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New York Water Authority settles software piracy claim for $35,000

David Andreatta – Staff writer
Local News – September 2, 2009 - 2:49pm

Alleged use of unlicensed computer software has cost the Monroe County Water Authority $35,000 to settle claims by a software piracy watchdog group.

The settlement was reached in July with the Business Software Alliance after the Washington, D.C.-based organization was tipped off by a whistleblower.

Fourteen unlicensed copies of two programs were installed on authority computers, including six copies of the Autodesk AutoCAD three-dimensional architectural design software and eight copies of Adobe Acrobat Pro graphics software, according to the settlement agreement.

Authority Executive Director Edward Marianetti said the infringement was the result of mistakes by the authority’s information technology department.

He said technicians inadvertently installed unlicensed Adobe software, believing the authority had purchased more licenses than it had, and that they also neglected to delete licensed copies of AutoCAD from old computers after the same version had been installed on new computers.

“This was not done maliciously,” Marianetti said, noting that the authority initiated a software audit upon receiving a letter from the organization in November citing copyright infringement. “Someone should have known what we purchased and they didn’t. I think they should have known to take the software off the old computers.”

Marianetti said no disciplinary action was taken against any employee.

The authority provided the settlement agreement to the Democrat and Chronicle after the newspaper had requested a copy of the BSA letter.

In addition to making the payment, the authority agreed to destroy the pirated software and implement a software code of ethics for employees. The code is slated to be approved by the board next week.

The settlement amount was based on a multiplier of the suggested retail prices of the unlicensed software. The latest versions of AutoCad and Adobe Acrobat Pro run about $4,000 and $450, respectively.

“It costs more to infringe software than it does to buy it legally,” said BSA Senior Director of Legal Affairs Jenny Blank. “It’s as simple as that.”

The organization, whose members include many of the nation’s best known software developers, collected about $9.5 million in settlements from companies around the world last year, Blank said.

But it is rare for a public agency to be the target of a BSA investigation. Blank said the organization does not track settlements by public and private entities, but recalled only a few with public agencies.

In the late 1990s, the organization settled software piracy cases with the city of Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the Jersey City Housing Authority in New Jersey.

The BSA has no regulatory authority to examine computers of private companies or public agencies. Rather it works with informants and its members to determine that unlicensed software is being used. When BSA verifies an allegation, it typically presents the offending company with an option to avoid litigation.

First published September 2, 2009





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