FBI raids major San Fernado valley computer bulletin board;
action follows joint investigation with SPA
The Federation Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday, Sep. 13, 1994,
raided "Moonbeams," a computer bulletin board located in Northridge,
CA, which has allegedly been illegally distributing copyrighted
software programs. Seized in the raid on the Moonbeams bulletin
board were computers, hard disk drives and telecommunications equipment,
as well as financial and subscriber records. For the past several
months, the Software Publishers Association ("SPA") has been working
with the FBI in investigating the Moonbeams bulletin board, and as
part of that investigation has downloaded numerous copyrighted business
and entertainment programs from the board.
The SPA investigation was initiated following the receipt of complaints
from a number of SPA members that their software was being illegally
distributed on the Moonbeams BBS. The Moonbeams bulletin board. It had
2 nodes available to callers and over 6,000 subscribers throughout
the United States and several foreign countries. To date, the board has
logged in excess of 1 million phone calls, with new calls coming in at
the rate of over 250 per day. It was established in 1987 and had
expanded to include over 6 gigabytes of storage housing over 10,000
files available to subscribers for downloading. It had paid subscribers
throughout the United States and several foreign countries, including
Canada, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain,
Sweden and the United Kingdom.
A computer bulletin board allows personal computer users to access a
host computer by a modem-equipped telephone to exchange information,
including messages, files, and computer programs. The systems operator
(Sysop) is generally responsible for the operation of the bulletin board
and determines who is allowed to access the bulletin board and under
what conditions. For a fee of $49.00 per year, subscribers to the Moon-
beam's bulletin board were given access to the board's contents
including many popular copyrighted business and entertainment packages.
Subscribers could "download" or receive these files for use on their own
computers without having to pay the copyrighted owner anything for them.
"The SPA applauds the FBI's action today," said Ilene Rosenthal, general
counsel for the SPA. "This shows that the FBI recognizes the harm that
theft of intellectual property causes to one of the U.S.'s most vibrant
industries. It clearly demonstrates a trend that the government
understands the seriousness of software piracy." The SPA is actively
working with the FBI in the investigation of computer bulletin boards,
and similar raids on other boards are expected shortly. Whether it's
copied from a program purchased at a neighborhood computer store or
downloaded from a bulletin board thousands of miles away, pirated
software adds to the cost of computing. According to the SPA, in 1991,
the software industry lost $1.2 billion in the U.S. alone. Losses
internationally are several billion dollars more.
"Many people may not realize that software pirates cause prices to be
higher, in part, to make up for publisher losses from piracy," says Ken
Wasch, executive director of the SPA. In addition, they ruin the
reputation of the hundreds of legitimate bulletin boards that serve an
important function for computer users." The Software Publishers
Association is the principal trade association of the personal computer
software industry. It's over 1,000 members represent the leading
publishers in the business, consumer and education software markets.
The SPA has offices in Washington DC, and Paris, France.
CONTACT: Software Publishers Association, Washington
Ilene Rosenthal, 202/452-1600 Ext. 318
Terri Childs, 202/452-1600 Ext. 320