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Grand theft of Grand Theft Auto

2 November 2004

CNET reports that ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ is currently freely available on ‘warez’ sites used to swap pirated software. The game’s publisher, Take-Two Interactive Software, vowed to release the game unaltered and using the planned release date.

A company spokesperson said: "Downloading, possession and distribution of 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,' including making the game available on the internet, is theft. We take the theft of our intellectual property very seriously, and we are and will continue to diligently and aggressively pursue this matter."

The ‘Grand Theft Auto’ franchise has spawned four games, the most recent of which, ‘Grand Theft Auto: Vice City’, has sold more than 12 million copies and attracted widespread criticism for its graphic portrayals of street crime and violence. Japanese manufacturer Nintendo has also launched a clampdown on pirates of its many games titles, and expects its losses this year to run to millions of dollars.

Fortunately for Take Two, the Grand Auto piracy isn't expected to affect sales significantly. Copies of the counterfeit game can only be run on a PlayStation 2 game console equipped with a 'mod chip', a grey-market add-on that defeats copy protection circuitry in the machine.

Warez sites are an increasing menace to software and games manufacturers. As opposed to file sharing, which is often between individuals, warez sites are used by organised groups such as the software pirate gangs now operating in Russia and China. Through a network of international contacts these gangs are able to pirate pre-release copies of software, games, and films such as The Matrix, which was stolen and sold as a bootleg release a few days before it hit cinemas.

The U.S. Justice department recently stated  that American companies are losing up to $250 billion dollars (£136 million) from counterfeiting and piracy each year.

Somewhat bizarrely, these matters are sometimes passed to the Department of Homeland Security, who are normally tasked with chasing terrorist threats on US soil. The Department were recently involved in a case involving the copyright infringement of a Rubik’s cube toy sold in a small toyshop in Oregon.

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