By MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Business Writer
Computer software makers launched a crackdown on illegal Internet
sales of their products Tuesday by suing suspected pirates who have
set up shop on the popular online auction site eBay Inc.
Usually fierce rivals Symantec Corp. and McAfee Inc. teamed up to kick
off the crusade by targeting five different eBay sellers in three
lawsuits filed Monday in a Los Angeles federal court.
"If online marketplaces are going to pursue the free-market ideals
that they aspire to, they must make sure the products they sell are
authentic," said Joe Fitzgerald, Symantec's vice president of
The two leading makers of antivirus software decided to sue after
uncovering evidence that the individuals named in the complaints had
completed more than 15,000 sales involving pirated software between
October 2005 and December 2005, said Keith Kupferschmid, an executive
with the Software & Information Industry Association.
The trade group is coordinating the software industry's efforts to
patrol eBay and other Internet auction sites for pirates. Kupferschmid
said the group intends to buy copies of pirated software in the
auctions and then sue "egregious" copyright violators without
forewarning. The industry expects to file the suits on a monthly
The campaign isn't currently aimed at eBay or the buyers of pirated
Besides software makers, the association also represents a large
number of providers of electronic information, including The
This week's initial burst of lawsuits named: Edward Cosmos of
Bloomington, Calif.; Grace Chan of San Jose, Calif.; Kevin Liu of New
Brunswick, N.J..; Mary Tian of New Brunswick, N.J.; and G.T. Tian of
Highland Park, N.J.
"I did nothing wrong," said a man who identified himself as Liu after
the AP sent an e-mail asking him to call. The man didn't respond to
another question before the phone call abruptly ended.
Cosmos and the Tians didn't immediately respond to e-mails sent to
their eBay profiles Tuesday. Chan's auction registration is no longer
active, according to eBay. Efforts to locate a phone number for her
Cosmos and Chan received nothing but positive feedback from sellers,
according to their eBay profiles. A few negative remarks were mixed
with the mostly flattering commentary posted about Liu and the Tians
on eBay's site.
The civil suits seek unspecified damages, as well as court orders to
prevent future copyright and trademark infringement.
Software makers have long complained about pirates looting their
sales. The industry estimates it loses $11 billion to $12 billion a
year from the distribution of pirated software.
The industry believes 90 percent of all software sold on Internet
auctions violates copyrights or licensing agreements, Kupferschmid
San Jose, Calif.-based eBay disagreed with those estimates. "We know
(piracy) is an issue, but we don't think it's a big problem,"
spokesman Hani Durzy said. Ebay supports the software industry's
efforts to penalize pirates, Durzy said.
Copyright holders and eBay don't always agree on the definition of an
For an example, a small business that bought a piece software that was
never installed on a computer may have a legal right to sell the
unopened copy on eBay, Durzy said, even though the manufacturer might
In auctions involving clear-cut cases of piracy, eBay removes the
listing within hours, Durzy said.
But Kupferschmid said eBay sometimes takes several days before
shutting down an auction of pirated software. He also expressed
frustration with an eBay policy that allows sellers previously flagged
for piracy to run future auctions.
"It's like playing 'Whack-A-Mole,' " Kupferschmid said. "You take one
auction down and then another one pops up."
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
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