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Hollywood, software firms aim at pirates

Two major trade groups file a slew of lawsuits against people they claim were selling pirated copies of films and software via online auction sites such as eBay.

Two major trade groups filed on Thursday a slew of civil lawsuits against people they claim were selling pirated copies of films and software via online auction sites.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Hollywood's chief trade association, brought 12 cases against individuals who were allegedly auctioning pirated editions of popular films including "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and "Die Another Day." The Business Software Alliance (BSA), whose members include Adobe and Apple, filed a handful of similar cases against people it said were selling stolen or illegally copied pieces of software.

Cases were filed in cities across the United States, including New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles.

The MPAA's charges are part of the group's "Tactics for Auction Piracy" (TAP) initiative, a response to what the MPAA estimates was a near doubling last year in the number of auction sales devoted to pirated films. In December, the trade group kicked off the campaign by filing at least nine similar cases in cities around the country; a representative for the trade group said these cases were progressing well.

"It is an unfortunate reality that consumers may be sorely disappointed, finding that the DVD or video that they paid for is not a bargain at all, and that it is, in fact, of a much lower quality than what they expected," MPAA president and CEO Jack Valenti said in a statement. "It is my hope that the TAP II initiative will serve to help protect unsuspecting customers."

Similarly, the BSA is aiming to staunch lost sales from stolen copies of software. It says mail-order piracy is one of the growing contributors to an annual loss of $11 billion in sales to software publishers globally.

To catch the alleged offenders, the groups purchased advertised products in auctions and examined them to see if they were illegal copies. The MPAA said that in its suits it had targeted people it claimed were repeat offenders.

"Consumers...need to watch out for spam offers and online vendors at otherwise reputable Internet sites such as eBay," said Bob Kruger, vice president of enforcement for BSA. "The actions...are aimed at signaling to vendors that selling pirated software online is asking for a lawsuit."

The groups urged consumers to avoid buying pirated copies of software and films by watching for titles that are "too new to be true,"--or too recent to be legitimately offered for wide public sale yet--and by carefully reading labels.