Ragtrader restrained over software piracy (print edition)

Microsoft's legal department has had another successful action against a reseller, leaving its principal with a not-so-merry Christmas.

According to a statement from the vendor, the Federal Court has made final orders against Passions, trading as StarWorks Promotions and Marketing, declaring the company infringed the copyright and trademark rights of MS and breached the Trade Practices Act by the supply of unlicensed operating systems.

The court also made interlocutory orders against Theresa Milosevic, the sole director of StarWorks, personally restraining her from supplying or being involved in the supply of copies of illegal Microsoft software.

While Milosevic initially did not wish to comment, claiming the matter was sub judicey, ARN was subsequently contacted by Alan Cooper, who described himself as an accountant contracted to StarWorks. Speaking on behalf of Milosevic, he said: "They've made Terri [Milosevic] the whipping post." Commenting on the court orders, he added: "She only had two matters relating to the sale of PCs without licensed software. She closed down her refurbished PC business in March because suppliers were too unreliable."

At the bottom of the case is the sale and supply of refurbished PCs, complete with operating systems, and Microsoft has repeatedly insisted that the software must be accompanied by original media and documentation.

RentWorks general manager Ran McDonald told ARN that as a wholesaler of second-hand PCs, it doesn't have to comply. He said the company has 400,000 desktop PCs under management and one third come back each year (for the refurbished market). "Most of our [second-hand PC] sales are to dealers and are supplied blank. He added that the so-called secondary market for the Windows 95 operating system added about $60 to the cost of a PC," McDonald said.

Another interested observer of Microsoft's actions is Wally Muhieddine, managing director of Wally's Computerworld. Muhieddine lamented that Microsoft has chosen not to set up a discounted price structure for older operating systems, which is what he said older PCs need.

A Microsoft corporate attorney for the South Asia-Pacific region, Ron Eckstrom, said: "Microsoft is committed to supporting and protecting the genuine distribution community and its customers from dishonest dealers who profit from piracy. Honest people trying to make an honest living are shouldering heavy costs because of dealers selling illegal software."

In the StarWorks case, it allegedly loaded illegal software onto second-hand computers and sold them to numerous consumers in Australia and New Zealand. "Consumers who believed they were getting licensed software did not receive licence agreements, manuals or original disks with their system," Eckstrom said.

StarWorks is now in liquidation. Microsoft has also started proceedings against Milosevic's new company, CompuStar.