91 percent of software auctioned online is pirated

The Washington-based trade association conducted a review of 1,300 online software sales on auction sites such as Amazon.com, eBay, Redwood City, Excite and Yahoo. The review was conducted during a four-day period at the end of March and beginning of April.

The SIIA found that 91 percent of the auctioned software was pirated. Out of the 1,300 online software auctions that the SIIA monitored, only 138 contained legitimate software licenses. A similar reviewed conducted on some of the same auction sites in August turned up a 60 percent software piracy rate.

Peter Burek, vice president of antipiracy programs at the SIIA, said auctioneers can dramatically reduce pirated software sales on their sites by being proactive about monitoring auctions. According to the SIIA, Amazon monitors its sales closely and immediately removes illegitimate goods from the site. The SIIA didn't find any illegitimate software auctions on Amazon's Web site during its review, he said.

SIIA suggests consumers take precautions when buying software from an online auction. First, look for signs that the software isn't for purchase, such as having the terms 'not for resale,' 'backup' or 'OEM' emblazoned on the packaging.

The organisation also recommends looking for a complete set of documentation. If the manual isn't included, there may be a problem. Finally, if the price is too good to be true, it's probably pirated. For example, SIIA officials found Corel's WordPerfect Office 2000 selling for $US14.95 on an auction site. The suggested retail price is $299.95.

Yahoo declined to comment on the SIIA report because the company's facing a lawsuit from the top three video game makers regarding pirated games sold on its auction site.

Two weeks ago, video game manufacturers Electronic Arts, and the North American business units of Nintendo and Sega Enterprises joined together in a lawsuit against Yahoo. The companies claim that Yahoo failed to remove illegal auctions from its site after being notified to do so. The firms are seeking an injunction against the Web company.

SIIA's Burek says Yahoo needs to be more vigilant about enforcing its usage terms and reducing counterfeit software sales on its site.

"Yahoo, unfortunately, has the most blatantly pirated auctions, in terms of transferring unauthorised software," Burek says. "Yahoo does not have the systems in place to effectively deal with this."

Burek says a simple way to curb pirated software sales is to prevent sellers from using terms like 'backup,' 'CD-R,' or 'compilation CD' when describing software for auction. "Pirates are lazy and will go where it's easy to sell products, and right now, that choice of venue is going to be Yahoo," he says.

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Lee Copeland

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