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British software pirate faces up to 10 years in jail

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A British man who was selling £12,000 software for £12 on eBay faces up to 10 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to copyright infringement and will be sentenced in February.

Michael Walton broke an encryption code in the software which allowed him to make copies of it. He sold the copies on eBay, where he reportedly had 80 identities.

The software was AceCad, a 3D modelling program for use in the construction of steel structures. The company has said that an AceCad licence costs between £12,000 and £20,000.

"We can't stand for things like this," Wayne Rawson, general manager of the company told the Derby Telegraph. "International pop stars might be able to afford people copying their work but we can't. We're lucky in that we managed to stop this before too many copies had been sold but, if it had carried on, we could have potentially lost a fortune. I'd go as far as to say that it would have meant us laying off staff."

Trading standards officials raided Walton's home and found computer equipment and more than 300 discs, according to the newspaper.

"Auctions have developed into a market place where sellers feel they are anonymous and out of the reach of law. This case proves them wrong," said Najeeb Khan, vice chair of the Business Software Alliance's UK committee.

“Software piracy doesn't just affect multinational and well-known brands – this latest case underlines the negative impact it can have smaller specialist UK companies," he said. "The BSA urges Trading Standards to take a tough stance against online sellers who deceive end users and fuel the demand for copied software.Revenues lost to piracy – which are currently running at $1.67bn per year – are vital to the success and survival of many local developers like AceCad."

The Government gave trading standards officers new powers last year to deal with copyright infringement. A change to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act gave them powers to enter premises and seize goods and documents they believe to be involved in copyright infringement.

The move was one of the recommendations of the Gowers Report into intellectual property carried out on behalf of the Treasury by former Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers.

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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