Software pirates raided the Redmond offices of Microsoft this weekend, stealing thousands of copies of Windows, Office, and other software valued at over $2 million.
The burglary is the latest in an ongoing battle between Microsoft and the software pirates, whose ongoing thefts of retail-packaged software cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
“These robberies are costly to us,” said Microsoft spokeswoman Jill Jakes, “but the real victim here is the customer. Every copy of Windows Vista Ultimate Edition that is stolen by pirates is a copy that we can’t sell to a customer for three hundred and twenty dollars.”
Authorities are investigating the break-in, which occurred between three and four in the morning in seven buildings on Microsoft’s main campus in Redmond.
“Most people wouldn’t steal a car or a television, but these pirates have absolutely no problems breaking in and stealing software like this virtually every day,” said King County sheriff’s spokesman John Urquhart. “It’s a real shame.”
Despite a nationwide propaganda campaign against piracy, software pirates are responsible for over thirty thousand such break-ins across the country yearly.
According to a recent study released by the Business Software Alliance, in the United States roughly one out of every three copies of personal computing software has been stolen from the manufacturing plant or retail shelves. Software piracy is an even bigger problem in China, where it is estimated that over ninety percent of citizens have broken into a retail outlet and stolen copies of software.
We tracked down an admitted software pirate who wanted to share his side of the story. “Bob,” who asked that his real name not be used, has participated in over fifty armed robberies of software from Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics, and Circuit City stores across Washington and Oregon since 1997.
“Sure, I could afford to buy this stuff if I donate enough plasma,” said Bob, who makes $8.50 an hour at Taco Bell. “But it’s just so much easier to break some glass, run into the store, grab what I need, and get out.”
Bob explained that he realizes that the law that says software theft is illegal, but says that it is justified since there is no other reasonable way for him to obtain software for a reasonable price.
“I mean, if there were some way to like—I don’t know—just get a copy of what I want or something, that would obviously be preferable,” said Bob. “But unfortunately breaking in and stealing boxed copies is really the only option.”
Software makers blame attitudes like Bob’s for the high cost of software.
“If people would stop stealing so many of our products from our warehouses and retail shelves, we could afford to sell these five cent plastic discs for just two hundred dollars instead of three hundred and twenty,” said Jakes.