The scene: Los Reyes, Mexico. The participants: 300 heavily armed law enforcement agents about to embark on a raid.
So begins a tantalizing piece from the New York Times detailing Microsoft’s efforts, at home and abroad, to curtail software piracy.
The police reached the house undetected, barreled in and found rooms crammed with about 50 machines used to copy CDs and make counterfeit versions of software like Microsoft Office and Xbox video games. They arrested three men on the spot, who were later released while the authorities investigate the case. “The entire operation was very complicated and risky,” says a person close to the investigation, who demanded anonymity out of fear for his life.
As organized crime syndicates become more and more sophisticated, they’ve branched out into relatively low risk criminal endeavors such as software piracy, with some employing extensive “supply chains and sales networks rivaling those of legitimate businesses, says David Finn, Microsoft’s anti-piracy chief.”
Microsoft’s anti-piracy operations are extensive, and often involve former intelligence agents who work in Microsoft crime labs and make use of advanced forensic technology tools to help track down software thieves. With Windows and Office accounting for the bulk of Microsoft’s profits, it’s understandable why the company would employ such serious measures in order to minimize an obvious threat to its bottom line.
Microsoft has demonstrated a rare ability to elicit the cooperation of law enforcement officials to go after software counterfeiters and to secure convictions — not only in India and Mexico, but also in China, Brazil, Colombia, Belize and Russia. Countries like Malaysia, Chile and Peru have set up intellectual-property protection squads that rely on Microsoft’s training and expertise to deal with software cases…
Donal Keating, a physicist who leads Microsoft’s forensics work, has turned the lab into an anti-piracy playpen full of microscopes and other equipment used to analyze software disks. Flat-screen monitors show data about counterfeit sales, and evidence bags almost overflow with nearly flawless Windows and Office fakes. Mr. Keating serves as the CD manufacturing whiz on what amounts to Microsoft’s version of the A-Team, clad in business-casual attire.
Toss in a former lawyer who served in the French army and an assortment of other colorful characters such as ex Secret Service and Interpol agents, and you have what by all appearances is a summer action flick worthy of Jerry Bruckheimer. But this is serious business, with billions of dollars at stake. And adding to Microsoft’s worry is that it’s not just physical counterfeits and copies they have to worry about. These days, a lot of folks download pirated software from the comfort of their own home. Impressively, Microsoft removes approximately 800,000 links to illegal Microsoft software a month.
There’s a helluva lot more in the entire article which is well worth poring over.