Seguros Universales, one of the largest insurance companies in Guatemala has sued Microsoft over what is being called an unwarranted and extortion-like anti-piracy raid. With the help of local law enforcement Microsoft demanded an on the spot payment of $70,000 from the company for the use of pirated software or they said would have all of a company’s computers confiscated.
"Microsoft appeared with armed Guatemalan law enforcement officers and halted plaintiffs’ business operations. Microsoft then proceeded to extort Plaintiffs by demanding an on-the-spot agreement to pay $70,000 or Microsoft would remove all servers containing ALL data and operational software," the company claims.
The company alleges that the raid was "unwarranted" because it has payment receipts for 98 percent of the software licensing fees. The company also accuses Microsoft of operating a racketeering scam in the country, wrongfully targeting many companies for allegedly using pirated software.
Naturally Microsoft denies all of these accusations, but Latin America is not the only place where Microsoft has allegedly employed similar tactics to deal with piracy.
In Belgium, a long running lawsuit over a similar matter came to an end last week. In this case local printing company Deckers-Snoeck sued the BSA over a raid where Microsoft was also listed as one of the complainants. The company claims that the raid came unannounced (as raids often are) and the BSA was assisted by local law enforcement. The company was told that all its computers would be taken away for the alleged use of pirated software unless it paid 30,000 euros ($40,000) in settlement fees.
"It was a robbery more than a check-up," Deckers-Snoeck CEO Joris Deckers told De Tijd.
The company claims that it was forced to shut down the company because it refused to pay the money that was being asked for.
The raid took place in 2003 and after a legal battle spanning over ten years, the Brussels Appeal Court decided last week that BSA’s practices were “deceptive.” The printing company won the case and the Court ruled that it was not obliged to pay any damages to the software group. According to Tom Heremans, the lawyer of the printing company, this judgment paves the way for other companies that have been pressured into making similar settlements when not all software was unlicensed.
The BSA claims that it has changed its policy since then and that companies get a warning first before they show up with the police. This change in policy does not yet apply to Latin America, apparently…