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Originally published April 5, 2011 at 8:04 PM | Page modified April 6, 2011 at 11:04 AM

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State passes anti-piracy law to help Microsoft

The Washington state Legislature has passed a law making it illegal for manufacturers that use pirated software to sell goods in the state.

Seattle Times technology reporter

The Washington state Legislature has passed a law making it illegal for manufacturers that use pirated software to sell goods in the state.

But retailers remain concerned that they will be dragged into lawsuits against the manufacturers as a result of the new law.

Microsoft lobbied hard for the legislation. The company has struggled to stop pirated versions of its software from being used, particularly in China.

The state's attorney general and companies like Microsoft will now have the right to pursue injunctions in civil court against manufacturers that use pirated software. Such injunctions would prevent manufacturer's products from being sold in the state.

Under the law, manufacturers using $20,000 or more in pirated software could be sued. For example, a Chinese toy manufacturer using hundreds of copies of Windows and Office to run its back office will be liable for damages. Large retailers in Washington selling those toys could also face lawsuits.

The Senate passed an amended version of SB 5449 by a 39-7 vote on Monday. The House approved a new version HB 1495 on Tuesday in an 85-11 vote. The bill will now go to the governor for final approval.

"This is an important step toward protecting competitiveness and jobs in Washington, because it provides an effective new legal protection against IT theft," Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said in a statement. "Where intellectual property rights are defended, jobs and economic growth result."

Microsoft is on a campaign to pass anti-piracy legislation in several states. Louisiana is the only other state to pass a similar law.

Jan Teague, president and chief executive of the Washington Retail Association, had wanted more time to study the issue. "We're disappointed that we didn't have more time to work on the bill," she said. "We had asked for the summer to do that." The association was able to get some language protecting retailers into the final bill, she said.

The bill can affect retailers that make $50 million or more in annual sales and have a direct contract with the manufacturer. Retailers would have 18 months to change manufacturers or persuade their manufacturers to pay for the software in question.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

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