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August 21, 2009

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Prison for major Windows piracy ring

A COURT in east China yesterday sentenced four people involved in a major software piracy case to up to three and a half years in prison and levied fines of around 11 million yuan (US$1.6 million).

The four were found guilty of criminal copyright infringement as a result of the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of their own version of the popular Windows XP operating system.

The case was heralded as a major win in the government's campaign to protect intellectual property rights because 90 percent of personal computer owners use Microsoft Windows programs.

The case served as a warning to anyone thinking about knocking off Windows 7, a new-generation Windows operating system, Microsoft said.

Hong Lei, the chief developer and distributor of the modified version of Windows XP, was sentenced to three and a half years behind bars and fined 1 million yuan (US$146,327) by the Huqiu District People's Court in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.

Garden plowed

Sun Xiansheng, who managed business promotion for Tomato Garden, a Website set up to provide the software, was handed the same prison term and fine as Hong.

Liang Chaoyong, who helped Hong develop the pirated software, and Zhang Tianping, marketing director of Chengdu Share Software Net Co, the firm that operated the Website, were each sentenced to two years in jail and fined 100,000 yuan.

The Chengdu company was also fined more than 8.7 million yuan, and over 2.9 million in illegal income generated by Tomato Garden was confiscated by the court.

Hong established Tomato Garden in 2004.

He offered users an unlocked version of XP that defeated security measures preventing the software from being copied, along with other pirated software, the court found.

More than 10 million people downloaded pirated software from the Website, according to media reports.

Hong and the others didn't charge users for the service, but they did reportedly generate more than 100,000 yuan a month on average from advertisements sold on the site.


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