RealTime IT News

SIIA Takes eBay Pirates to Court

Remember the Chicago Seven?

Well, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) has identified a group of alleged software thieves that might best be described as the "eBay Nine."

On Wednesday, attorneys for the trade association filed a single-day record of seven lawsuits, charging the individuals with copyright and trademark infringement.

These lawsuits are in addition to two others filed in late January, alleging that all nine individuals carved out a rather robust cottage industry selling illegal copies of Adobe and Symantec software on the auction site.

The alleged thieves include Edward Sarkisov of Van Nuys, Calif., John Baptiste of Hurst, Texas; Brandon Roberts of Canyon Lake, Texas; Don Farr of Redmond, Wash; Beverly Johnson and John Baker both of Chicago; Brandon Perkins of Corpus Christi, Texas; Corey Ressler of Hamilton, N.J. and Joshua McClymonds (residence unknown).

According to Scott Bain, the SIIA's litigation counsel, it's highly likely that the people named in the lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California are unaware they're being sued.

[cob:Related_Articles]"Maybe they'll find out from this article," Bain said in an interview with InternetNews.com. "While it's impossible to know the exact number, I'm confident that some of these people are well into six figures" in dollar value of software applications sold on eBay.

In the past six months, the SIIA has ratcheted up its investigative endeavors to at least stem the flood of pirated software sold -- especially through eBay.

The SIIA claims eBay has become the marketplace of choice for sellers and buyers looking for stolen, counterfeit or otherwise misappropriated copies of expensive applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Symantec's Norton Utilities.

Exactly how much purloined software moves through the online auction site is impossible to ascertain, but it surely represented a sizable percentage of the $40 billion in illegal software installed last year, according to an IDC report issued in May.

[eBay] has become the largest forum for buyers and sellers," Bain said. "It's become an easy vehicle for people who want to make a quick buck selling illegal software.

He added that sellers have been somewhat successful maintaining relative anonymity and often change or use multiple IDs when their auctions are marked for removal.

"The sale of counterfeits is an industrywide problem both offline and online," eBay stated in an e-mail to InternetNews.com. "Counterfeit software is illegal and not welcome on eBay, as it reduces the trust between buyers and sellers."

"As our business has grown and the challenges of global counterfeiting have become more complex, cooperation with law enforcement and rights owners has become more critical," the statement continued. "We need to fight the sale of counterfeit goods together."

In November, the SIIA launched something it called the Certified Software Reseller (CSR) program.

Under the program, companies or individuals 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 noncertified sellers.

According to Bain, eBay and the SIIA are discussing collaboration on future projects to help reduce the illicit trade.

For now, he says, litigation seems the best deterrent.

"We've received numerous settlements in the past, including some well into the six-figure range," he said, adding that each instance of copyright infringement can result in statutory damages of up to $150,000 per product.

"We're making efforts with eBay's cooperation to fight this," he said. "And part of our strategy is to file litigation to act as a deterrent."