Pirated computer software is an issue which costs the computer industry millions every year, even with new measures aimed at restricting the spread of pirated programs.
Many computer users are blissfully unaware of how much their pirated software hurts the role-players they love so much. From cracked operating systems to games, the illegal trade in software continues hurting the PC scene.
Microsoft South Africa's Charl Everton recently stated that her company alone is in the process of investigating more than 60 computer dealers suspected of selling fake software and she says that's “just the tip of the iceberg.”
Everton was speaking as part of Microsoft's 'Consumer Action Day', a 70-country campaign aimed at protecting consumers from the risks of counterfeit software. She says that Microsoft tests of popular counterfeit software have shown that up to 35% of counterfeit software contains harmful code, infecting the buyer’s computer with viruses and opening the door to online spam.
As part of its awareness campaign, Microsoft recently launched its “Don't Fake It” campaign alongside its www.dontfakeit.co.za
website where users have the chance to appear in a music video alongside local band Prime Circle.
Locally anti-piracy activities have also been on the increase, with more than 20 enforcement actions involving the SA Police Services, the DTI or Microsoft's attorneys occurring in the past month. Several dealers have been served with notices from Microsoft's attorneys while a Bloemfontein IT consultant was recently charged with offences under the Copyright Goods Act.
Chief director of company and IP enforcement with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Mandla Mnyatheli, says, “the exact impact of counterfeiting is hard to quantify, but there's no doubt this trend has been increasing. We have an urgent challenge in South Africa to stem this tide.”
He also said that the deputy minister of the department, Tobias Pokolo, is currently spearheading a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of piracy and counterfeiting, involving the relevant enforcement agencies and departments.
The trade in pirated and counterfeit goods aren't limited to only hurting the bank balances of the companies involved, as Everton stated that, “there is growing evidence that many local criminal organisations are now involved in counterfeiting to some degree - which effectively means that people who buy pirated goods are funding organised crime.”
“All indications are that local criminal syndicates are following the global trend of branching out into counterfeit software as a low-risk, high-profit sideline to other activities like hijacking and drug trafficking,” she said.