The NY Times has a lengthy report on the constant threat of software piracy and Microsoft's evolving fight against it. It's a sordid tale involving organised crime, billions of dollars, CSI-like techniques and foreign governments.
Microsoft is basically training intellectual-property protection squads in foreign countries to help fight their battle. Together they're trying to take down the big business of software counterfeiting. But these guys are good! There are factories literally churning out thousands of pirated discs and mimicking Microsoft's authentic product as best they can. For example, according to the NY Times:
As one means of trying to tell the genuine article from a fake, Microsoft embeds about an inch of a special type of thread in each "certificate of authenticity" sticker found on boxes of software and computers. The investigators spotted dozens of spools of counterfeit thread - 81 miles worth - at the Chinese warehouse.
And Microsoft is fighting a war on all fronts. If the pirates aren't delivering their counterfeited product in classic boxes and CDs, they're putting out downloadable links all over the web to grab pirated Microsoft software. According to Microsoft, there was a time when they removed 10,000 links of pirated software a month. Now, it's 800,000 a month.
A rather new wrinkle is that organised crime is expanding their business into counterfeit software. Interestingly, they view it as a low-risk, high-profit complement to drugs and kidnapping. According to the Times:
The group even stamps the disks it produces with "FMM," which stands for Familia Morelia Michoacana, right alongside the original brand of various software makers.