Sega of America has taken action to shut down more than 60 Web sites and 125 auction sites that the company accuses of selling pirated versions of Dreamcast video games.
The San Francisco, California-based interactive games company is working closely with Yahoo!, Lycos, Excite, eBay, and Amazon to shut down auctions of people who were attempting to sell copies of the games and allegedly pirated boot disks.
Said Peter Moore, president and chief operating officer of Sega, “Pirates are parasites that hurt this community and will not be tolerated by Sega. This is just the first step in an even bigger action the company will undertake to stop this problem.”
Sega’s Dreamcast — with its internal copy protection and CDs that hold twice as much data as regular discs — was regarded as one of the most secure digital game systems on the market. That changed late last month when a group of hackers known as “Utopia” announced that they had broken Sega’s copy protection.
The hackers released a set of copied games online and a boot disk that would trick the Dreamcast system into playing the pirated games. An information packet distributed with the phony games proclaimed, “Finally, though no one really expected it, we made your dreams come true: Dreamcast BootCD V1.1 — boot copies and imports on a NON-chipped(!) standard consumer model.”
In the past few weeks, dozens of pirated Dreamcast games have been released on the Internet and traded through underground networks operating off Internet Relay Chat (IRC). In some instances, the pirates stripped the games of the background music so they would fit on a standard CD.
Charles Bellfield, Segas director of communications, said the companys drive against the Internet trade of pirated versions of Dreamcast marked one of the first times that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 had been used to go after the Web hosting companies and Internet Service Providers used by pirate traders.
“Weve done the first level, which is cease and desist orders to auction companies and also to Web hosting companies. If they do not comply then legal prosecutions will start,” Bellfield said.
Sega’s crackdown effort is apparently not enough to stop the illicit trading. Friday morning, announcements appeared on several Dreamcast forums with instructions on how to copy Dreamcast CDs. An announcement also appeared saying that another group has obtained Utopia’s pirated boot disk.
Industry Gets Aggressive
Sega’s shutdown of pirate sites is just the latest attack on software pirates by the interactive game industry. Under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, it is a crime to sell pirated versions of copyrighted material. Software pirates face not only criminal prosecution, but also hefty civil penalties.
Last month, 13 computer and video game companies went to court to shut down six Web sites that they said were selling pirated versions of their software. They are seeking monetary damages of up to $150,000 (US$) for each copyrighted work. Earlier in the year, Sega, Nintendo of America, and Electronic Arts filed a joint suit against Yahoo! alleging that counterfeit games were being sold through Yahoo! auctions and that Yahoo! was doing nothing to stop the piracy.
Doug Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association, said, “Piracy is one of the biggest business threats our industry faces, and Internet piracy is especially virulent.”
A report released in May by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) put worldwide piracy losses at over $12 billion last year alone and $59 billion for the past five years. Piracy losses for the United States and Canada last year amounted to $3.6 billion.