Attorney Steve® - 2020 Autodesk Audit Updates
It was of those not-so-fun things people always remember - getting a software audit letter from a law firm out of the blue. Not understanding why you received the letter, and not knowing if it is real (a good percentage of my software clients tell me they thought it was a scam and was going to throw the letter away), and wondering if you actually need to comply with their demands or not. Well, since I am writing this post you probably know that the letters are true (but make sure to double-check as we know offshore legal scams exist), but we do handle a large number of software audit cases. This blog is to provide you with updates on what we are seeing in the Autodesk audit trenches.
EULA Audits (aka "Contractual Audits")
We are now hearing (not to say it has not been asserted before), with more frequency, that Autodesk - the maker of AutoCAD, Revit, AEC Collection, Fusion 360, Inventor, Maya and other products is conducting "EULA Audit." What is a EULA Audit? It is based on something you signed or agreed to (usually by clicking "I agree") when you signed up for an Autodesk software subscription online. The EULA stands for End User License Agreement. For example, your company might have received a letter asking you to participate in an audit. The letter may be from Autodesk itself or a law firm on their behalf (see below). The letter may suggest your company is suspected of using unlicensed installations of their software, and that they are asking you to submit to an audit (aka "contractual audit"). If you get this letter (or an email) YOUR BEST BET IS TO CONTACT US FOR A FREE CONSULTATION. DO NOT CONTACT THEM WITHOUT KNOWING WHERE YOU STAND. WE OFFER LOW, FLAT RATE LEGAL SERVICES TO GET THIS PROBLEM OFF YOUR HANDS.
An email request may go something like this:
Good reasons to hire Software Compliance Legal Counsel
We have also recently confirmed that Autodesk does use some type of "phone-home" technology to monitor and detect software compliance / piracy. This is set forth in their EULA's and you might have seen something like this when you signed up for your last AutoCAD® software subscription:
"We would like to inform that Autodesk collects information about you in order to deliver products, services and support to our customers. We collect identifying information, like your name, email, phone number, city and country. We also collect information about your use of our applications including which products you use, when, and how you use them. Autodesk uses all of this information to support our legitimate interest in improving your experience and building better applications, as well as to pursue our legitimate interest in preventing and reducing fraud and software piracy."
Check your EULA for more information.
Here are two general links to the agreements that may be helpful.
(look at 21.5)
(depending upon the product installed, you can pull the agreement…but usually, section 9.7)
Did you get a letter from Donahue Fitzgerald or Weir-Johnson?
These are two law firms who help Autodesk protect and enforce their intellectual property rights. We have handled many cases over the years with both of these firms. Our job is to protect the interests of small business owners and to get the lowest settlement possible with a confidential release of all claims. This is not always as easy as it sounds, and software settlement negotiations can become very contentious, although I would like to see we have a professional working relationship.
Call us if you received a letter, telephone call (I would immediately hang up), or an internal compliance email. Again, we are the proven leader in Autodesk software licensing disputes and offer very attractive flat rate legal fees so you do not get a surprise legal bill once your case is over.
One more important tip - make sure you are purchasing software from VALID AUTODESK RESELLERS (you can check on authorized Autodesk Partners here). Problems can also arise buy buying "cheap" or counterfeit software online, or downloading invalid software through use of BitTorrent protocols, and by posting job ads or LinkedIn pages explaining your CAD experience, for example, but not having any company licensed legitimate copies. Informants (especially disgruntled ex-employees can sometimes also turn you in and "nail their boss" as some call it, and these complaints can be made to Autodesk directly, or the Business Software Alliance (trade organization that handles many Microsoft audits, along with KPMG).