Britain’s High Court has ordered ten UK internet service providers to surrender customer details for 150 individuals illegally sharing software. Amongst the ISPs big names such as Tivoli, BT and NTL also appear.
The court orders were held by a Maidenhead, UK-based antipiracy body, the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), on Friday, January 27, after a 12-month investigation into the secret sharing of software by PC users.
Over the next two weeks, the 10 ISPs will be handing over full personal details, including names, addresses, and dates of birth for the alleged Internet file-sharers, FAST said in a statement.
The antitheft group said that the judge awarding the court order had stated that there was “an overwhelming case” for ordering these customer details to be released.
FAST’s director general John Lovelock said, “Our technical specialist investigated file-sharing services such as Kazaa and eDonkey.” He added, “Kazaa was the main service involved.”
Lovelock said the FAST specialist was especially searching for desktop software products published by the body’s members, which include well-known multinational software firms.
“We only look at the UK on behalf of our members, even though some of them are multinational companies,” he said.
Lovelock said that FAST did not investigate music or video file-sharing for the court order. FAST will be working with the British Police and Crown
Prosecution Service to bring prosecutions once the individuals alleged to have committed software piracy have been identified.
According to Lovelock, the challenge for software publishers is that many consumers do not see file-sharing as theft.
“A recent consumer survey we carried out in the UK indicated that there is a discrepancy between people’s attitude toward physical theft and
toward software theft,” he said. “People will say that they would report someone who was stealing from a physical retailer, but not someone
downloading an illegal copy of a software program.”
FAST is working with the UK government’s Department of Trade and Industry and with other organisations to get the message across that software piracy is theft, Lovelock said.
“People think that companies like Microsoft can afford to suffer software theft,” he said. “But it is also small companies that get hurt. We recently helped to prosecute a company that had stolen software code from a UK start-up. For an entrepreneur who has started a software-development
company, suffering software piracy can be very damaging.”
Lovelock said it is imperative to educate children that downloading illegal software is just like stealing candy from a grocery store. He added that anyone brought before the courts on a charge of software piracy would suffer great damage to their reputation.
“People should realize that if they are convicted of software theft, their reputation will be damaged,” he said.