Microsoft has launched its latest anti-piracy drive to reduce the #340 million it loses every year in the UK through software theft. Code-named Operation Major Strike, the initiative aims to target specific geographical regions and follow illegal software up the distribution chain. Under the new banner, the company has already carried out missions in the north west and south east of England which have generated 18 High Court writs and 50 cases against distributors, dealers and resellers shifting counterfeit Microsoft products. David Gregory, anti-piracy manager for Microsoft, refused to disclose how much the company was spending on the project. "We lose around #50 million a year in sales of Office alone in the UK to software theft," he said. "When you consider that pirates are our biggest competitors, you can tell how seriously we take this problem." However, Microsoft insisted that it will not be taking action against end users in possession of pirated software. Instead, the company will investigate the supply channel to find out how the software is getting into the UK in the first place and will advise users that they will be at risk of prosecution by the Business Software Alliance if they continue using the illegal software. Microsoft is not just out to recoup lost money, however. According to Gregory, the company is helping customers and smaller software houses too with the scheme. Users suffer most at the hands of the pirates, Gregory argued. "When people talk about viruses they don't realise that the most virulent kind come into the UK on pirated software from the Far East," he claimed. "Part of the aim of the project is to support and advise customers about piracy." Gregory believes that software crime is not taken seriously enough and causes the most damage to smaller software houses. "About 34% of software in the UK is pirated," he said. "If it was revealed that a third of TV sets in use had been stolen there would be a national uproar. Some people think of software as an intangible, but it's just like any other product that helps run hospitals, schools and industry alike."
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