The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has stomped on 25 individuals for allegedly peddling pirated software via a chatroom.
The BSA is suing the 25 piracy minnows for their alleged part in the "warez4cable" Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel.
This sees the BSA focusing its fire power not on the people that manufacture or buy pirate software, but on the middlemen. It is the first lawsuit filed against individuals using an IRC channel to peddle pirated software, the watchdog said.
Each person is potentially liable for damages up to $100,000 per copyrighted work infringed.
The legal action was brought after BSA raids on computer equipment in Sacramento and Downey, California, and Troy and West Bloomfield in Michigan last week. This followed months of undercover manoeuvres by the BSA to catch the suspected criminals.
The unannounced inspections last week, supervised by US Marshals, led to five computers being seized.
"Because of the increased access to high-speed connections, piracy in IRC channels is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to traffic in illegal software on the Internet," said Bob Kruger, BSA vice president of enforcement.
"That is why the BSA is taking immediate action against this aggressive form of piracy," he said.
The BSA said it was able to identify the individuals and prosecute them by using a special subpoena procedure created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.
Kruger issued a warning to pirates, saying the move meant there was now one less place for them to lurk.
"Anyone who thinks that they can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet to commit copyright infringement had better know that the law gives them no quarter," he said.