Report: Pirates Plundering Online Auctions

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), a group representing 1,100 companies, claims in a report released Wednesday that the piracy of software products in online auctions has reached epidemic proportions and could well lead to legal action against some leading auction sites.

The SIIA found that 91 percent of online auctions of software products it surveyed in a four-day period from March 31st to April 3rd were offering pirated goods. It issued a scathing indictment of many online auction sites, including eBay, Yahoo! and Excite.

Peter Beruk, vice-president of anti-piracy programs for the Washington, D.C.-based group, told the E-Commerce Times that the piracy issue could end up in court if it is not checked to some degree soon.

“This might ultimately lead to litigation,” Beruk warned. “We’re faced with little other recourse if we find ourselves issuing another report down the road and see that nothing has changed.”

Yahoo! on the Defensive

Yahoo! is already facing litigation, in a suit filed last month by video game makers Sega, Nintendo and Electronic Arts over the alleged sale of pirated goods on its auction site. The companies said they requested that Yahoo! shut down the illegal auctions, but the company refused.

Just yesterday, the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) filed a lawsuit against Yahoo! in Paris, charging the Internet giant with illegally hosting auctions of Nazi-related paraphernalia. Selling or displaying any items that incite racism, including Nazi artifacts, is strictly illegal in France.

Amazon Not Guilty

Of the 1300 pirated auctions the SIIA said it found in its investigation, 554 operated through eBay, while Yahoo! hosted 478 and Excite@Home had 343. Only one came from

Beruk said that Amazon has taken proactive steps to review auction listings within 24 hours of posting to see if they offer pirated goods.

Beruk also said that eBay has made “some progress” in changing the terms and conditions of its auctions to try and limit piracy. Yahoo!, he said, is the “number one auction site in terms of the blatancy of the piracy going on.”

None of the auction companies were available to comment on the SIIA report Wednesday morning.

Pervasive Pirates

Beruk said he recently spent 10 hours one Sunday scanning auction sites and came to the conclusion that the pirates have become more professional and more brazen.

“You see the same text and the same photos on different sites, only the user names are different,” he said. “They’ve figured out how to beat the rules and they are doing it quite effectively.”

The industry is working with both state and federal law enforcement authorities to try to stem the tide, Beruk added.

Meanwhile, the SIIA is calling for the auction sites to review listings and look for some easily identifiable red flags that more than likely mean the products offered are pirated.

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