Video Game Cos. Sue Online Pirates

Wednesday, February 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Video game manufacturers are not playing around when it comes to preventing the distribution of pirated software.

A lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court by 12 video game companies accusing four men of offering unauthorized copies of everything from Pac-Man to Donkey Kong over the Internet.

The complaint seeks injunctions to shut down the Web sites run by Dasheill Ponce De Leon of Houston, John Sterling of Beaumont, Texas, Byron Beck of Monrovia, Calif., and Kuei Lin Lo of Amherst, Mass. The suit also seeks monetary damages that could reach $150,000 for each copyrighted work infringed. The men are accused of illegally distributing hundreds of digital entertainment products.

``While some believe there are no victims from piracy, they're wrong,'' said Doug Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association, a trade group representing the entertainment software industry. ``A video game is increasingly expensive to develop and each title involves the hard work of numerous individuals.''

Plaintiffs in the case seeking damages include Activision Inc., LucasArts, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Midway Amusement Games and Capcom Entertainment.

Those companies allege that copies of their products are being given away by the defendants over the Internet. The defendants are accused of operating Web sites where computer file versions of games, commonly known as ``warez'' and ``roms,'' are freely available.

One of the Web sites proudly touts itself as ``The Ultimate Sanity in Anarchy.''

``Warez'' is hacker shorthand for pirated versions of software. ``Roms,'' short for read-only memory, are computer files containing video game information that can be played on a home PC with an emulator, a small application that mimics video game consoles.

None of the defendants could be reached for comment.