Online auction sites face wrath of piracy busters

Software piracy watchdog points the finger at Internet auctioneers

European Internet auction houses face a crackdown on peddling pirated and counterfeit software from the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

The BSA says that Net auction firms are not doing enough to make sure the trade doesn't go on and is even considering trying to take legal action to stop it.

Head of the BSA Internet Enforcement Program Margo Miller claims auction sites have become a haven for fraudulent software and calls on the sites to stamp out transactions involving counterfeit software.

"We're experiencing a fair amount of resistance at this point," she says. "We're considering a lot of things and are considering the possibility of suing one of these sites, but we hope it doesn't come to that."

According to Miller, if provided with irrefutable evidence that a user is peddling fake software, auction sites will always co-operate fully but claims that they are not taking the initiative and cracking down on the practise themselves. Miller adds that the BSA is drawing up a code of practice for auction sites to follow, which it hopes will be endorsed by all the major sites. The code will include ensuring proper practise is maintained and issuing warning and alerts about the trade of counterfeit software.

Miller says it is customers that are losing out. "We have people who are spending a lot of money thinking that they're buying legitimate software," she says.

A spokeswoman for leading UK Internet auction site says auction sites are doing plenty to combat the spread of pirated goods. "It happens occasionally," she says. "We do have a system to protect customers. If we want to put ourselves up as a serious auction site then we don't want to be in the business of saying that we'll take any sellers."

QXL says it has staff dedicated to watching for dubious trading activity and also invites users to report potentially illegal activity. It has a strict policy and says that it will stop the trade of illegal goods on its sites as soon as it has been alerted.

The BSA estimates that world wide piracy costs the software industry $12bn, with Europe accounting for $3.5bn and the UK $475m of the trade.