Microsoft has filed 10 lawsuits against resellers and individuals in the US, accusing them of software piracy.
Seven lawsuits have been filed against nine individuals from California, Maryland, New York, Texas and Virginia, alleging breach of a software agreement by which the individuals obtained a number of Microsoft Action Pack Subscriptions (MAPS).
The MAPS Initiative is a programme that provides eligible partners with discounted Microsoft software packages for product evaluation and internal use. The MAPS-related lawsuits, the first that Microsoft has filed, allege egregious use of the programme by people who have repeatedly and knowingly broken the terms of the agreement. According to the firm, some of those named in the suits have allegedly attempted to sell software from their subscriptions to consumers through online auction sites.
"Our partners are negatively affected by the activities of those who compete unfairly by either selling illegal software and components or abusing agreements that other partners abide by," said John Ball, general manager for Microsoft's US System Builders Partner Group, which works with businesses that manufacture computers.
"These dishonest resellers sell products at minimal costs, undercutting the business of legitimate resellers. Those who operate ethically within the law take a hard financial hit. We like to see our honest partners succeed."
Microsoft said that it became aware of abuses of the subscription service through its own monitoring of the MAPS program. Such abuses allegedly include subscribers falsifying information to receive the program benefits and software titles multiple times. The MAPS agreement stipulates that partners may subscribe to the MAPS program only once each year, that the software may not be resold, and that the software must be used only at the partner's primary business location and only for business purposes such as application development and testing.
"The lawsuits announced today are a necessary step to help ensure that those who knowingly and repeatedly violate known and widely accepted standards will not be given free rein to do so. We want to protect the business of honest resellers and try to ensure a level playing field for our partners," said Mary Jo Schrade, senior attorney at Microsoft.
Microsoft has also filed lawsuits over alleged software piracy against three companies in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The lawsuits came as a result of a number of customer complaints to a confidential software piracy hotline.
In these cases, Microsoft purchased software from each of the defendant companies to test its authenticity in response to the complaints. When it was confirmed that the software was illegitimate, Microsoft sent cease-and-desist letters to the companies with educational information about how to operate legally. The firm said that lawsuits were filed only after the alleged perpetrators would not change their behaviour.
Microsoft has started taking a hard line on software piracy of late. In September the firm filed lawsuits against eight companies in the US over counterfeiting and has indicated that it intends to do so again in the future.
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