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US software pirate fined $210K for auction sales

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A US man has been fined $210,000 for selling illegal copies of software through internet auction sites.

Matthew Miller of Newark, Delaware, was hit with $195K in damages and $15K in legal fees by US District Judge Susan Illston in the case brought in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. Miller sold unlicensed software packages from Adobe, Autodesk and Microsoft through a site called iOffer, frequently offering huge discounts.

The case against Miller arose from a 2008 investigation spearheaded by anti-piracy group Business Software Alliance (BSA). Miller reportedly confessed to downloading software onto CDs and selling it for between $8 to $12. In one case software worth nearly $12K was offered for sale by Miller to an undercover investigator for just $52, reduced to $45 after some haggling.

Since Miller was offering dodgy software copies at car boot prices, it seems likely he might struggle to pay the six-figure fine imposed by the court.

iOffer, the online marketplace used by Miller, has appeared in other piracy cases, according to the BSA, whose statement on the case singles out the marketplace for criticism. "Pirates who have used iOffer to sell illegal copies of various software products have now been sued in several different lawsuits," it said.

The auction site itself has a policy of taking down listings for items that infringe copyright, so a difference of opinion between the BSA and iOffer would revolve on how effectively this policy is enforced.

The BSA is noted for chasing businesses over software license infringements. It rarely takes enforcement action against individuals but made an exception in Miller's case because his transgressions got too much.

"We prefer to educate and inform the public about the risks and consequences of using illegal software," said Jenny Blank, senior director of Legal Affairs at the BSA. "But there are instances when the activities of individuals are both reprehensible and blatant, requiring the BSA and its members to act swiftly and definitively."

Consumers ought to be wary of "too-good-to-be-true" offers from unscrupulous vendors, she added.

In related software piracy crackdown news, the BSA has reportedly agreed to a settlement worth a total of £50K ($87K) with four UK manufacturing firms over instances of alleged software license infringement. The figure includes licensing shortfalls for the use of software from Autodesk and Microsoft, but omits legal fees or other costs.

The four firms named in the case were Samuel Bruce Limited, J Tools Limited, Garran Lockers Limited and International Automotive Components Group Limited, CRN reports. ®

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