The Business Software Alliance prevented more than 36 000 illegal software products, offered on a select number of online auction sites, from being sold in the first six months of 2007. The association’s latest data on Internet piracy also shows that the global retail value of the software being offered illegally via online auctions and identified during this period came to over $8-million.
“And this is the tip of the iceberg," says John Wolfe, director of Internet enforcement at the BSA. “This represents auctions we have identified as infringing our members’ copyrights and taken action to have them closed by the auction site owners. Some auction offers may lead to dozens or even hundreds of purchases of illegal software.”
Alastair de Wet, chairperson of the BSA in South Africa, warns: “When buying software on auction sites, people need to be concerned if prices appear too good to be true. Counterfeit copies may not give you the functionality and full benefits of a legal version.
"There is also a significant data protection risk in that counterfeit software may be linked to hackers looking to access your network."
A study by IDC reveals that the chances of buying legal software that hasn’t had viruses, Trojans or Spyware embedded into the code on an auction site is less than one in two.
“Some of these products are high-end commercial software used only by businesses," Wolfe adds. "For example, BSA has observed many software products developed for computer-aided design and manufacturing being offered illegally online.
"Businesses purchasing their software via these online offers should use caution to avoid being duped or unwittingly introducing viruses or spyware onto their networks. They also face the legal and financial risks associated with violating intellectual property laws by installing unlicensed software.”
Illegal software is also available online via websites offering "cheap” software and on peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks.
In an average month the BSA identifies more than 200 000 illegal software files available on file-sharing networks alone. Those who host such networks often make every effort to remain anonymous.