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Russia Destroys Pirated Software

July 27, 1999

MOSCOW (AP) _ Police destroyed half a million counterfeit computer discs Tuesday in a bid to show the Russian government’s commitment to combatting software piracy.

The discs, worth $1 million, were scattered on the ground and crushed by a steamroller at a dump site outside Moscow. The seizure, made earlier this month, equaled the number of discs confiscated all last year, anti-piracy activists said.

The public destruction was aimed at demonstrating that police were stepping up their fight against pirates, who are believed to control 90 percent of the Russian software market and cost Western firms and the government hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The discs _ including computer games and Windows 98 software _ were seized by agents posing as buyers from a Moscow-based company that police say is one of Russia’s biggest pirates. The company denied owning the discs, which a court ordered destroyed.

The catch represented about a third of the 1.5 million discs sold every month at the Gorbushka street market, Moscow’s premier site for pirated computer, music and video products, police said.

``We have been gradually moving from pinpoint strikes on retail traders to operations against wholesale dealers, and this is our largest action ever,″ said Alexei Sidorov, an expert with the Russian Anti-Software Piracy Association, an association set up by computer companies to help police track pirates.

Authorities say a pirated disc costs 25 cents to make and is typically sold for $2. Most are manufactured in nations like Ukraine and Bulgaria and smuggled across the border, although some are produced locally.

Police say a lack of resources and convoluted Russian laws make it extremely hard to prosecute suspected pirates, and their main strategy now is to hit them economically.

``Our goal is to make their life as unpleasant as we can,″ said a police officer with the Interior Ministry’s special anti-pirate squad, who identified himself only as Alexander Yuryevich, refusing to give his last name.

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