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Court punishes software pirate

The Software Publishers' Association wins a case against a software pirate and hopes his stiff fine will be a warning message to others.

The Software Publishers Association today received a court judgment against software pirate Max Butler, which the industry group hopes will send a strong message to others who encourage software to be illegally copied.

The judgement bans Butler from future pirating and slapped him with a $60,000 fine.

"Butler will be used as an example," said Peter Beruk, SPA director of domestic antipiracy. "He serves as an educational message because our role is to educate users as well as enforce the laws. If you don't listen to us and you do violate copyright laws, we are going to press charges against you." The SPA filed the suit against Butler last July on behalf of Cinco Networks, Symantec, and Traveling Software.

Under the allegations, Butler had placed his pirated software on ABWAM, a Colorado-based Internet access provider.

ABWAM, through routine maintenance of its site, discovered its was experiencing exceedingly large file transfers, a significant volume of uploads, and receipt of directory names that contained filenames indicative of commercial software titles. These are all signals that software is being copied.

Officials at ABWAM do not know the value of the software that Butler allowed to be copied, because once it is posted online, everyone has access as long as users know where to look.

"On a Unix system you can hide a file by putting a dot in front of it, and unless you know to look for it, you won't see it," said Rachel Drummond, ABWAM systems administrator. "Most of the time, ISPs do not know that they are hosting these people."

But this case sends a strong message to other pirates.

"Some people do it as a game, like trading baseball cards. It is skirting the law and it's fun--like going 75 miles an hour in a 65-mile an hour zone," said Beruk.

Members of the Internet community need to respect copyright and intellectual property rights in order to protect the integrity and future development of the Internet, Beruk added.

Drummond agreed, saying that the motivation for pirating software rarely has anything to do with money.

"A number of people believe that software should be free or get just a kick out of doing illegal things," she said.