The Business Software Alliance (BSA) announced earlier this week that a judgment in the amount of $250,000 was entered against Diane Goins, 55, of Richmond Hill. Goins had allegedly been selling counterfeit copies of Corel brand computer software on eBay.
BSA Senior Director of Legal Affairs Jenny Blank said Goins sold more than $212,000 worth of unlicensed software on eBay between January and May. Blank said she recognized some tell-tale signs of suspicious illegal activity on Goins’ online store and her suspicions were confirmed when she actually purchased some software products from Goins.
"We then filed a criminal lawsuit in federal court," Blank said. "We had a processor show up at her door to serve her papers. Goins decided to settle before the court date arrived."
Blank said this type of criminal activity is "all too common" and the penalties depend on the volume of products sold and the number of titles sold. Goins had allegedly sold three titles from the Corel company. All of them, Paint Shop, Painter and Draw, are programs primarily used for editing photos. Blank said the statute for this offense carries a limit of $150,000 per title, so the fine could have been stiffer.
Blank said the sale of bootleg software is a risk for the customer as well as the seller.
"There’s a few things people need to think about when buying counterfeit software online," Blank said. "In addition to having no product support or manuals, there are computer security risks such as bugs or malicious codes written into the software that can potentially damage your computer. It may be cheaper, but is it really such a great deal when you consider the risk involved?"
Blank encourages buyers to look for red flags.The most obvious thing to look for is the price, Blank said. If an $800 program is being sold for $50, you can bet it is counterfeit. According to his secretary, Goins’ attorney, Christian Steinmetz, is out of town and unavailable for comment.
Created in 1988, the BSA is a non-profit trade group made up of several leading software publishers. One of their main goals is to fight software piracy, which costs the industry $11 billion a year.
In 2007, BSA worked with auction site providers to shut down more than 13,800 online auctions offering more than 50,000 unlicensed software products. The total retail value of those software products was approximately $13.3 million. Nearly two-thirds of the online auctions shut down were on US-based auction sites. The number of auctions removed in the first six months of 2008 increased nearly three-fold, compared to the same period in 2007.
Lauren Hunsberger with the Coastal Courier contributed to this story.