Microsoft gets tough on piracy
Company is working with authorities across the Gulf to stamp out piracy and counterfeiting
The arrest and imprisonment of the Microsoft Xbox hacker in November here in the UAE has sent a strong message to those who are contemplating modifying Microsoft products or selling counterfeit goods, according to Savas Yucedag, Anti-Piracy, License Compliance lead, Microsoft Gulf.
"Modifying Xbox consoles or selling non-genuine Microsoft products is a crime, it is not a game, therefore we take all the necessary steps to protect our intellectual property rights in coordination with the local authorities," said Yucedag.
Yucedag also said that by modifying Xbox consoles and using counterfeit games and software in Xbox consoles, customers are opening themselves up to viruses, spyware and malware that may be implanted in the counterfeit products.
"In general, doing this type of thing [counterfeiting], comes with some risks, so if you are using pirated copies of Windows for example, then you would be putting your self at risk from a virus perspective, from a spyware and malware perspective. Personally, as a consumer, I would advise the consumers not to go and buy these type of things and just stick to the original offerings of software or hardware from Microsoft," he said.
Microsoft Gulf has been working with the local authorities in the Gulf countries to address piracy and counterfeit products.
The company recently organised law enforcement training for authorities such as the Dubai Police and customs authorities, in the UAE.
"We invited all the stakeholders from all the local authorities and agencies. It was a very interactive session, we explained to them how to identify counterfeit products versus genuine ones and we got very good feedback," said Yucedag.
Microsoft has conducted four successful reseller raids in Qatar since July, which are now being handled by the local authorities.
In the last fiscal year, the company also conducted several successful reseller raids in the UAE against high-quality counterfeit product resellers.
According to the Eighth Annual BSA Global Software Piracy Study, the UAE has a piracy rate of 36% in 2010, and has increased slightly since 2006, when its piracy rate was 35%.
The Middle East region as a whole has a 58% piracy rate, compared to 59% in 2009.
"The commercial value of pirated software in the Gulf is more than $300 million, as per the BSA study. It is pretty high figure and it's not only Microsoft working on this issue, it is an economy-wide problem and we should work together to eliminate counterfeit products," said Yucedag.
Two countries that seem to be successfully battling piracy are Bahrain and Qatar. Bahrain had a 60% piracy rate in 2006, at the end of 2010, it was 54%, while Qatar's piracy rate was 58% in 2006, and was 49% by the end of 2010, according to the BSA study.
Microsoft has just relaunched its ‘How to Tell' website, designed to educate users on how to identify counterfeit software and report any counterfeit products they may have purchased.
The website, www.microsoft.com/howtotell, also allows users, according to the terms and conditions of the website, to exchange counterfeit products bought in error, with a real Microsoft product, with the help of the Microsoft support team.
"When it comes to counterfeit [Microsoft software], the end-users would like to use a genuine copy of Microsoft, however, they have been cheated by some resellers selling high-quality counterfeit products at the same price, or very close to the genuine one. If they sell the counterfeit product at a significantly lower price, then it becomes too good to be true, so, in order to avoid that, resellers try to sell at a price close to the genuine one so as not to create any suspicion. In such cases the consumers and end-users become victims of the counterfeit offering as they paid almost the full price of the original version and thought they purchased the original one," said Yucedag.
Microsoft lists eight tips to avoid being conned into purchasing counterfeit Microsoft products: customers must ask resellers to confirm the software will pass activation and validation before they purchase the software; avoid getting software from websites offering cheap software, peer-to-peer sharing sites, and online auction sites; customers must always purchase Microsoft goods from a trusted source and research sellers; customers must compare prices to genuine software on Microsoft sites, cheaper software is likely to be fake; customers must be suspicious of products that lack identifying features such as holograms, manuals and certificates of authenticity; they must be careful of buying software from resellers in other countries; users must keep virus programs up-to-date to reduce exposure to viruses; and say no to resellers offering backup copies or bundles of several programs.