Novell vs BBS - Anti-Piracy Review at the End of the 20th Century

    In the comments to the last article on the BBS topic , the idea was made that it would be nice to find out who all these people are and how it ended. We have this opportunity thanks to historical Novell press releases.

    In the mid-90s, two companies, Novell and Microsoft, were the main fighters against piracy, which then existed as a BBS network - files were transmitted by modems over telephone lines. In total, there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of such nodes in the USA, which were used by several thousand people. You can read about how the system worked in the history of the scene . In fact, it turned out that a rather closed group of people united by a common interest bought each program that came out, one copy “for everyone,” then removed the protection so that everyone could make a copy for themselves.

    From the four press releases of 1995-1997, we can trace how the fight against pirates took place, what amounts of damage were presented, what punishments threatened BBS operators, and what statements the representatives of these companies made.

    In the already mentioned story , two BBSs were almost closed at the same time in 1995. The operator of the first of them had a good lawyer, so the trial lasted 2 years:

    1. Novell and Microsoft announce the case they won

    The Final Frontier is one of the largest BBS of the time through which all pirated releases from the stage were distributed. They were partners of the NTA (Nokturnal Trading Alliance) and RISC (Rise in Superior Couriering) groups, which in turn collaborated with all the major release groups.

    The court ruled that the sysop (system operator) should recover damages in the amount of $ 73,000; all computer equipment was also confiscated from him. The decision said:

    The situation is such that any amount would be for the defendant the equivalent of an economic death sentence ... if the defendant's financial situation was better, or if violations were committed for the benefit, the amount would be greater

    The representative of Novell (Harrison Colter) liked the judge’s words “economic death sentence”, which he repeated in his statement, threatening that such a fate awaits anyone who will engage in such illegal activities.

    “Computer piracy is causing enormous damage to our companies, and ultimately to the entire industry and its customers,” said Jim Lowe, a Microsoft spokesman, “neither we nor Novell will tolerate illegal downloading of our products from BBS.” Novell opened the hotline 1-800-PIRATES (800-747-2837) for reporting pirated BBS, as well as the mailbox

    2. The operator will refund $ 200,000

    The second participant in the story was less fortunate. As a result of the raid, all equipment was also confiscated. BBS's operator, Pierre Barkett, agreed to a pre-trial settlement: damages of $ 200,000.

    In this press release, Novell tells readers what these BBSs are.
    An investigation, launched back in May 1995, revealed that the Pits BBS had been offering their users access to illegal copies of software for several years, including Novell's PerfectOffice. Barkett said he knew about Novell's aggressive policy on pirated BBS, but he did not know that PerfectOffice was their product.

    Pirated BBSs enable users to download commercial products, either for a monthly fee, or in exchange for other programs that are not yet on BBS. This is a violation of copyright, and robs manufacturers of money for their products. In addition, pirated software may be incomplete, or contain viruses, which damages the reputation of the manufacturer. They can also damage the user's computer or its data.

    Apparently after that, the rest of the operators in the United States decided not to take any more risks and completely banned the distribution of these companies' products. Now it was time to tackle Europe.

    3. Novell closes Belgian BBS

    On May 22, 1996, Novell’s anti-piracy branch covered Belgium’s largest illegal BBS, codenamed 'GENESIS'. She was run from his office in Brussels by a certain Jean Louis Piret. An agreement was reached on the payment of a 6-digit compensation amount (which is unfortunately not indicated), with the confiscation of all equipment ($ 35,000).

    Specially trained people from Novell (they call them Technical Investigators - Technical Investigators) undercover penetrated a BBS-ku Genesis. Having obtained the required evidence, they received a search warrant from a Belgian court. The search revealed that the equipment allowed storing over 13 gigabytes of information. Piret himself admits that he kept about 40 thousand programs. They were available for download on 10 telephone lines for people from all over the world.

    Martin Smith, Novell's manager, comments: “BBS, such as GENESIS, robs the industry of millions of dollars annually. Its system was used by more than 6000 people. Not only publishers are suffering, but also distributors, resellers and dealers who live off legal sales. ” He also warned all BBS owners in Europe that if they had Novell products, they would be the target of prosecution.

    4. Six arrested in Sweden

    On May 6, 1997, as a result of a months-long investigation of Novell’s European anti-piracy office, the Swedish police carried out 5 searches in Kalmar (60,000 residents) and arrested four people. Using the evidence, the police conducted 4 more searches and arrested two more.

    Investigators found that BBS 'Another World' operators were offering access to Novell products worth more than 380,000 kroons (about $ 50,000), as well as products from other members of the Business Software Alliance.

    The prosecutor said that each of the defendants could be sentenced to 2 years in prison and / or a maximum fine of 150,000 kroons (approximately $ 20,000 at the 1997 exchange rate). Stefan Kronqvist of the Computer Crime Unit added: “This investigation is further evidence of Sweden’s high level of computer piracy. We will continue to work on this issue. ”

    Thus, already then there were statements about prison sentences and millions of losses incurred by just one BBS, although the speed and number of users on them could not be compared to modern torrents. However, the courts then took into account the lack of gain by the violators, and the amounts of damages awarded, although large, were not absurd. That was 16 years ago. Nowadays, as you know , pirates receive real terms and damage in millions of dollars.

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