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Microsoft Corp. said Monday a crack-down on software piracy has resulted in charges against a pair of Canadian e-tailers accused of peddling bogus Microsoft products on the Internet.

In a statement, Microsoft Canada said New Brunswick-based BrenLor Marketing and Muckabout.com, which is located in Calgary, have been charged under the Canadian Copyright Act.

The two cases - which are unrelated - are now before the courts.

Michael Eisen, director of law and corporate affairs for Microsoft Canada, refused to elaborate on the scope of the two operations or say specifically what software was involved.

"Internet software piracy in general is a very daunting problem facing Microsoft and other software publishers," Mr. Eisen said.

"So any police initiative aimed at that problem is significant for that reason alone."

Microsoft said the two unrelated cases came to the company's attention as a result of "complaints from several different parties, including reports to the Microsoft anti-piracy hotline.

"The leads were turned over to local detachments of the RCMP for further investigation," Microsoft said in a statement.

"This ultimately resulted in the seizure of allegedly counterfeit Microsoft products pursuant to search warrants obtained by the RCMP."

As part of its campaign against pirated software, Microsoft launched an Internet monitoring program last August that searches "suspect Web sites" for possible pirated software.

Mr. Eisen said the service - which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week - combs sites and auctions looking for counterfeit or illegal software by searching for words such as 'ware' which are often associated with pirated programs.

"The next thing that happens is that information identified by the the search tool is verified and refined by our investigators, who then take the appropriate enforcement steps," Mr. Eisen said.

Over the last 18 months, he said, such search tools have resulted in Microsoft asking for the removal of more than 43,000 Web sites and auctions offering illegal software.

"So, it's been quite a success from our standpoint," he said.

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