back to article British software pirate faces up to 10 years in jail

A British man who was selling £12,000 software for £12 on eBay faces up to 10 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to copyright infringement and will be sentenced in February. Michael Walton broke an encryption code in the software which allowed him to make copies of it. He sold the copies on eBay, where he reportedly had 80 …


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  1. Morely Dotes
    Thumb Down


    Notwithstanding the outrageous prices that CAD software producers charge, anyone stupid enough to put pirate copies on eBay should be removed from society (preferably before breeding).

  2. J

    online sellers who deceive end users?

    My arse... It's very likely that:

    1- People shopping for software of that caliber will be searching for something legit on eBay, yeah right.

    2- They will be deceived and believe that the 12 quid copy they see there is not pirate, and just costs some 1000 times less due to... er... some market force thingy or other. Uh huh.

    And what about getting the people who bought the copies too? I suppose they would be interested in trying that, no?

  3. Benedict


    "£12,000 software for £12"

    Mo' ron!

  4. voshkin

    found computer equipment

    "Trading standards officials raided Walton's home and found computer equipment and more than 300 discs, according to the newspaper."

    I have computer equipment in my home! And more than 300 disks... crap, better roll them into a carpet and bury it in a wood somewhere..

  5. Anonymous Coward


    I can understand a small company not being able to afford mass piracy, but £12k a copy? Did it take a team of 20 programmers 10 years to write, or something? Specialist software IS expensive to produce, but of theres enough of a market to sell on Fleabay, the company could presumably increase profit by rethinking their margin vs copies sold......

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Exageratted losses.

    As usual the estimated losses are complete BS. Companies that would be legitimate customers arn't going to have bought a dodgy copy off of ebay. The only loss is that a few home users who would never dream of buying it at full price get to use something which is complete overkill for their purpose.

    How do companies expect people to take the negative effects of piracy seriously when they come out with complete drivel like this?

  7. slim mcslim

    send him down...

    How dumb can you be selling pirated software on ebay?

    Things like this really piss me off...

    Did he assume that because it was ebay there was no transaction history or paper trail ? I bet he took PayPal too... !!!

    If people want to *cough* acquire slightly illegitimate software then there are tried and tested methods for doing so, and buying from ebay isn't one of them. The sort of people who buy this software annoy me too, they should be sought out and fined too.



    <!-- hackney carraige for one -->

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lost money my arse.

    Just how many people who are in the market for software with 10K licensing costs go shopping for it on ebay.

    Let's get real, people needing that sort of software also need support contracts etc.

    It may well be illegal but it almost certainly hasn't cost them a single penny.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    Quoth: Trading standards officials raided Walton's home and found computer equipment and more than 300 discs, according to the newspaper.

    So Trading Standards are equivalent to police now, and can get court orders to "raid" (ie. search) homes?

    300 discs means what? 300 old AOL floppies or 300 x 1TB disks stacked with unauthorized copies?

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Anonymous John

    What about the buyers?

    Wouldn't they have known it was being sold at 1% of its normal price?

    Steel mesh jacket please. I designed it myself, you know.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Silly Billy

    If he had the nounce to break the password protection; he should have reverse engineered the software, created a Linux copy; then go to AceCad with his new code & asked them to 'come to a financial arrangement' for NOT releasing his new code! Idiot - throw away the key!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Something is wrong with our legal system

    Yes, this man should be punished for breaking the law, but up to 10 years in jail for it - this is disproportionate to the crime. Rapists and murderers deserve this kind of sentance (and then some) but destroying his life for this type of crime is plain crazy.

    A rethink on sentancing is needed so our overcrowded jails are filled with people who have actually committed real and serious crimes and not people who have just dented the profits of a software company.

  14. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Shock! Horror!

    Never mind the discs. They found 'computer equipment'.

    This is obviously the mark of a criminal. No law-abiding citizen would have such.

  15. Svein Skogen

    No mistake, string him up

    While I think crushing a teenager for downloading the latest excuse for music, I do NOT feel any sympathy from someone who obviously is a commercial vendor. The term "pirate" seems right here.

    String him up.,

  16. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    This is stupidity on AceCAD's part

    Having worked in CAD design for a while i have to say that this is stupidity on AceCAD's behalf. As mentioned already, the people buying off ebay are not companies that would be buying this product normally so therefore no losses occur for AceCAD.

    The people buying this would be people wanting to have a go at home in their bedroom and/or students in their industry. If you look at programs like ProEngineer and Catia V5 you will find multitudes of copies floating around any university with an engineering department. Do Dassault or PTC go after them? Of course not! They realise that by students and future prospective workers gaining experience in their packages theyre more likely to gain sales in the future as companies obtain extra staff with experience in their programs.

    The only way AceCAD have lost money from this is if they run an exclusive training system (at high costs to their customers) and they were worried that people learning at home would mean they would lose their training cash cow! Aceholes!

  17. lglethal Silver badge


    PS Yes he's an idiot for selling on ebay. Nuff said!

  18. Stuart Van Onselen

    Maximum sentence

    Just a reminder to those who were shocked at the length of the sentence:

    This guy hasn't even been tried yet, much less sentenced. The 10 years is the *maximum* sentence that he *might* face, but that's up to the judge/magistrate/whatever, who will probably hand down a much lighter sentence.

    Newspapers (and The Reg, it seems) like to publish this maximum sentence, as it makes for better headlines. And often, readers miss the subtleties of wording that differentiate maximum possible versus actual.

    Good points made by all about the limited nature of the los AceCad really suffered. And I also bet the real reason for their worry is the threat to their over-priced training.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Ten years?

    Well, given the UK penal system, that probably means he'll be back out again in six months and buying a secondhand laptop for cash. However, agreed, that while I don't have anything against, ahem, "testing" the odd retail copy or two in advance of buying it, I do have no time for those who make piracy a commercial enterprise.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    They are just being

    overly punitive for reasons stated elsewhere the company hasn't lost a damn thing when he gets out I hope someone hires him to do this as a job in the far east where they need this sort of guy this sort of inhumane crap makes me not give a shit about any companies IP. We should all starve to death our cities burned to the ground to save some greedy fucks a few bucks on overpriced engineering tools.

  21. John Parker

    "Cracked it himself"

    Yeah he may have cracked it himself, *or*, he may have just typed "acecad" into the eMule search box. Oh, what's this:



    ACECAD STRUCAD V11 dongle emulator.bin


    Ah I see, cracked by the hacking team 'MAGNiTUDE' already. So you just have to d/l the iso, and bin, fire up Nero and burn them to a CD-R. Then d/l and install the dongle emulator, and you're running a fully licenced copy.

    So am I a top hacker too now I've figured out those most basic steps?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lost sales

    We are presuming that people buying this are home users, but this may not be strictly true. I know proberbly 90% may off gone to "normal" people, but I bet a few have ended up in businesses trying to save a few quid or two.

    I know from experience when I was in the print trade, how many dodgy copies of Quark Express, Photoshop, Pagemaker etc were used by legit businesses, you can understand their point. Has it been sold to UK bus or maybe to less resposible businesses in the east for example?

    And £12,000 for business software, isn't really that expensive. In fact, I'm going to order a system today with about £20k of software on it!

  23. Eddie Edwards

    Sanity at last

    Thanks Stu! Of course there's a good chance that copies are in professional use - we've all worked in places where not *every* piece of software was legit (we're quite good at my current place but I know people are using 30-day evals for professional use). It's quite plausible that these guys have lost at least *one* real sale, and possibly half a dozen or more.

    Complex professional software for a non-mass-market can easily cost £12K (and up). When Maya came out (3D modelling package) it cost about the same. You don't get bespoke development for that kind of money, you get an app about the scale of MS Word featuring hideously complex algorithms that FOSS programmers can't even begin to get right. Anything involving CAD is *hard* - try finding a FOSS code that can intersect two arbitrary polyhedra correctly and robustly, for instance, because it doesn't exist. Just writing that piece of code would take about 6 man months at a cost of maybe £30K, and that's a *small* component part of a CAD package. Other more significant components qualify as research projects in their own right, and there is a huge risk associated with even *attempting* to create software of that nature. The costs involved can be immense.

    This is one of the most upsetting things about the current fad for stealing all kinds of IP and pretending it's not a real crime. This stuff costs real money and effort to make, but the people cracking & distributing it don't have the slightest clue what's involved and just think £12K has got to be a rip-off. Tossers. Here's a clue: it's a lot harder writing correct CAD algorithms than it is to use a debugger.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Load of crap.

    Wayne Rawson and Najeeb should be strung up for spouting out a load of crap about losses. I do hate seeing people selling this stuff but they overcharge for their work and blag about "losses".

    The majority of people who use this software at this price would never have bought it in the first place.

  25. The Mole

    RE: Statements

    Anonymous coward, lots of people other than the police can gain access to your property. There are about 266 different laws allowing some form of access, if you want the full list see

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    mmmmm Why can MS just charge say £100 for initlal purchase and say £25 per year after that, same as AV and just about everybody else does. That way they could build on the strengths and fix the weaknesses of the OS.

    Why do we have to have a full new OS, and all the attentand heartache with upgrading and bugs every few years?

    Oh and why the heck were AMD and Intel allowed to produce 64 bit CPU way before there was an operating system ready for them. And why the heck did AMD and Intel not kick the likes of MS in the balls and tell them to get it sorted before releasing the x64s?

  27. Alan Paice

    Trade tools

    £12k may sound alot, but if it is used to design things for your business then its a tool same as a plumbers van.

    I agree this guy should be punished!

  28. Dan K


    "International pop stars might be able to afford people copying their work but we can't. We're lucky in that we managed to stop this before too many copies had been sold but, if it had carried on, we could have potentially lost a fortune. I'd go as far as to say that it would have meant us laying off staff."

    How many people who bought this for £12 would have really paid £12,000 for it? Would ebay users really pay £12,000 for something? hahahahahahaha

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    While I won't deny that nicking a £12k bit of software is a crime, I could probably go out today, jack a car and run a little old lady over and get less time in prison.

    Still, more fool this twit for flogging it on ebay...

  30. Chopper


    Eddie and Stu make good points about the cost of producing software, and about the potential for making profit in a limited market such as CAD for steel construction.

    In this case the company might not have lost much/any money - and commentators *rightly* slate the fact that the company said they could potentially have lost a lot. But those commenters who then go on to claim that the company is greedy and overcharges for its work are simply making fools of themselves - the cost of producing and selling software is enormous, especially in low-volume, specialised markets.

    As for the commentator who suggested rethinking the margin and volumes, and instead selling the CAD package on eBay...I would suggest software sales & marketing is not your forte.

  31. Tim

    Threat to the business & @Eddie

    Bedroom wannabees 'testing' this kind of thing (ie not a significant threat to the business) will download it for free, not buy it. People who want it enough to pay even as little as £12 (students, training companies maybe) should find a legitimate means of acquiring the software. Perhaps AceCad could look at serving that market with a cheap, cut-down version for learning or academic use.

    10 programmers at an average cost to the company of £70k per year each (salary x1.5 for benefits, etc.) which is entirely plausible for the kind of niche company this is will have to generate more than £700,000 in sales just to pay the engineers' staff bill, not to mention support, admin, sales etc.

    How big is the potential market for this kind of software? Not big at all at any price. When you have a market size measured in the hundreds of possible clients you can't pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap even if your costs are lower than those above. Each and every sale is thus incredibly valuable to the company. The sale doesn't stop with the twelve grand either: support & maintenance at 15-20% per year, upgrades and training all bring revenue in which keeps the company going.

    Yes, the vast majority who paid £12 would never have paid 1,000 times that, but even one lost sale due to this bottom-feeding, opportunist twat is a direct threat to those programmer's jobs. Their extremely specialist skills will not help them find well-paid new employment quickly. The owners of this kind of business will likely have many personal assets tied up in the firm. I can fully understand why they are so upset with this parasite.

    Big round of applause to Eddie Edwards. FOSS is utterly useless at niche, vertical market software like this and always will be. The union of the sets of bored bedroom programmer utopians and subject matter experts is effectively empty where the subject is anything other than computer networks or Star Trek.

    As an excercise for those that think FOSS is the solution to everything, try to name professional grade FOSS equivalents of Pro Tools, Final Cut, and Photoshop.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worked for a few companies that have used dodgy software

    So can understand they make losses, then again know quite a few people who wouldnt have been able to get CAD jobs if they hadnt got themsleves dodgy copies and learnt at home, and possibly wouldnt have helped that programme becoma more re-infoprced as a standard, every engineering student, architectural student where i studied got hold of AC just because they knew it was going to be so usefull to know, the average engineering student not being able to afford say an AutoCAD license, the LT version is frankly useless when I last saw it some years ago. I'll wait to see what the sentencing works out though befre any outraged commenst, as for selling it on ebay, well legal equivalent of a Darwin award.

  33. Samantha Clinton

    RE: Statements AC 15 Jan 23.03

    Erm...take it you haven't read the following report...pretty much ANYONE can enter your house these days...

  34. Matt

    RE: Maximum Sentance

    Stuart correctly said:

    "Newspapers (and The Reg, it seems) like to publish this maximum sentence"

    Reminds me a bit of the plethora of articles giving out about the broadband providers who correctly, IMO, use the phrase "up to" when describing bandwidth.

    Seems pretty straight-forward to me; if you like, where you see "up to" replace with "no more than". That's better, isn't it.

  35. Mark
    Thumb Down

    All they HAVE lost is £12 per sale

    And so they can look and see how many copies were sold.

    Add a punitive element on that, else you'd just be "on average" better off selling dodgy software (*) and you're done.

    * Note: this doesn't seem to be taken as needed when it's a big enough scam. E.g. the music labels were found guilty of illegal cartel trading, inflating the prices to consumers. The fine was several million dollars. However, the profits were probably towards the billions mark.

  36. Graham Bartlett

    Makes a change for them to bother

    A couple of years back, I bought a copy of BootMagic on eBay which turned out to be a blatant pirate copy. When I called the seller on it, he had the nerve to tell me "what did you expect?" Well actually a legit copy, since that's what the ad said. This seller had an eBay store selling various software, and one pirate copy would lead you to suspect that all the rest was too.

    I emailed Symantec support (who own Powerquest), the UK distributors for Symantec, and whichever anti-piracy organisation it is (I forget now) who Symantec support. I told them that I had this guy's name, address, phone number, eBay account, Paypal account and the fake CD, and I'd be willing to help them if they wanted to get Trading Standards involved. No reply from any of them. Not one single word - not even an automated "thank you for your enquiry". So I got my money back from the seller, said "sod it", and binned the CD.

    So there's a heads-up for you - if you want to pirate software, go ahead and do Symantec's. They won't put any effort into investigating piracy of their software.

  37. Steen Hive


    "Pro Tools"

    Mwahhahahh. Pick the most ridiculously inadequate piece of underperforming, overpriced "industry standard" rubbish you can find? If DigiDesign went tits up, I'd split my sides.

    ProTools? Just say NO!

  38. Tim


    I never said it was any good. It - and its Beat Detective feature - has probably done more to keep music sounding homogenous, over-produced, hollow and soulless in recent years than any number of Simon Cowells and RIAA demon marketers.

    But, then, where are the free alternatives? There are none, because whatever you may think about Pro Tools it is bastard hard to write a DAW.

    (I'd have put Logic instead, which I use (and paid for), but then I'd have been accused of being a fanboi.)

    Now I'm really off topic, so I'll get my cool black leather jacket. Nice.

  39. Gav

    Wow, lots of software experts on here!

    Software experts, and sales gurus who know sooo much about someone else's market!

    Selling a specialist software package to a defined business sector is not the same as selling a copy of MS Office in PC World. They're not going to sell many copies of their software, and reducing the price of it is not going to increase their profits. So every pirated copy is a very big deal. Particularly when each copy sold on ebay could go on and be copied another dozen times. So when it comes to estimate the damage this could do to their business, I think the company knows a whole lot more about it than the clueless on here.

  40. Mark


    Well, how many Time PCs were sold for £900 with "£1,000 worth of free software" included, where the software was remaindered stock and could be bought for a total of, ooh, £100.

    So I think that, if the above statement was genuine, we, the public DO know a lot about software sales. We saw through that wheeze.

  41. A J Stiles

    No sympathy for AceCad

    I have no sympathy for AceCAD.

    I have never paid for a piece of software in my life, and never intend to.

    The best quality software usually comes without a price tag: you download the Source Code, compile it and run it. You pay for services such as: having someone vet the Source Code to ensure it really is safe and suitable for your purposes, training people to use it, and getting it customised to enable the software to fit to your workflow rather than the other way around.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    student copies

    When I was an engineering student, I found most of the companies that produced the software I needed either gave an academic version of their product to verified students for free, or sold it to students at between 1% an 10% of it's retail price. e.g. matlab with simulink and every available add-on for under £40. No need for pirate software. Sometimes it was a website link, occasionally I wrote companies a nice letter asking for an academic version (amazingly some obliged). Nowdays of course work by a site license or a license for me.

  43. captain kangaroo

    If this was the 70's...

    ...The report would read that "Police had raided Walton's home and found photostat equipment and more than 300 pieces of paper, according to the newspaper".

    There are many many reasons why the case against this man is complete garbage.

    ACECAD is downloadable from many torrent sites, so he's not necessarily the cracker, unless he is "MAGNiTUDE" -which he's not.

    Have they thought about this.. People who bought it may well be students who will excel at getting a copy of a high end product and will be able to use this in their endeavours to become designers themselves who may then one day buy the actual product.

    AceCAD themselves overstating their losses by claiming to have lost a single sale of this through the mans actions assumes the notion that a download/purchase of cracked software equals a lost sale assumes that people are simply choosing not to pay for things that they would otherwise buy. This is complete nonsense as we all know. This age old, question remains unanswered, and will do for a long time. People are always being offered free things as incentives to try before you buy. Software itself is often available for trial periods, limited by function or time. In a lot of cases across the board there's an automatic bill option that kicks in at some point and lets face it, we all know, there's no such thing as a free {anything}...

    I digress...

    Who the f**k would pay £12,000 for this thing? It'd have to come with Hi Def screen, bespoke keyboard an other appropriate input devices, and have a string support contract attached. Since these are absent in the "PiR8Ed" version the loss can't possibly be equivalent to the "full priced original"...

    The buyers should be tracked down and assessed as (A) "receiving stolen property" and (B)assessed to see if they could have afforded the original anyway and to what application they put the hooky software...

    aaaaarrgghghghhhhh this is such a shit case. so many holes... I hope he beats jail for this. or gets released on appeal, what a waste of tax payers money.

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