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Software Companies Take Aim at Pirates

By Lori Enos
Jun 8, 2000 12:00 AM PT

The Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) announced Wednesday that 13 computer and video game companies have gone to court to shut down six Web sites that they say are selling pirated versions of their software.

Software Companies Take Aim at Pirates

The complainants joined in filing separate suits in federal court in the Northern District of California against six individuals who the companies allege are running the pirate sites.

Among the companies bringing the suits are Activision, Inc., Electronic Arts Inc., Hasbro Interactive, Inc., Nintendo of America Inc., and Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc.

In addition to injunctions against running the sites, the companies are asking for monetary damages for the theft of the software. Those damages could run as high as $150,000 (US$) per copyrighted work.

Sending a Message

According to the companies, each of the individuals involved illegally duplicated the games, advertised their availability on the Internet via Web sites or e-mail, and sold them through the mail.

ISDA President Douglas Lowenstein said, "We believe these actions constitute willful copyright and trademark infringement. We intend to stop these activities and to send a message to operators of similar sites offering illegal copies of entertainment software (sometimes called 'gamez' or 'warez' sites) that this conduct will not be tolerated."

The defendants reside in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Idaho, South Carolina, and British Columbia.

Global Impact

A report released last month by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) put worldwide piracy losses at over $12 billion last year alone and at $59 billion for the past five years. Piracy losses for the United States and Canada last year amounted to $3.6 billion.

The SIAA and the BSA say that software piracy leads to the loss of jobs, wages and tax revenues and creates a barrier to success for software startups around the globe.

Lowenstein said, "A typical game may cost $5-10 million just to develop, and millions more to market. And it represents the collective work over two years or longer of a team of dedicated artists, animators, software engineers, and others. Our intent in waging this anti-piracy campaign is to ensure an environment where our industry's creative talent can continue to make great games without fear they'll be stolen even before the last line of code is written."

Yahoo! Too

The ISDA will back up its aggressive stance toward Internet pirates with more investigations and legal actions, according to Lowenstein. He expects member companies to file additional cases soon.

"The increasing popularity of computer and video games, the decrease in the cost of CD-ROM writers ("burners"), the availability of illegal game copying devices, and the increased use of the Internet is causing an explosion in Internet-based piracy," Lowenstein said.

Earlier this year, interactive entertainment heavyweights Sega America, Electronic Arts, and Nintendo of America filed a joint suit against Yahoo! accusing the Web powerhouse of allowing users to auction illegal and counterfeit games through Yahoo! Auctions.

The companies said they requested that the illegal auctions be shut down, but Yahoo! refused to comply.

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