Microsoft is playing up the successful prosecution and sentencing of a businessman who sold pirated software to consumers in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.
The “bust” took three years to conclude. “Microsoft sees this as a massive win for anti-piracy efforts due in point to the fact that the reseller in question has been ordered to pay compensation to his victims as well as to Microsoft,” the company says.
Computer shop manager Vikesh Singh, who traded as PE Technologies in Port Elizabeth and later as Vision Technologies in Johannesburg, was found guilty in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Port Elizabeth on 15 June of fraud and multiple contraventions of the Counterfeit Goods Act and the Copyright Act. Singh pleaded guilty to contravening the Companies and the Close Corporations Acts by acting as a manager while disqualified, as he had previously been convicted of theft, Microsoft says.
He was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, suspended for five years provided he doesn’t contravene the Counterfeit Goods Act or the Copyright Act. He was also sentenced to a fine of R80 000, or four years’ imprisonment conditionally suspended for five years, for contravening the Companies Act and the Close Corporations Act.
Singh was also ordered to compensate four customers, who had been sold counterfeit Microsoft software and acted as witnesses in the criminal case, three times the value of their purchases, and ordered by the court to pay compensation to Microsoft of R150 000.
The case followed a raid by the Commercial Crime Unit on PE Technologies in August 2008 after a two-year investigation by Microsoft, including undercover test purchases. Microsoft says that during the raid the police seized a large quantity of fake software, packaged to look like genuine products.
A further raid in April 2009 followed Microsoft found the Port Elizabeth company was still engaged in “hard disk loading”, a term used when a PC shop or reseller installs a copy of Microsoft software onto a computer but fails to distribute the authorised package of genuine Microsoft software components.
Microsoft says PE Technologies had been using a stolen volume licence key to install pirated copies of the Office suite, and that Vision Technologies in Johannesburg had then subsequently been engaged in the same practice. — Staff reporter, TechCentral