Think of a pirate. Its not an image
you might associate with architects, unless perhaps youre
Bob Kruger, vice president for enforcement for the Business
Software Alliance (BSA) in Washington, D.C.
The BSA, an industry group composed of
software heavyweights such as Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Autodesk,
and Bentley Systems, considers anyone who makes illegal copies
of commercial applications a pirate. Kruger says a fair
number of them are CAD users within the architecture
industry. Most of the companies we investigate are not
fly-by-night operations, he says. Theyre
good, well-managed companies that pay taxes and obey Occupational
Safety & Health Administration requirements. But when
it comes to software management, they have a blind spot.
Architects are not alone. Across all
industries, about a quarter of the commercial software in
the U.S. is being used illegally, representing approximately
$2.6 billion in lost revenues for software companies, according
to the BSA. In response, the group is becoming more aggressivesome
say excessively soin enforcing licensing agreements.
Currently, 500 companies are negotiating with BSA lawyers
to resolve compliance issues. Over the past 12 years, the
organization has received more than $83 million in penalties.
Claims can include fines of up to $150,000
for each copyright infringement, in addition to charges of
two to three times the standard price for any software a violator
must purchase so that the number of licenses they own is equal
to the number of people using the software. In extreme cases,
software vendors may attempt to recover profits attributable
to their software in court, a potentially deadly blow to an
architectural office that routinely uses CAD applications.
License violators may also face prosecution under federal
copyright laws, which carry maximum fines of $250,000 and
Almost all of the BSAs enforcement
cases begin with a lead submitted to its hotline
by a disgruntled employee who reports an employer that is
out of compliance. If BSA investigators find merit in the
claim, they usually send the alleged violator a warning letter
designed to instill fear. Some letters even advise the software
user to close down its business until any licensing discrepancies
are resolved, says Robert Zielinski, chair of the intellectual
property and information technology practice at Wolf, Block,
Schorr and Solis-Cohen, a Philadelphia law firm.
|Most software makers offer only
individually licensed copies of their products (diagram,
far left). But Autodesk and Bentley Systems offer network
server licenses for their CAD software, in which license
information resides in a single place (near left). Users
are notified automatically in cases of noncompliance.
Images: Courtesy Bentley
Zielinski says these letters are becoming
more commonplace, with more of them going to smaller companies
that may once have felt they could fly under the radar screens
of big software vendors. Before they receive a letter,
these companies dont understand the importance of software
licenses, Zielinski says. But once the letter
comes, they get religion very quickly.