RealTime IT News

SIIA Launches eBay Certification Program

The Software & Information Industry Association on Tuesday launched an effort to at least stem the flow of pirated and counterfeit software sold on eBay -- an initiative it calls the Certified Software Reseller (CSR) program.

The CSR program marks the SIIA's latest endeavor to protect the intellectual property of its member companies. The trade association represents more than 800 software and digital content companies. Along with performing a fair amount of its own online surveillance for illicit wares, the group is pursuing litigation against between 200 and 250 companies and individuals who have allegedly sold stolen, counterfeit or pirated software during the past year.

SIIA officials said a good portion of all this ill-gotten software is sold on eBay. Exactly how much is moved through the online auction site is impossible to ascertain, but it surely represented a sizable percentage of the $40 billion worth of illegal software installed last year, according to an IDC report issued in May.

eBay officials were not immediately available to comment on the CSR program.

The site's merchants who sign the agreement with the SIIA to become a certified software reseller receive a logo (a blue "thumbs-up" icon) to post next to their listings, distinguishing them from other non-certified merchants and hopefully encouraging buyers to only purchase software from these approved resellers.

Participating merchants don't need to be authorized resellers approved by the original vendors. They only need to agree not to sell any stolen, pirated or counterfeit software and to perform due diligence before selling any software acquired from a third party. They also must provide their eBay-issued seller ID and their name (and all pseudonyms) under which they sell software on the site.

"The crux of what we're trying to do is get anyone selling software on eBay to agree to only distribute legal software," Keith Kupferschmid, the SIIA's senior vice president for intellectual property, said in an interview with InternetNews.com. "Our objective is to help buyers distinguish between legal and illegal software. The agreement defines what that means and also states that if you do sell illegal software, you're going to pay a penalty."

During the past few months, the SIIA has stepped up its assault on software crooks.

In October, a Florida-based mortgage survey company agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against it by the SIIA on behalf of Autodesk.

And on Nov. 1, the SIIA announced it had filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco alleging that one merchant, Bob Tarkens, sold more than 1,000 pirated copies of various Symantec software applications on eBay in less than a year.

Through September, the SIIA claims it has paid out more than $39,500 cash to reward 14 whistleblowers who reported instances of software piracy through its Anti-Piracy reward program. The trade association offers rewards to sources who alert it to alleged software piracy through its Web site. Those rewards range from $500 for a settlement of $10,000 to $1 million for cases with settlements of more than $20 million.

While the CSR logo is intended to serve as a tool for buyers to distinguish between a seller who agrees to market only legal software and one who does not, Kupferschmid said he is well aware that determined thieves will either try to acquire the logo under false pretenses or just rip it off with a simple cut-and-paste maneuver.

"There are definitely people out there stupid enough to do that," he said. "But that's even better, because it enables us to take down the auction without knowing whether they're selling illegal software or not. It's a trademark infringement. We'll be monitoring every auction that has a logo but we'll also be paying even closer attention to the ones that don't."