October 21, 2004 10:50 AM PDT

'Grand Theft' of intellectual property

A stolen copy of the latest sequel in one of the top-selling video game series of all time began circulating on the Web late Wednesday, the second high-profile game theft in a week.

Game publisher Take-Two Interactive Software confirmed that a purloined copy of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," set for commercial release next week, is making the rounds of "warez" sites used to swap pirated software.

The publisher vowed in a statement to track down the thieves but said the piracy wouldn't affect the game's Oct. 26 retail debut.

"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," according to the statement. "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 ongoing criticism for its graphic portrayals of street crime and violence.

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