If you still thought software piracy was a minor issue, consider this accusation: Microsoft late last week said that the drug cartel called La Familia was selling counterfeit copies of the software giant's products on the streets of Mexico. The company says it has evidence that establishes a link between the piracy and organized crime in the country.
"This is the scary side of counterfeiting and it plagues the world," Microsoft's Associate General Counsel for Antipiracy David Finn said recently at the Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy in Paris. According to Finn, La Familia is using the proceeds from its counterfeit software operation to fund kidnapping, murder, and other crimes.
"According to an analysis by the Mexico Attorney General, the group’s illegal counterfeiting activities involved a sophisticated distribution network of 180,000 points of sale in stores, markets, and kiosks, earning more than $2.2 million dollars in revenue every day," Finn later wrote in a blog post. "It's no wonder that enforcement agencies and governments are deeply concerned about this trend."
Consumers are worried too, he continues. "More than 38,000 consumers in 20 countries participated in the survey, and a large majority said they want the industry (72 percent) and government (65 percent) to do more to protect them from software piracy," he wrote.
And here, of course, is where Microsoft crosses the line, as it always does in its missives about software piracy. For a company like Microsoft that sells software, piracy is of course a major impediment to growth, especially in emerging markets like Mexico where such activities are common. But Microsoft frequently invokes a fearful message for users when it describes piracy, and invokes its desire to protect users—and not itself—from this crime. It would be laudable if it weren't so self-serving.
But at least give Microsoft some credit. Unlike, say, the recording industry, the software giant is generally going after the big players and not individuals. Finn says that the software giant team of 75 investigators, lawyers, engineers, and advisors all dedicated specifically to building new antipiracy technologies. Let's hope they have a similarly sized team charged with keeping those solutions from harming or inconveniencing real customers.