Microsoft has settled legal action against four Victorian resellers who have admitted selling illegal copies of its software. The software giant has also announced a global piracy campaign against 50 on-line auction sites including three based in Australia. The four Victorian resellers - Panda Computer International (Chadstone), JSN Computers (Mardialloc), PC Ideas (Oakleigh) and Ozsmartstore (Caulfield East) - confessed to selling unauthorised versions of software including Windows XP and Office Professional Edition 2003. Microsoft has also started criminal and civil action against 50 companies worldwide for allegedly selling counterfeit software. The list includes three Australian individuals and stores: Safar Safar and Computerbits in Ashfield, NSW; Zhiyang Xu, trading as NSW-based TopTeq; and RP Distribution trading as "LGA Logistics" along with its shareholder, Reuben Mark Vella. Microsoft anti-piracy manager, Suzanne Caldwell, said it was at the early stages of filing against the companies in either the Magistrates or Federal Court of Australia. The vendor's senior lawyer, Vanessa Huxley, said many of the counterfeit software cases it pursued were repeat offenders. For example, Microsoft had settled with Panda Computer in 2004 when the reseller was reported for hard-disk loading unlicensed software onto its PCs. As part of the latest settlement, Panda has agreed to supply genuine Microsoft software at its own cost to any customers who find their software is counterfeit. While software piracy still accounts for more than 30 per cent of the local market, Huxley said methods were changing. "On-line is becoming a way for people to advertise themselves. The Internet can make them appear to be a legitimate business," she said. "Customers need to ask the return policy and warranty condition questions they would in any commercial understanding." Caldwell said the impending launch of Windows Vista would see a technological change in the way consumers lodged software with Microsoft. Instead of following a software validation process, Vista users will be required to activate their operating system through the new software protection platform. Resellers would be educated about the new platform as the vendor went into launch phase, Caldwell said.
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