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By | Kelly Fiveash 21st August 2009 12:24

Microsoft cuts down Chinese 'Tomato Garden'

Pirates squashed as court plays ketchup

Microsoft scored a big victory in China yesterday, after four people were reportedly sentenced to jail terms for reproducing and distributing illegal copies of the firm's Windows XP operating system.

The four were found guilty of punting the software via a website called "Tomato Garden".

Microsoft described the court win as the first successful criminal prosecution mounted against software piracy in China, where such activity is widespread.

“The judgement declares the collapse of China’s biggest online software privacy group [sic]. It is a milestone in the fight against online software privacy [double sic] in China,” said Microsoft in a statement to the Financial Times.

Tomato Garden, which is no longer operational, had allowed its users to download unauthorised copies of the OS for free.

The service stayed afloat by pulling in ad revenues from around 10m downloads of XP taken from the tomatolei.com site, according to Microsoft estimates.

Tomato Garden's creator Hong Lei and its manager Sun Xiansheng were each sentenced to three and half years in prison and fined $146,000.

Two other unnamed people were jailed for one year and ordered to hand over smaller fines.

The Register asked Microsoft to comment on this story, but at time of writing it hadn't got back to us. ®

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