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The Ten Commandments of fighting software pirates

Attorney Eric Sinrod says there's light at the end of the tunnel--if only consumers would pay closer attention.

Unwitting consumers at times get duped into buying pirated software online. This results in substantial lost revenue to the true developers of the software while consumers get stuck with subpar applications.

Indeed, one study estimated that 21 percent of software in the United States in 2005 was unlicensed, accounting for lost revenue of $6.9 billion.

But tech companies are taking the fight to software pirates. Spearheaded by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), their combined efforts last year led to the shutdown of more than 16,000 auctions believed to be offering pirated and counterfeit products.

If the price for software is too good to be true, that probably is the case.

The BSA now has gone one step further by launching an

As part of its education efforts, the BSA offers 10 points of advice for consumers that can help them avoid being victims of online pirates.

• Trust your instincts. If the price for software is too good to be true, that probably is the case.

• Make sure it's authentic. Be wary of software products that do not include proof of authenticity like original manuals and warranties.

• Read the label. Be suspicious of products that do not look genuine, such as those with handwritten labels.

• Beware of backups. Avoid sellers offering to make backup copies, as this suggests illegality.

• Steer clear of compilations. Stay away from compilations of software from different publishers on a single disk or CD.

• Look for the trust mark. A trust mark from a known organization such as BBBOnline helps demonstrate that an online retailer is reliable and has a proven track record.

• Do your homework. Review the feedback section on auction sites to see comments about sellers based on prior transactions.

• Get the seller's address, if possible. You may not have recourse against a seller if you cannot locate the seller.

• Keep receipts. Print and retain copies of your order numbers and sales confirmations at least until you have confirmed that purchased software is legal and not pirated.

• Be careful when crossing the border. Use extreme caution when dealing with software sellers in other countries. Software piracy runs rampant in some countries, and there can be substantial difficulties encountered if a foreign transaction does not proceed properly.

While the BSA's new Web site alone is not a silver bullet that will end the sale of pirated software online for all time, its educational tips, valuable links and informational gathering tools are one step in the right direction.

Be careful out there.