A multi-state ring of software pirates was apprehended by U.S. law enforcement authorities, resulting in a seizure of possibly $87 million worth of pirated software. The raid followed a two-year investigation of 11 people from California, Texas, and Washington. The 11 defendants are charged with conspiring to distribute counterfeit computer software and documentation with a retail value of well over $30 million. according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
The investigation, called Digital Marauder originally anticipated $30 million in bootleg software would be recovered. However, during the seizure, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents found more than $56 million worth of counterfeit Microsoft, Adobe and Symantec products and an industrial CD replicator and printing equipment in San Francisco, California and Austin, Texas.
According to the statement, United States Attorney Debra W. Yang, a member of the Attorney General’s Intellectual Property Task Force, said this case illustrates the Justice Department’s commitment to battle intellectual property crimes. “The scope of this case is unprecedented. In one indictment, we have charged both the manufacturers who supplied the counterfeit items and the distributors who flooded the market with the bogus goods. We have devoted the time and the resources that were needed to dismantle an entire distribution chain, from beginning to end. Rest assured that we will be looking at all who are involved in this underground black market.”
The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on Monday, September 20 in United States District Court in Los Angeles. If convicted of the charges in the indictment, the defendants face potential prison sentences ranging from 15 years to 75 years in federal prison.
This is good news for the software vendors affected by the software pirates; however, in reality, the raid makes a minor dent in the global market for pirated software. According to a 2003 study by the Business Software Alliance, thirty-six percent of the software installed on computers worldwide was pirated in 2003, representing a loss of nearly $29 billion.
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