FBI nabs suspected AutoCAD software counterfeiter

Second major $1 million criminal prosecution in two months

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec. 18, 1995--Software pirates are beginning to face criminal prosecution. In the second major criminal case in less than two months, charges were filed today against a man believed to have bilked computer users out of nearly $1 million dollars.

The defendant, Los Angeles resident Howard Dennis Barnes, 53, who is charged with cheating consumers by getting them to pay for illegally copied and often unusable Autodesk software, today pleaded not guilty to two felony charges that resulted from a six-month FBI investigation. If convicted, Barnes could go to jail for up to 10 years and be fined up to $2 million.

Barnes, whose aliases also have included Jimmie Ray Smith and Upjohn Walker, has been charged with criminal copyright infringement and trafficking in counterfeit trademarked goods. The charges resulted from his alleged sale of counterfeit copies of AutoCAD Release 13, the latest version of the world s leading PC-based design software.

The Barnes case follows closely on the heels of one of the first successful criminal prosecutions for illegal software theft, a $1 million case involving of "Captain Blood," which was also filed in Los Angeles less than six weeks ago. Thomas "Nick" Alefantes, known in the software industry as "Captain Blood," was arrested in November at his home in Los Angeles by the LA district attorney s office after being pursued for years by Autodesk, Microsoft and other software developers. Blood pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in January to 6 years in prison, according to the DA's office.

The Barnes case affects a large number of users because he reportedly advertised his bogus products nationwide on CompuServe and in the classified ads of newspapers throughout California. The ads, which claimed the software was legal, offered AutoCAD Release 13 for as little as $650 (compared to its suggested retail price of about $4000). People who responded to the ads say they were told that Barnes was a bankruptcy liquidator. Those who ordered the counterfeit programs often found they would not work because they had invalid serial numbers.

"I feel sorry for people who paid money in good faith only to find they had been deceived," said Autodesk president Carol Bartz. "This incident underscores the fact that any method of purchasing software, other than from an authorized dealer, can leave you open to the risk of losing a lot of money. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is."

The company has received numerous calls -- sometimes as often as once a day -- about Barnes activities from dealers and customers over the past year on its anti-piracy hotline, 1-800-NO-COPIES.

Marko Klos, an environmental designer in Pennsylvania who read about the software on CompuServe and spoke with Barnes at length on the phone, thought he was getting a great deal as a result of liquidation. Now, he's "furious," he said. "I'm an honest person. I've never cheated anyone and I don't lie. But I found out the hard way that I'm not as good a judge of character as I once thought."

Software companies lost an estimated $15.2 billion worldwide in 1994 as a result of software piracy, according to the Business Software Alliance, an industry watchdog group that focuses on intellectual property protection. For North America, 1994 losses are estimated at $3.12 billion.

Autodesk is the world's leading supplier of PC and UNIX-based design software and PC multimedia tools. The company's 2D and 3D products and data management tools are used in many industries for architectural design, mechanical design, film-making, videography and geographic information systems. The fourth largest PC software company in the world, Autodesk has three million customers in 118 countries. Autodesk products are sold through Autodesk Systems Centers, Dealers and Distributors worldwide. -0-

Note to Editors: Autodesk, the Autodesk logo and AutoCAD are registered trademarks of Autodesk, Inc. CompuServe is a registered trademark of H&R Block.