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Pirates Beware: The Software Police are Looking For You - A CAD Users' Guide to Copyright Infringement  

By: Susan Maclean  This article was first published in the January 1996 issue of CAD Systems magazine.

About 58 of every 100 business software programs in use in Canada last year were illegally copied, representing an estimated value of more than $345 million. Whatever name you give it ( copyright infringement, 'soft-lifting', software piracy) it's a problem that just keeps growing and growing as the use of software increases.

"Piracy almost sounds romantic," complains Frank Clegg, general manager, Microsoft Canada and president of the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST). "It's stealing. So let's stop calling it piracy and not give it a connotation other than what it is. If you showed up for work in a stolen car, I think the majority of people would say 'I don't think that's right.' But because it's software and it's not quite as tangible, I don't think we're as hard core about it as we could be.

"Because there are more people buying software, there are more people stealing it. We are seeing a great effort by the large Financial Post 100 companies. Just about all of them have a formal policy and employees know that they can be terminated if they're caught stealing software. So now we want to work on the small and medium businesses and also with the people on the home front.

"Software is intellectual property created at enormous cost," he adds. "It is protected by law. Stealing software is like stealing anything else. It is wrong."

Art Cooper, manager of engineering services, Paul Wurth Ltd., agrees. The company is primarily an engineering company, but also sells equipment and processing for metals handling and producing.

"We had a philosophical discussion when we started using CAD about 10 years ago," he recalls. "One of the things that annoyed people in our company is that some of our customers pirate our equipment. I had difficulty with the idea of pirating somebody else's products, when we don't like them pirating our products. We explained this to the president.

"Our livelihood depends on doing drawings," he adds, "so it would be very silly to do that with essentially stolen property which could be taken away from you. If you were a mechanic, you wouldn't steal all your tools. When the police came and charged you with possession of stolen property, they'd take your tools away. It just doesn't make any sense."

Autodesk Canada's general manager Dave Mountain describes the illegal use of software as the single largest problem facing the software industry today. "It's similar to people putting the extra outlet on their cable in their basement or in their bedroom. It's not just viewed as theft."

He figures that considering the downstream revenue that the Canadian dealers are losing as a result of software piracy, including lost revenue to training and support contracts through the sale of software, about $100 million in Canada annually is lost to Autodesk alone.

"We estimate that for every legal copy of AutoCAD in use in Canada, there's an illegal copy."

THE LAW & YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES

In 1988, Parliament amended the Canadian Copyright Act to expressly include computer programs in the definition of literary work. This clearly confirmed that software is entitled to copyright protection.

The Act prohibits making unauthorized copies of software programs without the consent of the copyright owner. The exceptions are a user's right to make a backup copy or to adapt a program to another computer language to make it compatible with the user's computer. Both these exceptions are limited to a single copy for personal use which must be destroyed when the user is no longer the original owner. The Act makes it an offense to knowingly produce, distribute or import for sale infringing copies of computer programs.

Effective January 1, 1994, a rental right was added to the act so that the rental of such a program for gain constitutes copyright infringement.

So, as a software user, your first reponsibility is to purchase original programs only for your use. It is illegal to purchase a single set of original software to load onto more than one computer or to lend, copy or distribute software for any reason without the prior consent of the software manufacturer.

THE ENFORCERS

Two software industry groups have the support of The Canadian government and the RCMP who have actively participated in protecting the rights of copyright owners.

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) - Member companies of the Business Software Alliance are Autodesk Inc., Bentley Systems Inc., Intergraph Corporation, Lotus Development Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, Novell and the WordPerfect Applications Group, and The Santa Cruz Operation.

Their mission is to eradicate software piracy through enforcement, education and public policy activities in more than 60 countries, including Canada. The BSA works with governments around the world to provide guidance for strengthening copyright laws and increase enforcement. It operates 35 hotlines around the world for callers seeking information or to report suspected incidents of software theft. The hotline number in Canada is 1-800-688-2721.

Since its inception in 1988, the BSA has filed nearly 600 lawsuits worldwide against suspected software copyright infringers. Founding member Autodesk has recovered nearly US$20 million to date from firms in North America. Autodesk's own hotline number is 1-800-NO COPIES. The company's anti-theft department in the U.S. reports they are currently negotiating settlements with more than 20 firms in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary in the engineering, architectural, manufacturing and educational industries.

Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST) - Nine software companies in Canada have teamed up as the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST). Autodesk Canada Inc. is the only CAD software member to date. CAAST is fighting illegal software use through education and, when software pirates are caught red-handed, through litigation. The group offers a guide to software management via its CAAST anti-piracy hotline (1-800-263-9700). But CAAST also invites people to call that number and leave anonymous tips on the recording. CAAST has followed up some of those tips by bringing in the Federal Court of Canada to conduct surprise raids.

One of CAAST's raids last summer resulted in a claim against Kellam Berg Engineering & Surveys Ltd. in Calgary. The 45-employee firm was accused of using apparently illegal copies of AutoCAD and other software distributed by Lotus, Microsoft and Symantec. As this is written, negotiations are underway for an out-of-court settlement.

Raids aren't the typical approach CAAST takes, reassures Clegg. "We'll usually send a letter and say 'you've been accused, why don't you go through this self-audit process and voluntarily clean this up yourself'. Then they might come back to us and make a donation to CAAST or whatever. We've only gone with an order from a judge less than five times in Canada."

What happens if your company is raided? Do you have the right to refuse an audit?

"If we have an anton pillar order from the judge that we're allowed to search the grounds, no, you can't refuse," answers Clegg. "It's no different from having a stolen car in your garage and someone shows up and says I've got a court order here that you've got a stolen car in your garage. You can't really refuse. In fact, if we have a sheriff or somebody with us, forcefully you can be made to stand away from the equipment so we can inspect it."

THE LAWBREAKERS

There are three types of popular piracy:

Soft-lifting is the most common form of software piracy in the CAD industry.

"If you're the owner of the company, make sure you know what the employees have got on the computer and what they're doing with it," cautions the owner of a firm caught with illegal copies of AutoCAD and who wished to remain anonymous. "The key issue is to understand your licenses and make sure your people understand the licenses. Then watch that they keep doing it right and don't get sloppy.

"Our biggest mistake is I trusted my employees to manage my systems and I didn't look into it. When they came and audited us, there was stuff copied all over the place. People weren't using it, but that doesn't matter. It was an infringement of the copyright.

"It was a big surprise to me that when we upgraded from AutoCAD 11 to 12 we had to throw the old version away," he adds. "I thought we still owned the rights to AutoCAD 11. I didn't know the rules. As soon as the discovery was made, we corrected it."

Of course he wasn't the only one making those mistakes as Les Nip, director of sales for the CAD Resource Centre reports.

"We do have some larger organizations where at the departmental level the user of the software is actually loading it on several machines and the upper management may not be aware of that," he admits. "The problem for those larger corporations is they only budget so much money, so the upper management only gives out so much. You've got to deal with whatever you get. So it's the process of educating people, and making them aware of the legal consequences."

But not everyone seems convinced the problem is ignorance.

"It's 100% a cost issue," says Bruce Lamb, president of Autodesk dealer Automated Design Systems. "They feel that the cost being charged may be excessive. They'll say 'well how much does it cost to duplicate these manuals?' They don't see the amount of research and development that goes into creating the product, supporting the product and developing the product so that there are new features coming out. My argument to that has been, 'well if you think Autodesk is making too much money, then you should be buying Autodesk shares, so that you're taking part in those supposedly excess profits.'

"If they steal the software because it's too expensive, they shouldn't be using it," he argues.

THE PENALTIES & RISKS

If caught with pirated software, you or your company may face civil and criminal penalties. Civil remedies include an injunction, an award of damages and an accounting of profits. Criminal penalties for copyright infringement include a fine of up to $1 million and/or a jail term of up to five years. The largest Canadian fine to date has been $60,000 with some community service work.

CAAST lead counsel Mike Eisen predicts the penalties for illegal software use will get stiffer. The penalties now start with a $25,000 fine and six months in jail for a summary conviction. "Increasingly as these cases are publicized, the fines will get stiffer and we'll be seeing an increase over time as crown attorneys can argue against ignorance," Eisen warns.

The negative publicity alone can be a severe penalty. "We made a mistake, yes, but the media attention was unfair," an anonymous 'caught' engineering firm spokesperson recalls. "We are professionals. Piracy is making copies and selling them for gain. We weren't. People interpreted us as major time bad guys. We lost clients over this."

Even if you're not caught, you face other unnecessary risks. Copied software is the number one way that computer viruses are spread. You may also have inadequate or defective documentation. You won't have the technical product support that is available to registered users. Nor will you get the software upgrades, product tips and new product information.

Plus, as Lamb pointed out, you slow the rate of the software industry's growth and stifle its innovation.

"If you assume that the Canadian revenue for AutoCAD and other Autodesk products is roughly $25 million per year, then there is another $25 million per year of software being copied," adds Mountain. "Approximately US$60 million every year goes into research and development on our products. The legal users are being robbed of some new features and enhancements that could be put into the product if the revenue streams would allow an increase in our development. The jobs not being filled at authorized training centres, dealerships and support houses could probably be upwards of 50 or 60 in Canada. Just the loss in (Canadian) tax revenue alone is $2.5 million per year. I think it affects everybody."

SOFTWARE SUPPLIERS' RESPONSIBILITIES

As one reformed CAD soft-lifter noted, however, the door swings two ways. Software companies surely have some responsibility here. Because of AutoCAD's predominant market share, Autodesk is the first to come to mind.

Even though fully committed to adhering to copyright requirements, Cooper remarks: "In a way, piracy has been good for Autodesk. So many people have pirated AutoCAD that it has become the standard. The piracy has been responsible for them being the biggest. Once people copy it, they learn how to use it. Once they learn how to use it, they prefer it. Unless you have continual access to upgrades, you can't keep copying the upgrades. Usually you have to buy at least one, so they get the sale of at least one that they might not otherwise get. There are cheaper packages that do the same thing, but because they were one of the first and were widely copied, they became the industry standard."

"Companies like Autodesk shouldn't complain about piracy; I think they encourage it," comments Serge Bouhadana at BAGH, a distributor for Architrion CAD software. "They're not protecting their software. I think it helps them because it creates a huge community of users. As soon as a company (pirating the software) starts getting serious, then they'll purchase the software anyway. You have a lot of small organizations that cannot afford it, so they basically copy it. It's so easy. You really have to be very, very honest not to use it.

"We have hardware protection in our software and basically we haven't had any piracy," he adds. "To my knowledge, no one has broken the dongle we use."

Interestingly, Bentley Systems joined the BSA in February 1995. Although their MicroStation product features a hardware lock, marketing vice president Yoav Etiel likens that to putting bars on windows. "It doesn't mean someone determined to get in won't get in." Joining the fight against piracy certainly demonstrated support to their new distribution channel of 500 plus VARS worldwide, particularly in the Middle East and Africa where BSA stats reveal piracy rates soaring close to 100%.

One CAD user who requested anonymity complained that Autodesk's requirement that old versions of AutoCAD be discarded when an upgrade is purchased is impractical. Some other programs his firm uses depend on the AutoCAD engine but aren't compatible with Release 13.

He also suggested that AutoCAD would be copied less if Autodesk offered site licensing. He noted that a third-party vendor sells an eight-station site license for about $12,000 and only charges $250 for each additional seat. AutoCAD is $3,500 for the first, second, third and every other seat.

Another option which Adobe PhotoShop uses, for example, is a network licensing scheme which provides a floating license for a set number of users who check the software out each time they use it. If a company has a floating license for six users and all copies are in use, for example, a seventh user could not access the software until one of the others checked it back in. As well as cost effective, this would offer the additional advantage of internal monitoring and self-auditing. The need for more licenses would also become more apparent.

Graphisoft's pay per use scheme for its ArchiCAD software is still another option other software companies could adopt. For those who find the $5000 to $6000 price tag a big outlay, they can purchase 50 hours of access for $300 ($450 for the first 50 hours). ArchiCAD offers the benefit of being operable without the meter running, since the hardware lock simply enables the user to save the work to a file.

Pal Szabo, president, Graphisoft Support Centre, isn't bothered by the illegal use of software. The reason goes beyond ArchiCAD's hardware protection.

"The illegal copies are indirectly helping the marketing for it," he explains. "If they already are familiar with the software, when they become professional, they will choose to have the legal version with the support. It is absolutely no effort to sell it. That's why we give ArchiCAD away: so everyone can play with it and become familiar with it. Our demo CD is a fully functional version. But unless they have a hardlock key, they cannot save a file."

HOW YOU COULD GET CAUGHT

Meanwhile, those sponsoring the toll-free Hotlines for reporting licensing violations say the calls keep coming in. The most common callers are disgruntled ex-employees that know abuse of the license agreement is going on and report it. But it's not just employees who call.

"Just two weeks ago I had a user of CAD with a number of licensed copies of AutoCAD phone me anonymously and basically say, 'I'm getting sick and tired of having to compete for contracts with these people who you already know are pirates when their cost base isn't the same as mine'," says Mountain. "He called the anti-piracy hotline and gave some names and we are actively pursuing those accounts."

Companies have also been caught when an employee called into Autodesk for technical support. Autodesk doesn't support any users directly, but if a user calls, Autodesk staff will ask "how many copies of AutoCAD do you have?" If the user says "Oh, we have ten machines," for example, a quick record check can reveal if all those seats are legitimate.

A dealer providing technical support may see photocopied templates on a digitizer. No documentation can also be an indicator, although a lot of users store documentation in a closet. The same serial number on multiple computers is certainly a tip off.

"We're working with clients and we see what they've got, especially if we've been working with them for a couple of years," explains Lamb. "So we notice if we walk in and we see that they've got two extra workstations that we know they haven't bought through AutoCAD."

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF YOU'RE GUILTY

Software companies ask that you make remedies to the companies whose software has been copied. Indeed, you may save money by coming forward. If you wait until you're caught with copied AutoCAD, for example, you'll have to buy AutoCAD at the full list price instead of the street price ( not to mention any fine).

"Dealers are walking a fine line, worried that their users are afraid of coming in for fear they will get turned in," reports Marti Mattia, with Autodesk Inc.'s industry marketing group. "Dealers would rather work with customers to bring them up to a legal standard. For example, they might work out a one-year plan to spread out the payments so the customer doesn't have to pay all at once."

"If we find out that a client is shy one or two licenses of AutoCAD, it puts us in a difficult position as well because our authorization agreement is that we have to report known cases," agrees Lamb. "We certainly try wherever possible to work with the client, to get them legitimate.

"I would say in 95% of the cases, that works. But there has been the case where they say, "we just don't want to do that." We have reported them and Autodesk has gone after them. It doesn't happen very often, but it has happened. They're blatantly abusing the license agreement and they know it and they don't care. Autodesk takes a very dim view of that and so does the rest of the industry."

You might also consider a scaled down version of software if it is available. For example, Paul Wurth's Cooper says his firm finds AutoCAD LT works well in a situation where temporary drafting help is hired for handling an extra heavy load. "The rest of that time, the computer's sitting empty, so rather than have a $4,000 software package that's not being used, it makes more sense to buy a $600 package. It's easier for them to learn, plus it's a cheaper seat for us."

"It makes no good business sense to pirate software," concludes Bentley's Etiel. "It's very much like taking something that's not yours and using it as part of your business. I think companies are very careful about taking anything else, but this is still an exception."

Since its inception in 1988, the BSA has filed nearly 600 lawsuits worldwide against suspected software copyright infringers. Founding member Autodesk has recovered nearly US$20 million to date from firms in North America. Autodesk's own hotline number is 1-800-NO COPIES. The company's anti-theft department in the U.S. reports they are currently negotiating settlements with more than 20 firms in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary in the engineering, architectural, manufacturing and educational industries.

Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST) - Nine software companies in Canada have teamed up as the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST). Autodesk Canada Inc. is the only CAD software member to date. CAAST is fighting illegal software use through education and, when software pirates are caught red-handed, through litigation. The group offers a guide to software management via its CAAST anti-piracy hotline (1-800-263-9700). But CAAST also invites people to call that number and leave anonymous tips on the recording. CAAST has followed up some of those tips by bringing in the Federal Court of Canada to conduct surprise raids.

One of CAAST's raids last summer resulted in a claim against Kellam Berg Engineering & Surveys Ltd. in Calgary. The 45-employee firm was accused of using apparently illegal copies of AutoCAD and other software distributed by Lotus, Microsoft and Symantec. As this is written, negotiations are underway for an out-of-court settlement.

Raids aren't the typical approach CAAST takes, reassures Clegg. "We'll usually send a letter and say 'you've been accused, why don't you go through this self-audit process and voluntarily clean this up yourself'. Then they might come back to us and make a donation to CAAST or whatever. We've only gone with an order from a judge less than five times in Canada."

What happens if your company is raided? Do you have the right to refuse an audit?

"If we have an anton pillar order from the judge that we're allowed to search the grounds, no, you can't refuse," answers Clegg. "It's no different from having a stolen car in your garage and someone shows up and says I've got a court order here that you've got a stolen car in your garage. You can't really refuse. In fact, if we have a sheriff or somebody with us, forcefully you can be made to stand away from the equipment so we can inspect it."

THE LAWBREAKERS

There are three types of popular piracy:

Soft-lifting is the most common form of software piracy in the CAD industry.

"If you're the owner of the company, make sure you know what the employees have got on the computer and what they're doing with it," cautions the owner of a firm caught with illegal copies of AutoCAD and who wished to remain anonymous. "The key issue is to understand your licenses and make sure your people understand the licenses. Then watch that they keep doing it right and don't get sloppy.

"Our biggest mistake is I trusted my employees to manage my systems and I didn't look into it. When they came and audited us, there was stuff copied all over the place. People weren't using it, but that doesn't matter. It was an infringement of the copyright.

"It was a big surprise to me that when we upgraded from AutoCAD 11 to 12 we had to throw the old version away," he adds. "I thought we still owned the rights to AutoCAD 11. I didn't know the rules. As soon as the discovery was made, we corrected it."

Of course he wasn't the only one making those mistakes as Les Nip, director of sales for the CAD Resource Centre reports.

"We do have some larger organizations where at the departmental level the user of the software is actually loading it on several machines and the upper management may not be aware of that," he admits. "The problem for those larger corporations is they only budget so much money, so the upper management only gives out so much. You've got to deal with whatever you get. So it's the process of educating people, and making them aware of the legal consequences."

But not everyone seems convinced the problem is ignorance.

"It's 100% a cost issue," says Bruce Lamb, president of Autodesk dealer Automated Design Systems. "They feel that the cost being charged may be excessive. They'll say 'well how much does it cost to duplicate these manuals?' They don't see the amount of research and development that goes into creating the product, supporting the product and developing the product so that there are new features coming out. My argument to that has been, 'well if you think Autodesk is making too much money, then you should be buying Autodesk shares, so that you're taking part in those supposedly excess profits.'

"If they steal the software because it's too expensive, they shouldn't be using it," he argues.

THE PENALTIES & RISKS

If caught with pirated software, you or your company may face civil and criminal penalties. Civil remedies include an injunction, an award of damages and an accounting of profits. Criminal penalties for copyright infringement include a fine of up to $1 million and/or a jail term of up to five years. The largest Canadian fine to date has been $60,000 with some community service work.

CAAST lead counsel Mike Eisen predicts the penalties for illegal software use will get stiffer. The penalties now start with a $25,000 fine and six months in jail for a summary conviction. "Increasingly as these cases are publicized, the fines will get stiffer and we'll be seeing an increase over time as crown attorneys can argue against ignorance," Eisen warns.

The negative publicity alone can be a severe penalty. "We made a mistake, yes, but the media attention was unfair," an anonymous 'caught' engineering firm spokesperson recalls. "We are professionals. Piracy is making copies and selling them for gain. We weren't. People interpreted us as major time bad guys. We lost clients over this."

Even if you're not caught, you face other unnecessary risks. Copied software is the number one way that computer viruses are spread. You may also have inadequate or defective documentation. You won't have the technical product support that is available to registered users. Nor will you get the software upgrades, product tips and new product information.

Plus, as Lamb pointed out, you slow the rate of the software industry's growth and stifle its innovation.

"If you assume that the Canadian revenue for AutoCAD and other Autodesk products is roughly $25 million per year, then there is another $25 million per year of software being copied," adds Mountain. "Approximately US$60 million every year goes into research and development on our products. The legal users are being robbed of some new features and enhancements that could be put into the product if the revenue streams would allow an increase in our development. The jobs not being filled at authorized training centres, dealerships and support houses could probably be upwards of 50 or 60 in Canada. Just the loss in (Canadian) tax revenue alone is $2.5 million per year. I think it affects everybody."

SOFTWARE SUPPLIERS' RESPONSIBILITIES

As one reformed CAD soft-lifter noted, however, the door swings two ways. Software companies surely have some responsibility here. Because of AutoCAD's predominant market share, Autodesk is the first to come to mind.

Even though fully committed to adhering to copyright requirements, Cooper remarks: "In a way, piracy has been good for Autodesk. So many people have pirated AutoCAD that it has become the standard. The piracy has been responsible for them being the biggest. Once people copy it, they learn how to use it. Once they learn how to use it, they prefer it. Unless you have continual access to upgrades, you can't keep copying the upgrades. Usually you have to buy at least one, so they get the sale of at least one that they might not otherwise get. There are cheaper packages that do the same thing, but because they were one of the first and were widely copied, they became the industry standard."

"Companies like Autodesk shouldn't complain about piracy; I think they encourage it," comments Serge Bouhadana at BAGH, a distributor for Architrion CAD software. "They're not protecting their software. I think it helps them because it creates a huge community of users. As soon as a company (pirating the software) starts getting serious, then they'll purchase the software anyway. You have a lot of small organizations that cannot afford it, so they basically copy it. It's so easy. You really have to be very, very honest not to use it.

"We have hardware protection in our software and basically we haven't had any piracy," he adds. "To my knowledge, no one has broken the dongle we use."

Interestingly, Bentley Systems joined the BSA in February 1995. Although their MicroStation product features a hardware lock, marketing vice president Yoav Etiel likens that to putting bars on windows. "It doesn't mean someone determined to get in won't get in." Joining the fight against piracy certainly demonstrated support to their new distribution channel of 500 plus VARS worldwide, particularly in the Middle East and Africa where BSA stats reveal piracy rates soaring close to 100%.

One CAD user who requested anonymity complained that Autodesk's requirement that old versions of AutoCAD be discarded when an upgrade is purchased is impractical. Some other programs his firm uses depend on the AutoCAD engine but aren't compatible with Release 13.

He also suggested that AutoCAD would be copied less if Autodesk offered site licensing. He noted that a third-party vendor sells an eight-station site license for about $12,000 and only charges $250 for each additional seat. AutoCAD is $3,500 for the first, second, third and every other seat.

Another option which Adobe PhotoShop uses, for example, is a network licensing scheme which provides a floating license for a set number of users who check the software out each time they use it. If a company has a floating license for six users and all copies are in use, for example, a seventh user could not access the software until one of the others checked it back in. As well as cost effective, this would offer the additional advantage of internal monitoring and self-auditing. The need for more licenses would also become more apparent.

Graphisoft's pay per use scheme for its ArchiCAD software is still another option other software companies could adopt. For those who find the $5000 to $6000 price tag a big outlay, they can purchase 50 hours of access for $300 ($450 for the first 50 hours). ArchiCAD offers the benefit of being operable without the meter running, since the hardware lock simply enables the user to save the work to a file.

Pal Szabo, president, Graphisoft Support Centre, isn't bothered by the illegal use of software. The reason goes beyond ArchiCAD's hardware protection.

"The illegal copies are indirectly helping the marketing for it," he explains. "If they already are familiar with the software, when they become professional, they will choose to have the legal version with the support. It is absolutely no effort to sell it. That's why we give ArchiCAD away: so everyone can play with it and become familiar with it. Our demo CD is a fully functional version. But unless they have a hardlock key, they cannot save a file."

HOW YOU COULD GET CAUGHT

Meanwhile, those sponsoring the toll-free Hotlines for reporting licensing violations say the calls keep coming in. The most common callers are disgruntled ex-employees that know abuse of the license agreement is going on and report it. But it's not just employees who call.

"Just two weeks ago I had a user of CAD with a number of licensed copies of AutoCAD phone me anonymously and basically say, 'I'm getting sick and tired of having to compete for contracts with these people who you already know are pirates when their cost base isn't the same as mine'," says Mountain. "He called the anti-piracy hotline and gave some names and we are actively pursuing those accounts."

Companies have also been caught when an employee called into Autodesk for technical support. Autodesk doesn't support any users directly, but if a user calls, Autodesk staff will ask "how many copies of AutoCAD do you have?" If the user says "Oh, we have ten machines," for example, a quick record check can reveal if all those seats are legitimate.

A dealer providing technical support may see photocopied templates on a digitizer. No documentation can also be an indicator, although a lot of users store documentation in a closet. The same serial number on multiple computers is certainly a tip off.

"We're working with clients and we see what they've got, especially if we've been working with them for a couple of years," explains Lamb. "So we notice if we walk in and we see that they've got two extra workstations that we know they haven't bought through AutoCAD."

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF YOU'RE GUILTY

Software companies ask that you make remedies to the companies whose software has been copied. Indeed, you may save money by coming forward. If you wait until you're caught with copied AutoCAD, for example, you'll have to buy AutoCAD at the full list price instead of the street price ( not to mention any fine).

"Dealers are walking a fine line, worried that their users are afraid of coming in for fear they will get turned in," reports Marti Mattia, with Autodesk Inc.'s industry marketing group. "Dealers would rather work with customers to bring them up to a legal standard. For example, they might work out a one-year plan to spread out the payments so the customer doesn't have to pay all at once."

"If we find out that a client is shy one or two licenses of AutoCAD, it puts us in a difficult position as well because our authorization agreement is that we have to report known cases," agrees Lamb. "We certainly try wherever possible to work with the client, to get them legitimate.

"I would say in 95% of the cases, that works. But there has been the case where they say, "we just don't want to do that." We have reported them and Autodesk has gone after them. It doesn't happen very often, but it has happened. They're blatantly abusing the license agreement and they know it and they don't care. Autodesk takes a very dim view of that and so does the rest of the industry."

You might also consider a scaled down version of software if it is available. For example, Paul Wurth's Cooper says his firm finds AutoCAD LT works well in a situation where temporary drafting help is hired for handling an extra heavy load. "The rest of that time, the computer's sitting empty, so rather than have a $4,000 software package that's not being used, it makes more sense to buy a $600 package. It's easier for them to learn, plus it's a cheaper seat for us."

"It makes no good business sense to pirate software," concludes Bentley's Etiel. "It's very much like taking something that's not yours and using it as part of your business. I think companies are very careful about taking anything else, but this is still an exception."

Then again, is copying and stealing ideas particularly limited to software? Ever noticed how many fake Rolex watches there are? Maybe the bottom line is really professionalism. As Graphisoft's Szabo comments, "each job an architect does is worth too much to gamble on software or any tool which hasn't a guarantee it's going to work or has no support with it."

Susan Maclean, freelance writer/editor, covers a wide range of IT applications. She is based in Guelph, Ont., and can be reached at www.sumac.net

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