Software Piracy FAQ's – Copyright Infringement Practice Area
Here are some of the frequently asked questions we get dealing with software piracy. Our law firm has helped clients across the United States with Autodesk, Microsoft, Adobe, CNC, Siemens, Vero software and others with audits, investigations, and litigation cases involving federal copyright infringement allegations. Contact us at the number above for a free consultation if you are facing a legal issue, subpoena, or lawsuit.
What is “Piracy of Software?”
There are several different definitions for software piracy. Here are a few I found on the internet.
According to TechTarget.com:
“Software piracy is the illegal copying, distribution, or use of software. It is such a profitable “business” that it has caught the attention of organized crime groups in a number of countries. According to the Business Software Alliance (BSA), about 36% of all software in current use is stolen. Software piracy causes significant lost revenue for publishers, which in turn results in higher prices for the consumer.”
According to Microsoft:
“Software piracy is the unauthorized copying, reproduction, use, or manufacture of software products. On average, for every authorized copy of computer software in use, at least one unauthorized or “pirated” copy is made. In some countries or regions, up to 99 unauthorized copies are made for every authorized copy in use. Software piracy harms everyone in the software community including you, the end user. Piracy results in higher prices for duly licensed users, reduced levels of support, and delays in the funding and development of new products, causing the overall selection and quality of software to suffer.”
Autodesk has one of the most frequently pirated software programs. As it notes:
“Using pirated software, even unknowingly, can cause system failure, endanger your personal data, and negatively affect your business productivity. CAD software is the fourth most pirated software in the world, according to a study by the Software & Information Industry Association. AutoCAD® is the most frequently pirated software from Autodesk obtained through torrents or cracks.”
Is it a Crime to use unlicensed software?
Installing certain “thresholds” of pirated software could amount to a crime resulting in criminal charges brought by the United States Government. Here are two blogs we wrote on this issue if you are concerned:
What are the penalties for illegal software usage?
Installing and using unlicensed software can bring on unwanted civil and criminal penalties, fines and fees. In the civil context, a Defendant could face misdemeanor or felony charges. From a civil standpoint, the damages can vary and can include either lost profits (ex. lost licensing fees or profits made from a particular part that was made using illegal software) and the Copyright statutes allows a registered copyright holder to seek up to $150,000 per infringed title (ex. a Microsoft Office Suite contains individually registered copies of Excel, Word, Powerpoint, Outlook, etc.). When involved in a Microsoft audit these products can be UNBUNDLED leading to a large amount of damages being sought for infringing use.
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What are “cracks” and “torrents”?
This refers to illegally accessing software via the use of tools that allow a user to circumvent access control technology.
Many companies rely on software piracy to help them with their profits (which many times are going SOUTH).
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What is a software piracy reward?
This refers to various publishers of software that give rewards to whistleblowers that report piracy. Here are two podcasts on this point:
If you work for a large organization (50 or more employees) and have knowledge of software infringement, our law firm can help in reporting the infringement and MAKING SURE YOU GET PAID pursuant to a structured UP FRONT deal. Call us for more information. Some software trade associations offer up to ONE MILLION in reward money for reporting theft and use of unlicensed pirated software such as Microsoft, Adobe, `Autodesk, CNC and others.
What happens if a company is engaged in Autodesk software piracy?
Autodesk has a wide variety of techniques they use to uncover infringement. Among those are:
1. Rely on “informants”
2. Search your linkedin profile (do you tout Revit, Autocad, Maya, or Inventor skills but not have licensed product? This could trigger an audit letter from Donahue Fitzgerald, LLP the main recovery firm for Autodesk.
3. See your company touting a product in a trade brochure or industry publication
4. Failure to renew support / maintenance
5. Sending “crash” reports voluntarily
6. Competitors who inform on you
7. Students using “educational” software who leave on bad terms
These are a few of the means we have seen. If you receive a letter, you should call us to receive a free initial consultation. We can discuss your case and general options available to you, and discuss your potential legal exposure which can be significant in these types of cases.
What NOT to do if you received a piracy notice or phone call from a representative like Vero software for example
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What are the penalties for using unlicensed Microsoft software?
We have talked about the typical “3x multiplier” used by the BSA when imposing penalties for licensing non-compliance.
Who is the business software alliance?
This is the main trade association that seeks to recover license revenue fees on behalf of its member companies which include:
• Adobe • ANSYS, Inc. • Apple • Autodesk • Bentley Systems • CA Technologies • CNC Software – Mastercam • DataStax, Inc. • DocuSign • IBM • Microsoft • Oracle • Salesforce.com • SAS Institute • Siemens PLM Software, Inc. • Splunk Inc. • Symantec • The MathWorks • Trend Micro • Trimble Solutions Corporation • Workday
What is the Software Information Industry Association (“SIIA”)?
This is another trade association that seeks to recover for lost infringement fees. Watch the video here.
How doe companies detect unlicensed software?
Some of the ways were listed above. Another way some companies find out about unlicensed software is via “phone home” technology that tracks users when they login in. These kinds of cases can be very serious and lead to large requests for monetary damages as they publisher may have sat around and watched your company rack up the logins over a period of one, two, three years or more. They claim their right to do this is set forth in the EULA licensing agreement which they claim discloses this type of “spyware” technology.
What are the defenses to copyright infringement of software products?
Here is a popular video we did that discusses potential defenses to copyright infringement.
Does your law firm help software companies recover lost licensing revenue?
Yes, if your company produces, develops or distributes copyrighted software programs, mobile applications, videos games, photographs, jewelry, books, films, video or other types of copyrighted content, we have a contingency fee recovery program available for you to help you recover lost licensing revenue attributable to piracy, both on and off the internet including counterfeit goods. Click here for more information.
For more information
Call to speak with Attorney Steve, The Software Lawyer. We can be reached at (877) 276-5084. For most non-litigation cases we are able to offer low (predictable) flat rate legal fees. When it comes to this niche area of law practice, there is no substitute for experience. We are often referred cases by other attorneys, including in-house counsel.