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ISPs recruited in piracy war

The Software Publishers Association and ISPs have joined to catch online pirates.

A leading high-technology trade organization has started chasing online software pirates and has enlisted Internet service providers in its pursuit of justice.

The Software Publishers Association, the leading industry lobby for fighting software piracy, has filed a lawsuit against Max Butler in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, accusing him of illegally distributing software on the Internet. The organization said it filed the suit after receiving a tip that Butler illegally distributed software to friends by uploading it to a file transfer protocol (FTP) site operated by Abwam, a small Internet service provider.

The suit, which was announced today, was filed last week on behalf of Cinco Networks, Symantec, and Traveling Software.

"This form of piracy, we believe, is about to become very common because FTP sites are springing up all over the place," said Ken Wasch, president of the software group. "FTP is accessible whether you live in China or Chad."

Abwam officials contacted the trade organization after becoming aware of Butler's activity when unusually large files were uploaded to its FTP server, according to company president Darryl Watson. "I was working on the system and found a great deal of software that was deposited on our server," he said. "People look for FTP sites where they can upload software and we were one of those sites."

Butler wasn't actually an Abwam customer but dialed into a FTP site maintained by the service provider. Abwam officials investigated the problem for about two weeks and were able to trace Butler to the crime with the help of his own ISP. Watson said Butler had been covering his tracks but was caught red-handed during an investigation when he was electronically observed uploading software.

Abwam officials called the software association's anti-piracy hotline, through which the organization receives about 20 phone calls a day. It investigates all of them.

"We really want to nip this kind of Net piracy in the bud," Wasch said. "That's why we're dealing with this case."

But the suit may serve only as a hypothetical example of the group's resolve. The organization is trying to find Butler, who cannot be reached at his last-known address.

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