RealTime IT News

Publishing Company Settles Software Suit With SIIA

A New York-based publishing firm has agreed to pay $500,000 to resolve a copyright infringement suit filed by the Software & Information Industry Association on behalf of several prominent software vendors.

Whittiker Legal Publishing on Wednesday signed off on settlement to resolve a lawsuit brought against it in federal district court in the Eastern District of New York. In addition to the cash settlement, the company agreed to destroy all unlicensed copies of the Adobe, FileMaker and Symantec applications in its possession.

According to the SIIA, Whittiker executives claimed the violations brought to its attention were accidental and that it was unaware that it was infringing on the various software firms' copyrights.

Using fully licensed software is a basic corporate responsibility," Keith Kupferschmid, SIIA's senior vice president of intellectual property policy and enforcement, said in a release. "Businesses such as Whittiker are not absolved of responsibility simply because they are not aware of their infractions. Like all businesses, Whittiker had an obligation to ensure they were using only legitimate software."

Whittiker Legal Publishing officials were not immediately available for comment.

In its lawsuit, the SIIA accused Whittiker of installing and using multiple copies of the association's member companies' software without proper licenses.

"We need to devote sufficient resources and time to ensure our firm's future compliance with out software licenses," Dawn Polewac, business manager for Whittiker said in a release accompanying the announcement. "We didn’t know we had done anything wrong, but now we will certainly be more careful to check the licenses of software installed in our offices."

The SIIA was tipped off to Whittiker's illegal use of software through its Corporate Anti-Piracy program, which provides rewards of up to $1 million for tipsters who alert the association to illegal software use and pirating.

In October, Florida Benchmark, a mortgage survey company, agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against it by the SIIA on behalf of Autodesk.

Kupferschmid said the SIIA has paid out more than $39,500 in cash to 14 sources who have reported instances of software piracy through its Anti-Piracy reward program. The trade association offers rewards ranging from $500 for a settlement of $10,000 to $1 million for cases with settlements of more than $20 million to whistleblowers who report alleged software piracy through its Web site.

Kupferschmid said the SIIA and its attorneys follow up on tipsters through various investigative techniques before contacting the executives at the offending companies. If the companies don't come clean and settle up, SIIA attorneys pursue litigation on behalf of the software companies. Currently, the SIIA has between 200 and 250 cases pending, he said.

"To be frank, we don't litigate all that often," Kupferschmid said in an interview with InternetNews.com in October. "We'll litigate maybe two of them. Most of the companies do cooperate and work with us to become software compliant. It's fairly painless."

SIIA investigators, after discerning whether or not an online tip has any merit, go to the company's Web site looking for clues to support the allegation. They call around to other SIIA member companies to see if and how many software licenses they have for other applications. They dig through classified advertisements for IT workers to see what software skills they're looking for and what applications they're running.

The SIIA provides free, downloadable audit programs for accused companies to inventory all their applications. Sometimes the CIO or CEO doesn't even know the illegal versions of the software are being used.

Once a company or individual is caught, confronted and confesses, a settlement arrangement is worked out between the company and the SIIA. Typically, Kupferschmid said, the company will pay about triple the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) to the SIIA. After the attorneys take their cut, a portion of the settlement payment is returned to the aggrieved software vendor and the remainder is left to finance the SIIA's anti-piracy endeavors.

Kupferschmid said the SIIA collects "millions" in settlement payments each year.