Software pirates illegally shared $1bn worth of software on BitTorrent P2P networks in the first half of 2009, says the Business Software Alliance (BSA).
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The BSA said in its 2009 Internet Piracy Report published today that individuals were turning to peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and auction sites in "staggering numbers" to acquire or transfer illegal software.
"In doing so they are harming the economy while exposing themselves to malware, identity theft and criminal prosecution, the alliance said.
Based on results from its in-house internet "crawler", BSA requested the removal of almost 103,000 Torrent files from nine of the largest BitTorrent hosting sites worldwide.
"These Torrent files were being used by nearly 2.9 million individuals to download software with a retail value of more than $974 million," the BSA said.
The BSA used its Online Auction Tracking System (OATS), a proprietary tool to monitor auction sites and BitTorrent networks continuously.
In the first half of 2009, BSA issued almost 2.4 million takedown notices related to P2P and BitTorrent file sharing, an increase of more than 200% over the same period in 2008.
BSA issued around 19,000 takedown requests over illegal auctions, in the first half of 2009, a 4% increase on the same period last year.
The BSA also found that regions with high rates of software piracy also suffered from high rates of malware.
The BSA's senior director of legal affairs Jenny Blank said P2P networks were ideal for distributing materials that can be legally shared with large groups and were a tool used by more businesses to enhance productivity.
"Unfortunately, P2P technology is also a favourite channel for software pirates who see it as the perfect channel through which to distribute illegal and potentially dangerous software," she said.
"Software piracy is a threat on multiple fronts. Pirated software can be a breeding ground for malware and can also open users up to crimes such as identity theft. Those who decide to acquire illegal software harm the economy and companies of all sizes. Moreover, those who engage in piracy open themselves up to civil and criminal prosecution," said Blank.
The report, entitled Software Piracy on the Internet: A Threat To Your Security, coincides with National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which began last week.
It also details some successful software piracy prosecutions. The largest case it reported was in China, where the government shut down and convicted the leaders of tomatolei.com, a Web site that offer free downloads of massive quantities of illegal software originally published by Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, and Symantec.
Others to suffer were Tommy Rushing, sentenced to three years in federal prison for copyright infringement linked to four for-profit web sites that offered pirated copies of Adobe and Macromedia software, and Timothy Dunaway, who got 41 months for selling counterfeit software through 40 different web sites.
A district court in Taiwan sentenced two individuals to six months' jail for illegal copying of software, while Hungarian authorities seized some 250 terabytes of illegal content stored on 43 servers from an illegal software distribution company.