2019 Software Piracy Updates - Altium Electronic Design Software
We are seeing a new name pop up on our software litigation list - Altium Software. According to their website:
"Altium is the world's leading provider of PCB design software, PCB component and data management software and the host of AltiumLive — the industry's fastest-growing conference for PCB designers and engineers."
You may have received a demand letter (possibly with a sample federal court lawsuit) that threatens to sue the company and/or its officers and directors in a copyright infringement suit. The letter may come from the Software Compliance Group, or worse, from McInnes , an intellectual property law firm.
Some of the products include:
- Circuit Studio
- Altium Nexus
- Concord Pro
- Altium Designer
You may have received a letter from the Worcester, Massachusetts law firm of McInnes and McLane. They may be representing Altium software directly, or on behalf of the Business Software Alliance (less likely).
"Altium Designer includes a streamlined licensing system, enabling you to get licensed and up-and-running with your Altium Designer Software in a timely and efficient manner. The system offers various licensing types to meet, and suit, your licensing needs :
- On-Demand - client-side license acquisition is administered by an Altium managed server.
- Standalone - client-side license acquisition is managed by the user through use of a licensing file (*.alf).
- Private Server - client-side license acquisition is administered by the Private License Service of an Altium Infrastructure Server - a free, on-premise server that provides remote Altium product installation and license management."
PDRSS (Piracy Detection Reporting Security Software).
Their demand letter basically states that they use what I refer to as "phone home" technology (or PDRSS) as they call it. This basically tracks users computer's who access the software (for example, without a proper license of the software). Certain information gets send back to Atlium such as:
1. Computer Name
2. Mac Address
3. Number of instances the software was accessed
The Demand letter may threaten to sue your company (and officer's and directors)
Some business owners believe that they cannot be sued PERSONALLY for the acts of their company, and/or its employees, contractors, etc. This is not entirely true. Where willful infringement can be shown, officers and directors can in fact be held personally liable despite notions of a "corporate veil."
Here was the End User License Agreement ("EULA") that I found on their website. It notes:
"19.6. Some Licensed Materials contain computer software that allows for the detection of unauthorized use and/or copying of such Licensed Materials and the reporting of the same to Altium. You understand and agree that in connection with any such reporting certain personal identifying information such as name and email address may be collected to allow Altium to protect the rights in its Licensed Materials."
They will likely argue that this gives them the right to monitor your usage of the software. But is this sufficient to notify you of the items they are collecting? To me, this is a potential open question.
It's Just me - I am a little guy!
This is another comment I often get. "We only have two employees why would they want to go after us?" In some cases they may be seeking thousands of dollars and YES, they will go after little companies, startups, mom-and-pops, and medium to large size companies. They really do not discriminate as to the size of the allegedly infringing company. Once your case is elevated to a law firm that enforces copyrights the law firm will usually have instructions to seek a settlement. So, when this happens, the size of your company (or the fact that you may be closing down the company - i.e. dissolving it), may not prevent them from going after your PERSONALLY if they can show "willful copyright infringement." Ad we have noted in other blogs, officers and directors can be held personally liable for pirating software.
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Does Altium, LLC file software piracy lawsuits?
I did a search on Pacer today. I did not see much as far as copyright infringement lawsuits are concerned. I did see a trademark and they have been in court before (also as a defendant). However, as I tell my clients "you don't want to be the poster child or the test case." Here is the printout.
Contact us if you need a Copyright Software Infringement Lawyer to help minimize your legal exposure!!
We can help with licensing compliance issues including federal court lawsuits. Email us or call us at (877) 276-5084. In this area of law there is no substitute for experience. We have been helping companies both large and small for many years now. In many cases, we can fix a low predictable flat rate fee.
Some things to keep in mind if you get a software audit demand letter
1. They have lawyers on your team, it may be well advised to have a copyright attorney on your team.
2. We will seek to obtain a "piracy log" from them to see how many alleged "instances" of infringement there are
3. We will look to see how far back the infringement dates go (for example, in the year 2019 we will see infringements alleged from 2017). This raises the questions, if Altium knew about the infringement in 2017 why didn't they do anything about it? Send a cease and desist letter? Warning letter? Demand that all uses stop? Are they properly mitigating their damages or just letting the damages "rack up" (normally a Plaintiff in a software litigatino cannot collect damages it could have prevented). Does this raise issues of copyright abandonment? Copyright misuse? Estoppel, Waiver? Lots of things to consider in raising your defenses to the software piracy claims.
4. What will this cost to settle? What are the attorney fees going to cost me (we offer low FLAT RATE FEES - predictable) in most non-litigation cases. What will the settlement agreement look like?
5. Even though I have a "corporate veil" can they hold officers and directors PERSONALLY LIABLE? Short answer is YES, there is always the possibility in the right circumstances.
6. Is their "phone home technology" (PDRSS as they call it) is that creating a security vulnerability in your organization? Did it cause any theft of data or trade secrets or lead to a data breach? Obviously, there is something going in and out of your network reporting back to the home company Altium from what we can tell.
7. Is there a potential "fair use defense" for "research, scholarly or educational" (non-commercial) uses of software such as using it to learn skills in between jobs, installing it on your computer just to see how it looks, etc.?
Email us or call us at (877) 276-5084.