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EA, Sony swoop on Paradigm pirates

But is the piracy situation quite as bad as the industry makes out?

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Games software companies Sony and Electronic Arts (EA) today announced they had jointly begun legal action against alleged members of a software piracy gang dubbed Paradigm. Both companies say Paradigm is responsible for trading illegal copies of their games over the Internet. The dynamic duo -- with the help of US Marshals -- raided the home of one the alleged copyright infringers and seized a PC and a stack of CDs. Among the material confiscated were the real names and addresses of people believed to be Paradigm members in the UK, the US, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Russia and elsewhere. Now, software piracy is a pretty despicable act, and the actions of Sony and EA, while not eliminating the crime, should at least plug one of the many outlets for illegal copies of software. But what's really interesting about all this is what it says about the level of software piracy out there. According to EA's senior VP and general counsel, Ruth Kennedy, software pirates cost the worldwide games industry $3.2 billion. So how can the European Leisure Software Publishers' Association (Elspa) claim, as it did earlier this week, that games piracy costs European developers alone £3 billion ($4.8 billion)? Can it be that no one really knows how much money is lost to games pirates, and that perhaps its effects really aren't as bad as the industry's various participants would like us all to believe? It's certainly hard to imagine any other reason for such divergent statistics. Of course, all piracy is bad -- or at least illegal, which is perhaps more to the point -- so games companies are perfectly justified in taking action against people who are, after all, thieves. But why not be a little more realistic about the figures? The clue, perhaps, lies in another part of Sony/EA's news release about the anti-Paradigm action. This year, EA alone posted revenues of $1.2 billion. Sony didn't mention its software sales, but they're probably higher still. And there are plenty of other games publishers making similar amounts of money, suggesting that each company's losses due to piracy actually aren't that significant. Yes, piracy is wrong and should be battled -- but please, let's be a little less melodramatic about it, guys. ®

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