Auction sites implicated in illegal software

UK pirate software bust reveals full extent of online trading in counterfeit software, and it's massive

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) claimed a major victory in its ongoing battle against piracy Thursday, recovering tens of thousands of pounds worth of illegal software in a raid last week. The software was believed to have been peddled on a number of UK auction sites.

The Alliance believes up to ninety percent of software sold on auction sites is counterfeit.

Raiding one UK property, Trading Standards officers and representatives from the BSA say they recovered extensive evidence implicating UK auction sites including QXL, Yahoo! eBay and eBid.

Mike Newton, campaign manager at BSA UK, claims that auction site trade in counterfeit software has reached epidemic proportions. "We estimate that up to nine out of ten software products sold on auction sites are illegal," he says.

This is not the first time that online auction houses have strayed into the firing line of software piracy busters. The BSA has in the past said that it would consider taking legal action against auction sites for failing to put a stop to pirate trading.

"It is still something we are considering," says legal counsel for the BSA Margo Miller. "We are really hoping that the sites will cooperate with us and improve their procedures."

Most major auction sites attempt to halt the trade of potentially illegal items, including counterfeit software. A spokewoman from QXL disagrees with the BSA's estimates. "The figure isn't substantiated and QXL would dispute that." She says that QXL will always take down software if it is thought to be illegal, but can't investigate goods based on their price.

"If you decide to sell software, it's up to you to what price you start with." QXL employs staff to monitor for illegal activities and offers customers insurance against counterfeit goods. It also has a strict policy prohibiting the trade of illegal software.

Miller, however, claims that auction sites do not go far enough to monitor trading and should investigate whenever software is offered at a drastically reduced price.

Lindsay Crawford, marketing manager for eBay in the UK says that it will stop illegal auctions immediately and notify the authorities but will not be drawn on whether eBay might consider more proactive monitoring. "We don't find much of this going on," she says.

In the run up to Christmas anti-piracy groups are keen to step up their efforts. "This raid is just one element of a world-wide auction site clean up campaign launched by the BSA," says Miller. "The aim of our campaign is to educate consumers on the risks of buying software on auction sites and to provide them with guidelines on how to minimise these risks."

The BSA also recently announced a £10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of any company using counterfeit software. The BSA says that worldwide piracy costs the software industry approximately $12bn each year, with Europe accounting for $3.5bn and the UK $475m of the trade.

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