A 46-year-old Virginia man has been sentenced to over three years in prison for selling pirated Adobe software on eBay, the US Justice Department has said.
Gregory William Fair of Falls Church, Virginia was sentenced on Thursday to 41 months in prison by a judge in US District Court in Washington DC. He was also ordered to pay $743,098 in restitution and given three years of supervised release. Fair forfeited $144,000 in cash, plus one BMW 525i, a Hummer H2, a Mercedes CL600, and one 1969 Pontiac GTO, which the DoJ claims were all purchased with the illegal proceedings of Fair's counterfeit software scheme.
According to court records, the eBay auctions were first spotted by US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) workers, who determined Fair was selling a "large volume" of Adobe software using several different user names and PayPal accounts. They claim Fair sold pirated copies of the out-of-date Adobe Photoshop 6.0, Adobe Illustrator 9.0, and Adobe PageMaker 6.5 at discounted prices ranging from $100 to $120.
Undercover US Postal Inspectors purchased several copies of software from Fair in 2007, which were tested to functioning versions of the software and were verified by Adobe to copyright-infringing reproductions, court filings show.
Prosecutors claim that according to PayPal records, Fair received about $1.4 million from the sale of pirated software on eBay.
In March 2008, USPIS conducted a search warrant at Fair's residence in Falls Church, Virginia, where agents say they found "a significant amount of evidence" linking him to the counterfeiting operation, including written instructions for the processing of eBay orders, blank CD-Rs, records of past sales, thousands of pre-printed labels ready to be applied to the pirated software, plus computer equipment "that was obviously being utilized to conduct the illegal business."
Fair pleaded guilty on April 16, 2009 to one count of criminal copyright infringement and one count of mail fraud for selling pirated software on eBay. In his plea, Fair admitted he was selling Adobe software on eBay from 2001 through 2007.
Court documents show that Fair's attorney argued that Adobe's claim for over $700,000 in restitution was unfair because the figure does not represent actual proven loss.
"It is wildly speculative to assume that each and every buyer of Mr. Fair's $100.00 out of date product would have spent a similar amount with Adobe, somehow," wrote Fair's council, Thomas Heslep in a filing dated September 2009. "In fact it would have been impossible for for them to spend just $100.00 with Adobe. Adobe offered a newer product at a much higher price. Adobe did not offer cut rate, out dated products, as did Mr. Fair."
The attorney also proposed Adobe actually benefited for Fair's sales of outdated software because a user could then update the product and spend money that Adobe otherwise would not have received. He also cites a "network effect" benefit, saying the more users of a product there are, the more it is worth on the open market.
The DoJ says the case is part of the Department's ongoing initiative to combat the sale of pirated and counterfeit goods through commercial websites and online auctions. It claims the DoJ has obtained 39 convictions involving the initiative to date. ®