Software group files lawsuits against eBay sellers

Sellers accused of pitching illegal copies of Adobe PhotoShop CS3

WASHINGTON -- The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) has filed eight new lawsuits against eBay-based software sellers, alleging that they are selling counterfeit products.

The lawsuits, announced today, come in addition to nine lawsuits the trade group filed against eBay sellers in February. The SIIA has filed more than 25 lawsuits against eBay sellers in the past two years and has reached several settlements, said Scott Bain, SIIA's litigation counsel.

The most recent lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of Adobe Systems Inc. The lawsuits accuse eBay sellers in Arizona, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California, Connecticut and Florida with selling illegal copies of Adobe PhotoShop CS3 and other software.

SIIA officials have said that the trade group has approached eBay Inc. about ways to cut down on the sale of counterfeit software, but the online auctioneer has rejected the group's ideas. The SIIA said it has asked eBay to end one-day and "buy-it-now" auctions of software, but eBay has not agreed. EBay has also rejected a SIIA banner advertisement aimed at educating customers, said Keith Kupferschmid, senior vice president of the trade group's antipiracy division.

SIIA has estimated that about 90% of software sold on eBay is illegal, Kupferschmid said.

The 17 lawsuits in the past two months represent SIIA's "most aggressive campaign yet" to go after online auction sales of counterfeit software, Bain said. "Unsuspecting consumers and legitimate software sellers pay a steep price when software pirates are allowed to operate freely on auction sites," he added.

EBay has taken steps to limit sales of counterfeit software, said Nichola Sharpe, a company spokeswoman. EBay has put volume restrictions on software sellers and has eliminated one-day and most three-day auctions, she said. It also requires sellers to verify themselves through PayPal Inc., and it has had its Vero (Verified Rights Owner) program in place since 1998, she said.

Vero allows rights owners to contact eBay and have items removed from auction listings. There are millions of items sold on eBay, and the auction site can't verify the authenticity of each item, Sharpe said. "We can't be the experts on what's fake or not," she said. "We're not the experts on counterfeits."

When SIIA files lawsuits against an eBay seller, it doesn't typically contact the buyers of the software, although the trade group runs a periodic program in which customers who have purchased counterfeit software can turn it in for a rebate, Bain said.

Customers using auction sites to buy software should be wary, he advised. "They need to look at the source ... and look at the price," Bain said. "If you're paying $100 for $700 Adobe PhotoShop software, the odds are not good that you're getting legitimate software."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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