Microsoft has won $720,000 damages in a copyright infringement case against Brisbane reseller Magic Computers.
Vanessa Hutley, senior corporate attorney at Microsoft Australia, said the vendor had received information in 1998 that Cross Link Marketing Group, trading as Magic Computers, was selling computers installed with unlicensed Microsoft software.
"Someone rang our piracy hotline and we conducted further investigations," she said. "We wrote to Magic Computers and told them that this activity wasn't under our licensing terms and that also was a breach of copyright."
Hutley said Magic Computers had at the time agreed what it was doing was wrong and said it wouldn't happen again. But infringements kept happening, she said.
In 2002, Microsoft had received further information suggesting that Magic Computers was doing hard disk loading, Hutley said.
After receiving yet more information in 2004 despite having got undertakings not to reoffend from Magic Computers, Microsoft had been forced to file a suit in the Federal Court of Australia in Queensland, Hutley said.
The case had lasted five or six days and Cross Link Marketing Group and its current director Kell Walker had agreed to pay Microsoft $360,000 to settle the claims it was reselling computers loaded with unlicensed software.
Former directors of Cross Link Marketing Group Rosalind Summer -- also known as Pee Loo Tan -- and Wayne Summer -- also agreed to pay $360,000 in damages.
"Microsoft alleged Kell Walker authorised those infringements," the vendor said in a public statement, released today as a result of an inquiry by CRN.
"Microsoft alleged [the Summers] had authorised the reproduction of Microsoft programs installed onto computers sold by Cross Link Marketing Group in breach of the Copyright Act."
Cross Link Marketing and the directors also consented to orders restraining them from future infringement, Microsoft said.
Hutley said Magic Computers, which dealt mainly in second-hand computers, had not been a part of Microsoft's official partner program to her knowledge.
"We spend a lot of money and I'm sure you've seen our partner website. We do our best [to ensure people know not to infringe copyright] but there comes a point where you have to do something," she said.
"And it's not just about our loss. Customers have actually paid their hard-earned money and often the stuff doesn't work."
Hutley said many calls to Microsoft's anti-piracy hotline came from customers who had bought products that just didn't work. Angry and frustrated, they called Microsoft to see if they could fix the problem.
"Of course, then we do our own investigations," she said.
Many small businesses worked hard to deliver their customers services and stay within the limits of the law. That was hard work and they deserved not to be undercut by pirates who didn't care what they did to make a profit, Hutley suggested.