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Autodesk software license compliance, STUDENT LICENSES, the hidden liability trap

Posted by Steve Vondran | Dec 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

Autodesk Software Audit Essentials – The problem of using student licenses for commercial purposes!!!


I wanted to post a quick blog about this issue that I am finding to be more and more common in our software audit defense practice.

Many architects, engineers, and design firms grow their practice through the hiring of interns or student employees.  Many times, these students will be using free academic versions of software, such as Autodesk CAD or Revit.  While Autodesk is usually very friendly in allowing students to "get a feel" for their software, they do draw the line when it comes to COMMERCIAL USE of their student software.  Another issue is making and posting games (using Maya or Maya LT) as a student, or in a student-competition, and then posting the games on websites like Steam.  This is truer if there is the monetization of assets in the gameplay or any other type of commercial monetization (see below).

Another potential problem can arise, for example, when an architect law firm from Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York (just to name a few), posts a job posting on sites like "Indeed" or Craigslist and they are advertising for someone with “CAD” or "Revit" skills.  We believe that Autodesk monitors not only LinkedIn profiles (touting skills such as “Inventor” or “AutoCAD”) but also monitoring the other major job boards to see if an employer is seeking to hire new interns or students with certain skills involving the use of Autodesk software.

When they look up your company and see no paid commercial licenses, that can trigger their law firm Donahue Fitzgerald to send you a formal demand letter.  This can result in having to hire legal counsel, and potentially negotiating a settlement.

The answer to avoiding these types of issues is to ONLY USE STUDENT VERSIONS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES – NOT FOR COMMERCIAL, PROFESSIONAL OR FOR-PROFIT purposes.   Sometimes, they will say the software cannot be used for publicity, notoriety, or for seeking gainful employment.  It is critical to read and understand your permitted uses.

As harmless as this may seem, the use of student or educational software outside the terms of use can create significant unwanted legal liability for the company, officers, and directors.

Listen to Attorney Steve® provide a general legal information overview of limits on Student licenses

Autodesk software audit Maya letter

Autodesk Student Licensing Criteria

According to the Autodesk website:

Here are the simple criteria (to qualify for education licensing):

  • You attend or teach at a qualified educational institution. — or — You are licensing software on behalf of a qualified educational institution.
  • The products will be used for educational purposes only, not commercial purposes.

Another page of their website notes:

“Free Autodesk software and/or cloud-based services are subject to acceptance of and compliance with the terms and conditions of the software license agreement or terms of service that accompany such software or cloud-based services. Software and cloud-based services subject to an Educational license may be used solely for Educational Purposes and shall not be used for commercial, professional or any other for-profit purposes.”

Here is what the educational license says on the Autodesk website:

"Education Users may only use Education Offerings for the following “Educational Purposes”:

(1) if You are a Qualified Educational Institution, Faculty or Other Authorized Education User, You may access and/or use the Offering solely for purposes directly related to learning, teaching, training, or research and development as part of the instructional functions performed by a Qualified Educational Institution or an Other Authorized Education User


(2) if You are a Student or an individual Other Authorized Education User, You may access and/or use the Offering solely for purposes directly related to learning, training or research. You may not access or use the Offering for commercial, professional or other for-profit purposes. You may be required to show proof of eligibility if requested by Autodesk."

This is not an "either/or" this is an "AND" which means you need to comply with both provisions or you could be deemed out of compliance and subject to claims of breach of contract or willful copyright infringement.


Potential Copyright Infringement Damages

To learn more about copyright infringement penalties click here.

Contact an Autodesk Audit Defense Lawyer

If you received the “love letter” (as we jokingly call it) from Autodesk or their intellectual property law firm, contact us BEFORE you CONTACT THEM.  They may try to contact you by phone, so you need to be prepared to either hang up the phone, or just take down their name and number.

We can help you understand what you are up against, and we offer a no cost initial consultation.  We also offer LOW (predictable) flat rate legal fees to help settle your case (meaning we do not “bill hourly” and see how long we can drag the case on as inevitably some law firms do). 

To our knowledge, we are the LEADING LAW FIRM IN THE UNITED STATES handling Autodesk software audits and we have a strong track record of SUCCESS in getting these cases settled without having to go to federal court to defend yourself. 

Call us at (877) 276-5084 for more information, or email us through our contact form.

About the Author

Steve Vondran

Thank you for viewing our blogs, videos and podcasts. As noted, all information on this website is Attorney Advertising. Decisions to hire an attorney should never be based on advertising alone. Any past results discussed herein do not guarantee or predict any future results. All blogs are written by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise indicated. Our firm handles a wide variety of intellectual property and entertainment law cases from music and video law, Youtube disputes, DMCA litigation, copyright infringement cases involving software licensing disputes (ex. BSA, SIIA, Siemens, Autodesk, Vero, CNC, VB Conversion and others), torrent internet file-sharing (Strike 3 and Malibu Media), California right of publicity, TV Signal Piracy, and many other types of IP, piracy, technology, and social media disputes. Call us at (877) 276-5084. AZ Bar Lic. #025911 CA. Bar Lic. #232337


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