Tell’ website to be able to tell the difference between genuine and fake Certificates of Authenticity.
Kiwis can also report sellers of counterfeit Microsoft products by emailing email@example.com.