Software Compliance Tips & Frequently Asked Questions for Autodesk!
This blog is not specific legal advice and should not be relied on in making any decisions to move forward in your software audit case with Autodesk. This blog will discuss some general legal areas of interest to business owners, engineers, architects, land surveyors, students and other designers who use any of the multitude of Autodesk products, one of the most popular pieces of software, being AutoCAD, to run and grow their business.
In general, if you openly admit to copyright infringement (i.e. “yes I downloaded pirated software on eBay” or “yes we have seven copies of Autodesk that we obtained using a “crack code”) you can expect the intellectual property lawyers you are dealing with to get aggressive in regard to the amounts they will want to settle for. So at the outset, I will say it is important to retain copyright counsel and explore all legal defenses before approaching handling these cases on your own. We offer affordable fee structures designed to allow you to run your business, while we handle your software compliance issues. Fill out the contact form below or contact us to discuss.
If I received a letter from a law firm regarding a demand to submit to an audit, what should I do?
Let's get right down to it. Here is our general information on what to do if you received a letter threatening copyright infringement, $150,000 in damages and a request that your business conduct an internal software audit:
1. Contact your IP lawyer (i.e. us) BEFORE ever speaking to the software company or their lawyer representatives (what you say could be used against you) and have us review your case with a NO COST initial consultation. Our consultations will provide you with a basic overview of what we do, and what some of your possible issues and defenses may be. Please note, we will not provide you with specific legal advice until we are retained, and will not provide a detailed road map of how to take your case through the audit process without first being retained. So, you have nothing to lose, and we can discuss your case in general terms and discuss our predictable flat rate fee service (available in most but not all cases).
2.. Next, once retained, we will explore your possible defenses to copyright infringement. This will depend on your case and there are many different types of defenses that arise in software licensing cases. While you should probably not throw away the letter and simply ignore it (you don't want to trigger a lawsuit by not addressing the issue, and risk liability to officers and directors of the company), it may make sense to cooperate with their attorneys, to the extent possible, and to try to reach a resolution if you have unlicensed software that you should have been paying for. Note, however, this is only one of the possible responses, and you should always explore your possible defenses and consult with legal counsel before making any decision to admit to software shortages.
3. We can help you with the seeking a confidentiality agreement for communications under FRE 408 (federal Rules of Evidence), the audit response, negotiating a settlement amount, and closing the case with a confidential settlement agreement, negotiating the terms of the settlement agreement to the best advantage to your company as possible. These settlement agreements can come with onerous terms that are best handled by a software attorney.
We are an experienced law firm that knows how to negotiate deals that will resolve your licensing legal issues in private and in confidence. This is especially important if you are a publicly traded company, or about to do an initial public offering (IPO). Issues can also pop up after a merger of two businesses, which may have ignored the required due diligence as to whether or not the company being acquired had all their software licensing in check).
We handle cases from small “mom-and-pop” family businesses, architects, engineers, media companies, on up to large organizations, even law firms and other types of companies that are being threatened with federal copyright litigation and being labelled a “software pirate.”
What are some common defenses to software audits?
Here are a few typical infringement defenses and arguments that commonly pop up in a BSA, Microsoft, SIIA, Adobe, Rosetta Stone or Autodesk software defense cases. You may have other defenses in your case, fill out the contact form below to have one of our lawyers contract you.
EULA Licensing Agreements
Often times a letter from the IP law firm will accuse a company of violating the terms of a software licensing agreement (“end user license agreement”). But what does it mean to “comply with the terms of the license” if you purchased the software from a third party? This is an issue that at times need to be explored.
This is a conversation we might undertake with opposing software counsel who has their own ideas what it means to be in compliance. To their intellectual property lawyers, compliance means being able to prove up all your licenses and back them with proofs of purchase often on a moments notice, and to prove you are not pirating even a single copy of licensed Autodesk AutoCAD or other software they produce (see sample list below).
In some cases, substantial compliance with the terms of a licensing agreement (ex. clickwrap or browse-wrap) may be enough evidence of compliance, but the facts of each case need to be closely examined, and the software publishers may not agree with this approach.
Some licensing agreements are simply impossible to read or understand. Many computer and IT experts believe it is impossible to understand, much less show compliance with, the terms of Microsoft “CAL” licenses but that is another issue we discuss on another blog.
It is always critical to understand the terms, conditions and restrictions of your Autodesk Software License Agreement
2. AutoCAD LT
3. AutoCAD Civil 3D
4. AutoCAD Electrical
5. AutoCAD MEP
6. 3ds Max
7. AutoCAD Plant 3d
8. Product Design Suite Ultimate 2016
9. AutoCAD design suite Ultimate 2016 (standalone)
The list goes on an on. These licenses each have their own rules. Some of these are “student versions” (ex. Fusion 360, Inventor Professional, Revit, 3ds Max, or Maya) which end user license agreement requires that the user be student, faculty, teacher, or part of the Autodesk Assistant Program. If not, the use will likely be considered illegal, and you will likely receive a demand letter accusing your company of being a willful copyright infringer (wth the $150,000 per infringing copyrighted work applying, along with the threat of paying their attorney fees). This is not a pleasant situation to find yourself in.
Each of these products comes with a Autodesk software licensing agreement that explains what a architect or engineer CAN and CANNOT do, including limitations on using backup copies on your laptop for example. So it is important to know what these licenses say, and this often becomes an issue in software audit cases, most our our cases dealing with the intellectual property law firm of Donahue Fitzgerald. You might also have received a letter regarding a software audit from the Venable LLP firm, Weir Johnson or other IP firms. We can help you respond to these and seek to keep your communications as confidential as possible under Federal Rule of Evidence (FRE 408).
Picture outside the Autodesk Headquarters in San Francisco
BONUS MATERIALS: Steve Vondran, Esq. at the San Francisco office of Autodesk which is located near our office in the Bay Area. Click on the picture to hear our Vondran Legal Hour Podcast show on overview of Autodesk audits.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Are third parties allowed to use my Autodesk licensed software?
Normally, unless the licensing agreement says otherwise, only the licensed user, company or legal entity is authorized to use Autodesk software. In most cases companies are not allowed to share the software with third parties, or affiliates, without prior express written consent from Autodesk. Again, you should closely examine what you agreed to when you licensed the software.
Can I make models using unlicensed Autodesk software and sell them?
No. if you are using the Autodesk software, you should use it in accordance with the license agreement, meaning you should first legally purchase a copy or subscription before generating things that will be used in your business to try to reap a financial gain.
Can I sell or transfer my Autodesk software license?
In many cases, you may find that you cannot sell, lease, transfer or sub-license Autodesk software products without obtaining their prior written consent! Make sure you understand what your rights and obligations are before selling your software to another company. Issues involving the first-sale doctrine may be implicated.
Can I use Autodesk on another computer aside from my main work computer?
This will again depend on what your software license says and what terms and restrictions you have agreed to with the license. These should always be reviewed if you are not sure as unauthorized uses could trigger a software audit. In many cases (especially where you have a “standalone” or individual license to use Autodesk, you will find that a second copy can be used on a laptop at your home for example. Their could however be some restrictions on this such as:
1. Territorial restrictions
2. Restrictions on using the second copy AT THE SAME TIME as the originally installed copy on your main work computer (this of course is designed to prevent two users from using the software at the same time)
3. Restrictions mandating that the use of both copies of the software be used by THE SAME PERSON so as to avoid the free use of software.
4. The use of additional software may be limited to work purposes while away from the usual work location.
There may be other restrictions as well, and these are just a guide to potential contractual issues to be aware of. Again, fill out the contact form below if you need to discuss your case with copyright counsel.
Can educational or student versions of Autodesk be used for commercial projects?
Again, the user should check the license agreement. Typically the educational institutional version is not permitted to be used for commercial purposes and is only for teacher, faculty or student use. If you are are not sure, contact us before making any commercial use so we can review your licensing agreement and properly advise you.
Can the Autodesk software be used anywhere in the world?
The Autodesk software license might contain restrictions on where in the world you can use the software. In some cases you may learn that you can only use the software in the country in which the license was purchased unless:
a. Purchase was made from European Union (EU) or European Free Trade Association
b. You have specific written express authorization from Autodesk
We can help your company review your obligations and limitations and seek to negotiate licensing terms favorable to your company in regard to using their software in your architect, engineering or other design business around the world.
We are a leading software licensing defense audit law firm. Contact us for a quote.
If you received a letter demanding a software audit of your company, do not panic. Whether the letter is from the Business Software Alliance, SIIA, Autodesk, Adobe, Microsoft, or some other software company, your first step is to remain silent and contact an intellectual property lawyer to review and handle your federal copyright issue. We can help keep you out of court and help you settle your case without a federal court lawsuit. We believe we offer the best pricing on software audit cases in the entire industry. Before you book any other law firm, contact us for a free quote, which in most cases will involve a predictable flat rate fee.
There are only a few firms in the Country with a specialty handling software audit cases. We can help defend your interests against personal liability attacks against officers and directors and defend against allegations of willful copyright infringement which could lead to serious exposure to the company and its individual CEO's, CFO's, COO's, CIO, CTO's, Vice Presidents and others.
Contact us at (877) 276-5084 to speak with one of our IP lawyers. You can also fill out our email contact form below to have one of our staff or copyright attorneys contact you, normally within the hour.