January 26, 2001, 12:27 PM — The Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) blew the whistle Wednesday on what it says is a new and growing type of software piracy that has been made easier by the combination of inexpensive CD-RW (compact disc-rewritable) drives and data gathered at auction Web sites.
SIIA filed separate lawsuits against two men, alleging they sold illegal copies of software products to people who had bid for them at auction Web sites, said Peter Beruk, vice president of the antipiracy division at SIIA. Named in the suits are Michael Chu of Los Altos Hills, California, and Christopher Julian Kish of Chicago, both of whom are accused of violating the U.S. Copyright Act, Beruk said. If found guilty, each of the defendants faces a fine of up to US$150,000 for each title infringed upon.
SIIA, a Washington-based trade association with more than 1,000 member companies, said it gathered evidence about Chu and Kish's activities in a sting operation launched late last year in which SIIA officials posed as buyers at auctions sites.
The suit against Chu, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that he sold software titles with a retail value of nearly $55,000 for $144. The suit against Kish, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that he sold software titles with a retail value of about $5,600 for $50.
"We sent just under $200 and got nearly $60, 000 worth of illegal products," Beruk said.
William M. Stevens, a partner with the Chicago law firm McBride Baker & Coles, confirmed that he filed the cases Wednesday on behalf of the SIIA. Stevens said the cases involve software published by Adobe Systems Inc., Silicon Graphics Inc.'s Alias-Wavefront division, and Web development toolmaker Macromedia Inc. Kish is charged with selling pirated copies of 11 software titles, while Chu is charged with selling illegal copies of 21 titles, Stevens said.
Kish has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment. A phone message left for the only Michael Chu listed in Los Altos Hills, California, was not returned.
The association plans to file lawsuits against three other individuals who sold software to SIIA officials during the sting. In total, SIIA spent $900 for software with a retail price totalling nearly $175,000 in investigating the five cases. In addition, SIIA has information about other cases that it plans to turn over to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for possible criminal charges, Beruk said.