Four men have been jailed for creating and distributing a version of Windows XP.
The Shanghai Daily claimed that the four Chinese men distributed the software with authentication and certification systems disabled.
Hong Lei, who created the website ‘Tomato Garden' to distribute the code, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and fined $146,000.
An accomplice was also sentenced to three and a half years and the same fine, with two other men receiving two-year sentences and $14,000 fines each.
The case was heralded as a major win in the government's campaign to protect intellectual property rights, while Microsoft said that it served as a warning to anyone thinking about knocking off Windows 7, a new-generation Windows operating system.
Lei established the Tomato Garden website in 2004 and offered users an unlocked version of XP that defeated security measures preventing the software from being copied, along with other pirated software, the court found.
According to media reports, more than ten million people downloaded pirated software from the website. Users were not charged for the service, but the owners did reportedly generate more than 100,000 yuan ($14,000) a month on average from advertisements sold on the site.
Tom Kelchner, research office manager at Sunbelt Software, said: “Since these pirated copies of Windows never got updated, they helped establish a vast reservoir of computers wide open to new and old exploits. One can be sure those machines have been used to set up some of the huge botnets that prey on all of us.
“So, the Windows XP copies that these guys gave away were a gift of the 21st century the way smallpox-infected blankets were a ‘gift' in the 18th.”