The software industry stepped up its campaign against piracy on Tuesday issuing indictments against eBay members engaged in illegal auctions.

The Software and Industry Information Association (SIIA), a leading trade body representing the software and digital content industry, announced an auction litigation programme at its strategy summit in San Francisco.

It said it filed three lawsuits in US District Court in California on Tuesday charging that at least three separate defendants knowingly sold pirated software through the eBay online auction site.

The suits were the first filed under the new programme, which will monitor popular auction sites, identify sellers of pirated software and prosecute them on behalf of SIIA members.

The lawsuits involve utility and security software made by Symantec and McAfee. Pirated copies of programs including Symantec’s Norton pcAnywhere and PartitionMagic and McAfee’s Virus Scan 9.0 were allegedly sold between October and December last year.

“The selling of pirated software, especially through online auction sites, is a growing problem that hurts both business and consumers and threatens the credibility and viability of online auctions,” said Keith Kupferschmid, vice president of the SIIA’s Software Anti-Piracy division.

Peter Beruk, director of worldwide anti-piracy compliance programmes at McAfee, said: “In many cases, these are professional criminals using popular auction sites like eBay to rip off innocent people.”

“At the same time, we hope the internet auction providers will offer a greater commitment to work with copyright holders to stem the tide of infringing sales of our software in order to protect the buying public.”

The SIIA said current strategies of taking down such auctions through eBay’s Verified Rights Owner programme had not been adequate to tackle the problem.

It said the three suits announced on Tuesday were just the beginning, with more expected to be filed on a monthly basis as additional targets were identified.

In its annual anti-piracy report last month, the SIIA said several major pirates were sentenced to record jail terms and fines with the help of the association.

The Business Software Alliance, representing the software industry and its hardware partners, said in February it was increasing cash rewards for piracy leads from $50,000 to up to $200,000.

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