Microsoft Helps Assure Alabama Consumers That Gifts of Microsoft Software Are Genuine This Holiday Season

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Dec. 16, 1998 — Microsoft Corp. officials today announced that Alabama consumers obtaining software as gifts this holiday season should be on the lookout for counterfeit software. Like unwrapping a broken toy, opening counterfeit software can dim the excitement of receiving the perfect holiday gift. Microsoft reports that counterfeit products often lack key elements, such as user manuals and product identifications, Certificates of Authenticity and software code. Microsoft further cautions that counterfeit software may also contain harmful viruses.

Recent investigations by Microsoft throughout the state of Alabama have uncovered the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit Microsoft® software products. As a result of the investigations, Microsoft has filed four lawsuits alleging copyright violations and trademark infringement for the distribution of counterfeit copies of Microsoft products. The companies were investigated as a result of tips to the Microsoft anti-piracy hot line by honest resellers or customers who obtained suspicious products. The anti-piracy investigations are the company’s first in Alabama and are intended to help protect customers as well as legitimate distributors from the effects of software piracy in the state.

In one of the cases, Microsoft was granted authorization by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery to search the facilities of Whitman Music Inc., dba Whitman Computers and Music, of Dothan on suspicion of manufacturing counterfeit product. On the company premises, a device for recording CDs was found along with counterfeit copies of the Microsoft Windows® 95 and Windows NT® 4.0 operating systems, and Microsoft Office 97 Professional. The court order was entered as part of a lawsuit brought by Microsoft against Whitman Computers and Music (Civil Action No. CV-98-T-1353-S) on Dec. 7, 1998.

Last week Microsoft also filed lawsuits against three other Alabama computer resellers. Lawsuits against Cablemart Inc. of Madison (Civil Action No. CV-98-HGD-3047-NE) and Custom Words Inc. of Fort Payne (Civil Action No. CV-98-PT-3048-M) were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in Birmingham. Both companies allegedly distributed copies of counterfeit Windows 95 and Office 97 Professional.

The other lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, Southern Division in Mobile, against Gulf Professional Services of Robertsdale (Civil Action No. CV-98-1230-RV-C) for allegedly distributing counterfeit fulfillment versions of Office 97 Professional via the Internet.

“Resellers who pirate software make it much more difficult for those of us who do business ethically to provide value to our customers,”
said Gene Whitley, president and CEO of American Computer Consultants Inc. in Birmingham.
“It is important that Microsoft actively fulfills its goal to protect resellers and consumers alike from software piracy.”

Microsoft encourages consumers, and those who obtain gifts of software over the holidays, to be aware of the warning signs that can help them identify counterfeit or illegal software.

  • Prices that are
    “too good to be true.”
    These may indicate counterfeit product or product that has been misdirected, such as product authorized for distribution only to educational institutions but being offered to the general public.

  • Backup disks or CD-ROMs with handwritten labels, or components that appear to be of inferior quality

  • Manuals that appear to be photocopied or are of inferior quality

  • Products marked with a phrase, such as
    “For distribution with a new PC only,” “Special CD for licensed customers only,” “Not for retail or OEM distribution”
    or
    “Academic price – not for use in a commercial environment,”
    that does not describe the transaction

In addition, when users acquire a new computer system, it will include operating system software. If that software is the Microsoft Windows 98 operating system, it will be accompanied by a user manual that incorporates a Certificate of Authenticity on the cover. The customer will also receive a CD-ROM with the software program. There must be an end-user license agreement (visible on screen when the program is first run). If any of these elements is missing, the product is suspect.

Customers or resellers with questions about the legitimacy of Microsoft products should contact the Microsoft anti-piracy hot line, toll free, at (800) RU-LEGIT (785-3448), or send
e-mail to piracy@microsoft.com. In addition, a list of authorized distributors and details regarding the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) System Builder program is available at http://www.microsoft.com/oem/ . Consumers can obtain more information about software piracy by calling the Business Software Alliance anti-piracy hot line at (888) NO-PIRACY (667-4722) or sending e-mail to software@bsa.org.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
“MSFT”
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Microsoft, Windows and Windows NT are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/ on Microsoft’s corporate information pages.

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