San Mateo County Times

Federal officials pool resources to fight software piracy
Saturday July 24, 1999

By Liz Garone

SAN JOSE -- Federal officials said Friday that they are stepping up their efforts to stamp out software piracy and counterfeiting through a new intellectual property initiative.

Representatives from the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. Customs, announced the formation of the Intellectual Property Rights initiative, designed to cut down on some of the $11 billion lost internationally each year to software piracy.

"We are here to send the message that those who steal our intellectual property will be prosecuted," said Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. "This is theft, pure and simple."

Charles Geschke, president of San Jose-based Adobe Systems, agreed, and said that he welcomed the increased support from federal agencies.

"The software industry has invested heavily in protecting itself and consumers from piracy," he said. "However, criminal law enforcement is essential to deterring piracy, especially on the Internet, which is an anonymous and easy place for pirates to take advantage of consumers."

Software piracy is big business.

In 1998 alone, software piracy cost the United States 109,000 jobs, $4.5 billion in lost wages and $991 million in tax revenue, according to a recent study by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group that represents a number of software makers, including Adobe, Microsoft and Autodesk.

"Unless we make a strong effort to crack down on piracy and enforce the laws, those numbers are going to grow," said Anne Gavin, a BSA spokeswoman.

Under the initiative, agencies will increase enforcement efforts nationwide, but with a particular focus on Silicon Valley and other high-tech regions, including Boston, the New York and New Jersey area, and South Florida.

Crimes the initiative will target include pirating of software on the Internet, stealing trade secrets, and chip and software counterfeiting.

The initiative will also provide for specialized training for agents and state and local officials to help them spot intellectual property crimes, which are not always obvious -- especially when committed over the Internet.

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