The Futian People's Court in Shenzhen, China, handed down sentences to 11 ringleaders of the world's largest software counterfeiting syndicate today.

The pirates were responsible for manufacturing and distributing more than an estimated $2 billion (£1.4 billion) worth of 'high-quality' counterfeit Microsoft software.

Their sentences, which ranged from a year and a half to 6.5 years, are the longest ever handed down for intellectual property crimes in China.

Global piracy

The counterfeit software, found in 36 countries and on five continents (damn those Antarctican pirates!), contained fake versions of 19 of Microsoft's most popular products and was produced in at least 11 languages.

The pirates were tracked down by the Chinese Public Security Bureau (PSB) and by Microsoft itself. It claims that 'tens of thousands' of people used Microsoft's anti-piracy technology in Windows Genuine Advantage to identify the software they were using as fake.

Resellers got in on the pirate punch-up, too. More than 100 Microsoft resellers played a key part in helping to trace the counterfeit software and provided physical evidence critical to building the case, such as email messages, invoices and payment slips