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Microsoft settles lawsuit against Amherst businessman

Lawyers for the wealthiest man in the world recently settled a lawsuit against a small businessman in Amherst as part of an international crackdown on the piracy of computer software.

The lawsuit accused Aron Tauber of illegally reselling Microsoft Word, Microsoft Office and other programs that had been sold at a deep discount to educational institutions, Microsoft attorneys said on Tuesday. The lawsuit also accused Tauber of selling "unauthorized product keys" used to activate the software.

A lawyer for Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., said Tauber's firm was one of dozens of businesses throughout the United States and Canada that illegally sold the educational software to businesses and individuals. The lawyer said the software was obtained under false pretenses in Jordan under the Student Media program, one of the charity efforts of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

According to Microsoft, Tauber, who ran a small Amherst computer software company called T&A Computerbank, agreed to pay Microsoft more than $100,000 to settle the lawsuit. In late February, District Judge Richard J. Arcara issued a permanent injunction barring Tauber from selling the software. Tauber, 54, who lives on Breezewood Common in East Amherst, told The Buffalo News he no longer sells the Microsoft products, but he declined to answer any questions about the lawsuit. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

According to court papers, Tauber sold illegally obtained Microsoft programs for at least two years over a Web site he operated. The court papers said FBI agents raided his business in 2005, seizing 1,788 units of software.

A lawsuit filed against Tauber in Buffalo is one of numerous legal actions recently taken by Microsoft to prevent abuse of a program that the company began to help educational programs all over the world, said senior Microsoft attorney Bonnie MacNaughton.

"We uncovered an international fraud scheme aimed at a program that Microsoft set up to help students in disadvantaged schools," MacNaughton said. "Microsoft is hurt by these illegal sales, but so are schools, customers who buy unlicensed merchandise and honest resellers who get undercut by those who sell illegally."

MacNaughton said Microsoft sells many of its software programs to schools for discounts of up to 90 percent below the normal retail prices. She said someone in Jordan illegally purchased many of the programs after falsely claiming they would go to schools.

Many companies, including Tauber's, then illegally resold the programs to businesses and individuals in the United States and Canada, MacNaughton said.

Microsoft said it sells discounted software CD-ROMS under what it calls the Student Media program, which is designed to help schools in the United States and elsewhere, including many developing countries.

A copyright infringement action filed against Tauber's company was one of nine such lawsuits that Microsoft has filed throughout the United States. Microsoft said it also has filed more than 50 "cease-and-desist letters," warning violators that they will be sued if they don't stop illegal activities.

For some, the schemes can be very profitable, MacNaughton said.

"One of the people we settled a lawsuit with was a 19-year-old man from Canada," the Microsoft attorney said. "He illegally bought products from a Jordanian reseller, and then made a million dollars reselling them in Canada. He then went to Las Vegas and bought himself two exotic sports cars."

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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