eBay Dealers Sell Counterfeit Software, Lawsuits Allege

The Software and Information Industry Association files three separate federal copyright and trademark infringement lawsuits claiming that rogue dealers are selling pirated software on eBay.

SAN FRANCISCO—The Software and Information Industry Association disclosed May 16 that it filed three separate lawsuits in federal district court in Los Angeles against individuals who were allegedly using the eBay auction site to sell pirated copies of popular software.

SIIA brought the copyright and trademark infringement suits on behalf of Symantec and McAfee after nine months of investigation that showed that people are apparently using auction sites such as eBay, Yahoo and others to sell pirated copies of many different kinds of commercial software, said Keith Kupferschmid, vice president, Intellectual Property Policy and Enforcement, with the SIIA in Washington, D.C.

The lawsuits filed May 15 are the first of a series of lawsuits that the SIAA plans on filing in the coming months against alleged illegal software dealers who are active on various auction sites. The SIIA hopes "that by years end, software piracy over auction sites will be greatly reduced," said Kupferschmid.

SIIA is bringing the lawsuits under a formal Auction Litigation Program, in which it is monitoring popular auction sites to identify individuals or groups who are allegedly selling pirated software, with the goal of filing a lawsuit to halt the practice, which Kupferschmid said is currently out of control.

"We conservatively estimate that over 90 percent of software sold on eBay is being sold illegally," based on a recent study by one of SIIAs member companies, Kupferschmid said May 16 at a news conference convened during the SIIAs Software Strategy Summit in the St. Francis Hotel.

The surveillance includes making test purchases to verify that the software is pirated and to try to confirm the identities of who is selling it and where it is being shipped from, he said.

SIIA has communicated with eBay about the problem, and the auction company responded when it received reports about suspicious software auctions, he said.

However, the SIIA believes that "they havent been responsive enough. We feel there is more that they could do to combat piracy," he said.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read what Microsoft is doing to try to remove counterfeit software from the dealer channel.

Even when member companies notified eBay about troublesome auctions, it often took several days before eBay would take action against the dealers, Kupferschmid said.

By that time, the auction is closed and it is too late to prevent the sales, he said.

Furthermore, since the software auctions show the identities of the bidders, this gives software pirates a chance to contact them off the auction site to offer to sell them the software directly, he said.

The SIIA contends that eBay should take down an auction immediately when the associates find evidence that a dealer is selling pirated software, he said.

Furthermore, the SIIA wants eBay to stop the practice of disclosing the identities of people bidding on software before an auction closes to prevent sales of more illegal software behind the scenes.

Next Page: eBay offers sympathy.

John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s eWEEK.com since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...