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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 October 2004, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Hunt for Grand Theft Auto pirates
Screenshot from San Andreas
Game set in the fictional city of San Andreas
The makers of the best-selling Grand Theft Auto games are "aggressively pursuing" the pirates who leaked a copy of the latest version of the game.

Copies of Rockstar's GTA: San Andreas for the PlayStation 2 have appeared on file-sharing systems on the internet.

It is the latest big title to fall victim to piracy, coming a week after the Xbox game, Halo 2, was leaked.

The Grand Theft Auto games are largely responsible for kick-starting the driving-and-shooting genre of gaming.

Chasing leads

More than 30 million units of the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) franchise have been shipped to date, including 11.5 million copies of GTA: Vice City and 10.5 million units of GTA 3.

The latest in the franchise, San Andreas, is due to go on sale at the end of the month.

Screenshot from San Andreas
We take the theft of our intellectual property very seriously and we are and will continue to diligently and aggressively pursue this matter
Rockstar statement
But its release has been overshadowed by internet piracy, with a copy of the American version of the game appearing online.

In a statement, Edinburgh-based Rockstar Games said a pirated version of the game had been posted to various internet sites.

"The proper authorities are investigating the theft and are continuing to investigate all possible leads to ensure there is no further dissemination of our creative content," said the company.

"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."

However Rockstar said the release of the game would go ahead as planned, with San Andreas hitting the shops in the US on 26 October and three days later in Europe.

'Serious problem'

The leak seems unlikely to make a big dent in sales, as only people with a modified PlayStation2 will be able to play the pirated copy.

"The phenomenon where games like GTA: San Andreas appear online before their official release is sadly becoming more common and is a very serious problem," said Stephen Pierce, editor-in-chief of Official PlayStation 2 magazine.

"We should also keep in mind that San Andreas contains mature adult content and will be sold in the UK with a BBFC 18-rating. This means the game has gone through recognised legal channels before being sold responsibly to adults."

San Andreas is not the first high profile games to have fallen victim to internet piracy.

A week ago, a copy of the eagerly awaited Halo 2 for the Xbox appeared on the internet.

In August, a copy of Doom 3 was leaked online ahead of its release and downloaded by thousands of people.

Despite this, the title still went on to sell in large numbers, debuting at the top of the UK games charts.

CNET 'Grand Theft' of intellectual property - 21 hrs ago
MCV Rockstar chases San Andreas thieves - 27 hrs ago
The Register Grand Theft Auto sequel leaked onto web - 27 hrs ago
Gamespot Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas jacked - 38 hrs ago
ZDNet UK Microsoft angered by game-code piracy - 15 Oct 2004
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Grand Theft Auto comes under fire
04 May 04 |  Scotland
Vice City motors home in Baftas
26 Feb 04 |  Technology
Grand Theft Auto excels on Xbox
20 Feb 04 |  Technology
Halo 2 leaked onto the internet
14 Oct 04 |  Technology
Long-awaited Doom 3 leaked online
02 Aug 04 |  Technology
Vice pays for games publisher
28 Feb 03 |  Technology

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


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