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SIIA Hits Illegal Software Sales Online

Just months after saying it would target illegal software sellers on sites other than eBay, its perennial target, the Software Information and Industry Association (SIIA) today filed suit against eight illegal software sellers on Amazon.com, eBay and iOffer.com.

The lawsuits were filed on behalf of Adobe Systems (NASDAQ: ADBE) in the United States District Court, Northern District of California.

"We think some would-be infringers have heard that we're monitoring activity on eBay so they're moving off to other sites," Scott Bain, the SIIA's litigation counsel, told InternetNews.com.

"We're monitoring all the major auction and auction-like sites, and we'll probably expand our activities to other sites in the future," he added. Craigslist is one of the sites the SIIA is monitoring closely, Bain added.

As he has done previously, Bain again voiced his frustration with eBay, which he accused of dragging its heels when it comes to cooperating with the SIIA against sellers of illegal software. "We've been in discussions with them for years, we've given them lists of requests and basically have got a lot of talk back but not as much action as we'd like to see," he said.

"There was a time about one-and-a-half to two years ago, when 95 to 99 percent of software on eBay was infringing copyright and they did nothing," Bain said. "eBay says all the right things, but they get their percentage of the sale whether a good is legitimate or illegitimate."

He feels eBay could do more to prevent pirates from returning to its site. "They'll take down a site if we provide a user ID or a user name to identify people selling software illegally but they don't do anything to check if somebody reopens an account under a different name or verify the location or the user's real name," he said.

The problem looms large for software vendors, with a joint study conducted by research firm IDC and the Business Software Alliance estimating that piracy cost the global software industry $48 billion in 2007.

Getting certified to resell

In a bid to stem sales of illegal software on eBay, the SIIA in November launched its Certified Software Reseller program. Under this program, eBay merchants who sign on get a logo to post next to their listings in the hope this would encourage buyers to only go to them.

However, participating merchants do not need to be authorized resellers approved by the original vendors, they only have to agree not to be involved in any illegal software dealings and provide their e-Bay seller ID and all names and pseudonyms under which they sell software on the site.

In February, the SIIA filed suit against a record seven alleged software thieves in one day that were doing business on eBay. These were in addition to two others filed in late January, and the SIIA alleged that all nine did a nice little business selling illegal copies of Adobe and Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC) software on eBay.

Bain singled out eBay's Buy It Now and one- and three-day auction features as making piracy a lot easier and making it harder for SIIA to enforce copyrights because of the short time goods are put on the Web when these features are used.

He would not dismiss out of hand the thought that the SIIA might train its legal guns on eBay itself. "Right now, the program is focused on suing the individual sellers on eBay," he said. "That doesn't mean we think eBay bears no responsibility, but right now we're working with them."

Bain said the SIIA is reaching out to Amazon and iOffer. According to him, iOffer has been very helpful so far. "I think iOffer is the upstart and they want to eradicate piracy from the site so they can hold themselves up against eBay and can point to this as a differentiator," he said.