A Plague of Software Pirates

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On Friday U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas announced the arrest of eight alleged software pirates, members of an Orange County ring that made and sold counterfeit copies of Microsoft software, including Windows 98 and Office 97. According to Mayorkas, the government had earlier seized $56 million of illegal software from the group, which may have been selling as many as 15,000 pirated CD-ROMs a month. But the arrests are a drop in the bucket: According to a report released today, almost two fifths of all business software installed last year was illegal. On the high seas of global information commerce, who will fight the pirates?

The defendants in the Orange County case had allegedly set up a comprehensive production facility entirely devoted to churning out illegal CD-ROMs. They had a CD-ROM replicator, a billion-dollar machine that stamps out CD-ROMs in mass quantities, and full-color printing presses to create replicas of Microsoft's user manuals. "The counterfeiting ring is unique," Mayorkas told the Reuters news service, "because it was responsible for all aspects of producing the illegal software programs, from making computer discs to fabricating certificates of authenticity to putting shrink-wrap over the final product." A spokesman for the L.A. organized crime strike force added that it was unusual for an operation of this kind to work out of a U.S. base. MORE >>