Pirate software seized in bid to stop auction sales



Police and trading standards officers have raided a South London address at the centre of an operation which sold pirated business software worth millions of...



Police and trading standards officers have raided a South London address at the centre of an operation which sold pirated business software worth millions of pounds on Web auction sites.

The packages, which are described as new and original, have been offered for sale in a series of major auctions on well-known auction sites over the past few months.

Thousands of premium business packages including Microsoft Server 2000, Office 2000, Visual Basic and Adobe Photoshop have been advertised at cut price rates on QXL, Ebay and other sites.

Trading standards officers from Southwark and Lewisham, and officials from Adobe and Microsoft, raided a house in Deptford on Wednesday last week, following a four-month investigation into the auctions.

Officers seized tens of thousands of pounds worth of pirated software, including Adobe Autodesk, Corel Macromedia, and Microsoft products.

A laptop computer, a CD writer and documents detailing illegal software auctions on QXL, Yahoo, Ebay, Ricardo and EBid were also seized.

The raid, the culmination of a joint investigation by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and trading standards officers, follows a series of complaints from auction-site customers.

"The BSA and trading standards have been following the activities of the individual vendor for some months," said BSA legal counsel Margo Miller. "This raid is just one element of a worldwide auction site clean-up campaign by the BSA."

The auctions have raised alarms among small businesses which often use the Web as a time-saving way of buying software and other essentials. Within the space of five weeks a pirating network attempted to sell packages worth an estimated £3.2m in more than 400 auctions on QXL, Computer Weekly has established.

"A lot of our members are using sites like this. They haven't got time to go out shopping for software. We will be raising this with the e-minister Patricia Hewitt," said David Hands, director of the Federation of Small Businesses last month.

A man has been cautioned and faces possible charges under section 93 of the Trade Marks Act - an offence which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)

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