Perth company hits back at BSA over piracy allegations

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Perth company hits back at BSA over piracy allegations

A Perth business that paid a $50,000 settlement for alleged software piracy has hit back at the vendor lobby group’s “largely incorrect” depiction of events.

BSA The Software Alliance – a group representing giant multinational software vendors such as Microsoft, Autodesk and Oracle – announced in December that gas safety firm Gastech had agreed to pay a penalty for licensing violations and to cease further copyright infringements.

A tip-off from a former employee had triggered the piracy enquiry against the northern Perth business. BSA claimed that Gastech initially denied the allegations then reformatted the hard drives of its computers when a licensing audit was demanded – a claim Gastech vehemently denies.

BSA argued the alleged hard drive reformatting meant Gastech was unable to “refute the evidence provided by the informant” and agreed to settle the case for a payment of $50,000 and an undertaking that copyright would no longer be infringed. BSA then handed a financial reward to the informant, an amount that can be up to $5,000.

Gastech refutes BSA’s depiction

However, Gastech’s solicitor, Glenn Scott of Arns & Associates, refuted BSA’s description of events. “The information provided to you by BSA is incorrect on a number of fronts,” he told CRN.

Scott said Gastech received a licence audit request in February from Siemens for its Solid Edge CAD software. With Siemens’ blessing, all versions of Solid Edge were then deleted in “a good faith attempt to resolve the inquiry” and the matter was considered closed.

The solicitor told CRN that Solid Edge had been used by a sole employee, who protested Gastech's decision to shift to Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks. According to Scott, that staff member was terminated in May.

Then in September, BSA threatened to commence legal proceedings against Gastech for piracy for a range of software – on the basis of a tip-off from the same ex-employee, Scott told CRN.

Settlement

To avoid a costly court case, Gastech settled with the BSA for $50,000 – an amount understood to be “substantially less” than the vendor group's original claim.

“Our client did not, and did not need to, purchase any further software to ensure compliance,” said Scott.

Gastech is especially aggrieved at BSA’s announcement that it had destroyed evidence by wiping computer hard drives. “That simply did not happen," said the solicitor. "Siemens were informed that an audit would be conducted and that any software found would be deleted. They did not object to that course of action. The destruction of evidence is a serious allegation that may amount to criminal conduct and the inclusion of that suggestion would be defamatory against those allegedly involved.”

Gastech is currently considering what actions it will take against the former employee for “maliciously causing of harm to our client by making false statements to BSA’s lawyers” and accepting reward money from BSA.

CRN has reached out to BSA for further comment.

Publicising anti-piracy work

BSA publicised the Gastech incident as well as the case of modular construction business Offsite to demonstrate the anti-piracy work that it had been doing in 2015.

Its story of Offsite’s settlement was similar, with allegations that the construction company had deleted the hard drives of its computers. In the subsequent “legal discussions”, Offsite disputed the extent of piracy to which the informant claimed and the matter was settled for a $30,000 payment plus an agreement for future compliance.

CRN contacted Offsite's director but had not received a response at the time of writing.

Western Australia was named as the “leading” state for settlements with the BSA in 2015. In a comparatively quiet year for piracy settlements, the state racked up more than $100,000 of penalties compared to previous leader Victoria, which was stung for $825,000 in 2014.

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