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Computer pirate sees error of his ways

piracy January 30, 1997
Web posted at: 5:40 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Rusty Dornin

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Illegally copying computer software costs the software industry billions of dollars in lost revenues.

Just this week, the FBI seized computers in a sting operation in eight cities. One company's software pirate, once caught, decided to confess in a rather unique way.

Scheisz

The bait for Michael Scheisz, president of a computer training firm, was a nifty computer program that for $3,000 allows you to design everything from a shopping mall to an office.

Scheisz decided it would be a lot cheaper just to buy one copy of the software and then copy it for his students. The only problem is that's illegal and he got caught.

Video confession

Instead of paying a huge penalty to Autodesk, the software's manufacturer, Scheisz agreed to make a video and profess the evils of computer piracy.

"It's an issue that shocked me," he said. "It put me in the situation of looking at it as I could have lost my business and everything."

Pirating software instead of buying it costs the computer industry an estimated $3 billion a year in lost sales.



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And when the FBI seized computers allegedly used in piracy rings this week, the agents also shut down seven bulletin boards that were active in promoting distribution of illegal software.

Sending a message

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The piracy pages on the Internet come complete with instructions on stealing software. And insiders donŐt think a little saber-rattling by the FBI will put a damper on the practice.

"I doubt very much whether this will discourage people who are just informally distributing copies of software amongst friends and colleagues. This is a bust aimed at computer hacks," said Todd Lappin, editor of Wired magazine.

FBI spokesmen acknowledge that prosecuting these cases may be tough, but they hope the message will encourage folks to turn in would-be hackers.

For Scheisz, copying the disks seemed like no big deal. Then he realized something.

"It's a matter of taking something that doesn't belong to you," Scheisz said. "You buy it once, you don't buy it 10 times."

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