States News Service
WASHINGTON _ The receptionist at Chicago's Davy-McKee Corp.
didn't quite get it.
"Do you have an appointment?" she asked the battery of federal
marshals and computer experts who barged into the construction
engineering firm's office on a raid.
When Software Publishers Association lawyer Ilene Rosenthal
flashed a court order permitting a search of the company's
computers for illegally copied software, the receptionist asked
if they wouldn't mind coming back Monday.
"I know, are you from `Candid Camera'?" she finally asked.
"Should I call my mother?"
The surprise drop-ins by the software industry's trade
association, relatively uncommon at the time of the November 1990
raid, have since become a staple in the anti-piracy battle, as
courts dole out search warrants and the Software Publishers
Association increases its piracy police.
In the Bay Area alone during the past two years, the Software
Publishers Association has raided two companies __ Martinez-based
Discovery Toys and Fuller O'Brien Corp. of South San Francisco _
audited 19 firms that cooperated following an Software Publishers
Association warning, and issued "cease and desist" letters to
another 27. Another six ongoing audits target local firms that
hope to keep penalties and publicity low by cooperating.
Publicity from the raids has boosted corporate awareness of
the ultimate cost of saving a few hundred dollars by making free
copies, but the raids themselves more resemble a day at H R Block
than a scene from "The Untouchables."
The anti-piracy squad, accompanied by U.S. marshals, shows the
company president the court order, usually obtained with a sworn
affidavit from a disgruntled employee, and computer consultants
run print-outs showing the contents of all computer hard disks.
Then it's up to the firm to show the receipts.
"You're used to seeing the FBI come knock three times and
knock down the door _ I think our raids are probably genteel by
comparison," Rosenthal said. "It's none of this, `Put down your
mouse and come out with your hands up' stuff."
The unprecedented $300,000 settlement against Davy-McKee has
since been eclipsed by a $500,000 penalty in a voluntary
settlement with an undisclosed company. And the Software
Publishers Association's anti-piracy squad, funded by member
software makers and lawsuit settlements, has taken advantage of a
court system that has shown a willingness to make pirates walk
the judicial plank.
Initial results show a promising trend. Piracy losses among
business software companies have dropped from $2 billion in 1990
to $1.2 billion in 1991, according to Software Publishers
Association figures. But those losses still amount to more than
the revenues of 81 of the top 100 independent software publishers
and cost the industry 60,000 jobs, said Ken Wasch, the bearded
anti-pirate who founded Software Publishers Association in 1984.
"There is sort of a rule of thumb that if the entire (piracy)
problem would disappear overnight, our revenues would double,"
said David Curtis, associate general counsel at Microsoft Inc. in
Redmond, Wash. "We feel these efforts are making a difference in
the U.S. and abroad, but there is still a huge challenge out
there and lots and lots of work to do."
Software manufacturers aren't the only ones who say
anti-piracy efforts work. The early 1992 raid at Discovery Toys
that led the company to agree to Software Publishers
Association's terms also prompted policies designed to end
accidental piracy. …