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Buying unauthorized Revit or CAD software on the internet – a “piracy” case study

Autodesk Audit Essentials – what is the price for buying software from an unauthorized reseller online?


Many people think that a design firm, or architect or engineering company can go online and purchase copies of Autodesk software (ex. CAD, Revit, Inventor, AEC, etc.) at any price they find it being sold for, and that upon conclusion of the sale, they will get a 100% compliant right to use the software in their organization.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case and in some cases, can trigger a software audit demand letter from Autodesk IP law firm Donahue Fitzgerald.   Here is one hypothetical case study that may help you understand the scope of the legal issue.

Paying less that fair market value for CAD or REVIT

Say your architecture company startup is looking for two copies of Autocad.  You go to the Autodesk homepage but see that the subscriptions are now all online (one, two or three year) and that they no longer offer the “perpetual” license.  Not loving the prices, you look online to see if anyone is selling a copy on any of the following websites:

  1. Ebay – Revit software for sale (seller refurbished with SolidWorks)
  2. Craiglsist

These are just a few examples of websites you can find selling Autodesk software online.  Of course, there are many others.  Some clients have told me they were assured that their online purchase was valid, or certified, and yet still audit demand letters were received challenging their licensing rights and compliance.  Below, I provide a link to the Autodesk website where you can lookup to see if a company is a valid or authorized reseller.

What will happen during settlement discussions?

So what typically happen in these “online purchase” cases or OEM (claims that the software is licensed through the original equipment manufacturer), or “refurbished” computer cases is the following:

  1. Your company purchases the architecture, engineering, or design software online
  2. Possibly you received a invoice, or receipt from the seller
  3. You probably didn't both to see if the seller was an “authorized reseller” or not
  4. The price was probably very attractive (likely 100's or thousands below MSRP)
  5. You used the company for a couple months, a year, or possibly several years without incident
  6. Then you get the letter from Donahue Fitzgerald Law Firm or BSA (the software trade organization for Autodesk)
  7. The letter requests that you audit all your computers, laptops, and servers identifying all software you have installed from their company, (including serial number, and to provide all dated proofs of purchase)
  8. If their copyright lawyers don't feel you paid fair value, or they believe the licensing rights never transferred, or they find that the reseller is not authorized to resell the software, they will generally treat this an “willful copyright infringement” which can lead to claims for up to $150,0000 per infringed title (ex. Revit, Maya, 3Ds, Autocad, etc.).
  9. Naturally we are there are defenses to copyright infringement and mitigating factors that should be considered in the settlement negotiations.
  10. Counsel for the software publisher may agree to give a “credit” for the price you paid for the invalid software.
  11. They will want you to pay an infringement penalty (use a multiplier of 1-3x depending on the facts of the case)
  12. After we secure a FRE 408 confidentiality agreement to try to keep all negotiations and transfer of documents, settlement offers, and other discussions confidential.
  13. Eventually, in most cases we will find a fair balance and a way to get the case settled, making sure we are protecting your company with the best possible settlement terms.
  14. The parties and their IP lawyer will work on approving the final terms of the settlement, which will depend upon the number of software infringed, the MSRP of those products, and how many computers, servers, and laptops were using unlicensed software and for how long (in a case of wholesale “piracy” in other words where they may believe your business was using illegal “crack codes” to access their website and circumvent access control measures under the DMCA, or believe you are using keyword generators, and you have no other evidence of paying for a license, you can expect the software attorneys to do the hard court press to try to achieve the maximum settlement.
  15. At the end of the day, once settlement is reached, the architect, design, or engineering firm will sign the settlement agreement, which will hopefully contain a confidentiality clause.  For a good discussion of terms if you wind up in a BSA audit involving Autodesk audit, make sure to check out this blog that highlights some of the common legal terms to be aware of.

At any rate, this is the general flavor of these types of cases.  If you find your business is in this situation, call us at the number above and below.  We have helped many companies deal with their aggressive legal team.  You can go to this page to see an overview of some of our sample software audit settlements.

Autodesk subscription pricing models

Here are some of the pricing models for popular versions of Autodesk Software (check their website for current rates and details and limitations, which may vary):

  • Maya (1 year subscription – $1,470  2 year subscription $2,795, 3 year subscription $3970)
  • Inventor (1 year subscription – $1,890,  2 year subscription $3,590, 3 year subscription $5,105)
  • AEC – Architect, Engineering & Construction (1 year subscription – $2,690,  2 year subscription $5,110, 3 year subscription $7,265)
  • Powermill
  • Autocad (1 year subscription – $1,4o0  2 year subscription $2,660, 3 year subscription $3780)
  • Autocad Architecture (1 year subscription – $1,575,  2 year subscription $2,990, 3 year subscription $4255)
  • Revit (1 year subscription – $1,4o0  2 year subscription $2,660, 3 year subscription $3780)
  • 3ds Max (1 year subscription – $2,000,  2 year subscription $3,800, 3 year subscription $5400)

They offer free trials for most of their products.  They also offer monthly subscription models to show more flexibility.

Autodesk Compliance Resources

Here are a few key links that can help you with licensing issues:

  1.  How to find your serial number
  2. Licensing overview
  3. Locate an authorized reseller

Contact a Autodesk license defense law firm

Our intellectual property law firm has helped many companies across the United States who are dealing with responding to a software audit demand letter.  Often times these investigations are triggered by an “informant” (usually Autodesk cases that come through the business software alliance) or by a job posting (when they can see your company has no license), an illegal , posting credentials on a LinkedIn website, or even from Architecture or Engineering magazines and publications that describe a new project.  Regardless of the situation, we can help you get these cases resolved for the lowest possible settlement amount and the best settlement terms you can get.

If you received what we jokingly refer to as “the love letter” contact us for a free no-cost initial consultation. We offer low flat rate (predictable) legal fees that makes it affordable for you to have a copyright lawyer on your side, to deal with the experienced IP experts on their side.  Call us at (877) 276-5084.


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