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Selling pirated software on craigslist

Miami, FL |

I have seen many ads on craigslist where people are trying to sell pirated and burned copies of computer software. Most of the time these copies are selling for 10% of the cost of what they are sold for in stores. Since items sold on craigslist are always sold to people locally, do the local police have any jurisdiction in dealing with pirated software, or do they just not care?

Attorney Answers 5

  1. There are a lot more pirates than enforcement personnel, since a recent study indicated that about 40% of the world's software out there is copied illegally.

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    Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.

  2. Selling pirated software is illegal and these people who sell it on craigslist can potentially be prosecuted for it. However, as the other attorney pointed out, there just isn't enough manpower to enforce this against every offender out there.

    THESE COMMENTS ARE NOT LEGAL ADVICE. They are provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. Answering this question does not create an attorney-client relationship or otherwise require further consultation.

  3. Local police typically do not have authority over copyright, which is the subject of federal law. However, federal law enforcement authorities are rarely interested in pursuing "one off" acts of criminal copyright infringement -- they prefer large cases with greater impact/notoriety. Some states have enacted statutes that treat software piracy as an act of forgery, for example California Penal Code Sections 350 and 653w. California also funds special high technology prosecution units (via the High Technology Theft Apprehension and Prosecution Program Trust Fund), that are encouraged to seek out and prosecute high technology crime. Since these programs are evaluated and funded based in part on the number of investigations they undertake, they may well choose to pursue lower level dealers in pirated software because the cases are easy to prosecute.

  4. I believe local police, as well as Federal law enforcement authorities, have jurisdiction but they have limited resources and usually go after only major knock-off artists. I think your question is insightful, because my guess would be that many big time knock-off artists are using Craigslist as common method of distribution. While it may seem on the surface that someone who posts on craigslist is a small time player, that may not be the case. Law enforcement officials are well aware that Craigslist is used in this manner, and I would not be surprised if there are ongoing federal investigations involving such postings on Craigslist. People who sell pirated copies of computer software, movies, music, or photographs are harming the economy, resulting in lost jobs and incentives to create intellectual property. My guess is that there soon will be law enforcement crackdowns on persons who use Craigslist, E-bay,

  5. The owners of the software could not only prosecute but could fight craigslist to have the listings taken down. It violates their terms of use.

    [This communication is intended as general information and not specific legal advice, and this communication does not create an attorney-client relationship.]