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Physical Pirate Pleads Guilty
June 19, 2006
Thomas Mennecke
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There are many ways to obtain free software online. At its simplest, legitimate websites such as SourceForge.com or Download.com can generally supply an individual with a variety of free software. For those with larger shopping carts to fill, gray-market avenues such as The Pirate Bay have proven useful. Then there are flat out illegal operations, making no unclear distinctions between civil and criminal law.

This was the case for Danny Ferrer, owner and administrator of BuyUsa.com, who entered a guilty plea on Friday to one count of conspiracy and one count of criminal copyright infringement. The pirate software site, which began operations in September of 2002, set out with the determination to undersell the competition by any means necessary. Mr. Ferrer achieved this lofty goal, and by the end of the year was selling high demand software for a fraction of the manufacturer’s suggested price. Want Adobe PhotoShop but don’t have the $600.00? This conundrum was easily solved by Mr. Ferrer. For a price tag of about $99.99, Adobe’s premier application was shipped to any location world wide.

Mr. Ferrer’s catalog included much of Adobe’s high end software; such as Illustrator, Premiere, GoLive, After Effects, PageMaker, Streamline, and InDesign. Seemingly less in demand than PhotoShop, this collection of software sold for only $49.99.

Selling Adobe’s front line applications for a substantial discount begs the question of legitimacy. Foremost, how can someone distribute high quality software so cheap? Luckily, Mr. Ferrer had a FAQ section that addressed this concern.

“We can sell at such low prices because we not only buy in bulk but the software was to be bundled with hardware originally. Therefore it does not qualify for tech. support registration. However it will download all updates from the manufacturer. Some are purchased from bankruptcy sales, auctions etc. If you want tech support you need to buy the retail version at full price from a local software store.”

This explanation apparently resolved the uncertainly for an untold number of individuals. According the Department of Justice, Mr. Ferrer's operation sold $2.47 million in software. Additionally, this software was not “bundled” as suggested by the highly articulate FAQ section. Rather, an FBI investigation concluded the software was little more than replicates produced by Mr. Ferrer and his associates’ CD burner.

“The software products purchased on the website were reproduced on compact discs and distributed through the mail. The operation included a serial number that allowed the purchaser to activate and use the product,” the Department of Justice stated.

The reproduced CDs, in conjunction with the likely many times over reproduced serial numbers, explained the inability to register the software for tech support. This seemingly inhibiting factor was solved however, as the site took the unusual step of providing its own tech support.

Mr. Ferrer’s world came crashing down however in October of 2005, nearly three years after opening shop. The FBI successfully removed the online piracy operation, with extensive investigative help from the BSA (Business Software Alliance.) Assuming his customers were actually going to buy the software legitimately, the BSA calculated losses of approximately $20 million.

So what does a true criminal online piracy operation yield in addition to $2.47 million? How about a Cessna 152; a Cessna 172RG; a Model TS-11 ISKRA aircraft; a RotorWay International helicopter; a 1992 Lamborghini; a 2005 Hummer; a 2002 Chevrolet Corvette; two 2005 Chevrolet Corvettes; a 2005 Lincoln Navigator; an IGATE G500 LE Flight Simulator; a 1984 twenty-eight foot Marinette hardtop express boat; and an ambulance (all surrendered as part of his plea.)

It also forced a guilty plea out of Mr. Ferrer. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in August and could face up to ten years in prison and a $500,000 fine.


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Legal/Courtroom :: Individual Lawsuits

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