Antivirus vendors crack down on eBay licence cheats

McAfee and Symantec have thrown their considerable weight behind a larger campaign to rid eBay of illegal software sales

Two of the world's largest antivirus software vendors are launching legal action against software thieves selling illegal versions of well-known security products on eBay.

The sale of improperly licensed software on eBay is booming, according to various reports, but the auction site has taken the position that it is the role of software makers to protect their intellectual property.

McAfee and Symantec have thrown their considerable weight behind a larger Software & Information Industry Association campaign to rid eBay of illegal software sales. The SIIA is planning to ensnare criminals by buying software from eBay and suing those whose products turn out to be improperly licensed.

The initiative kicked off Monday with the announcement of three lawsuits filed by the SIAA against United States-based individuals (click here for PDF). The individuals face claims for damages as well as court orders restricting them from committing their alleged crimes in the future. They are accused of selling at least 15,000 items of improperly licensed software during the last three months of 2005.

A quick surf around eBay today by ZDNet UK sister site uncovered dozens of sales offering software from Symantec's Norton range, as well as McAfee products. Many appeared far from legitimate, with some lots consisting of nothing more than a CD and with sellers saying that boxes and manuals were not included in the sale.

"McAfee takes the sale and distribution of pirated software extremely seriously," a representative for the antivirus company said. "We proactively take all measures possible to shut down all auctions where it is obvious that illegal or gray imports of our products are being sold on eBay or indeed any auction site."

A major problem for consumers using improperly licensed security software is that they may not be as well-protected as they think. For companies, the problem is more related to lost revenue and brand damage.

John Thompson, chief executive of Symantec, last month said, "The Norton brand is the BMW of the security world." As such, he said, the company has no plans to offer a low-cost version and likewise will fight to maintain its reputation.