Business Software Alliance settles with Quebec company over software licence dispute

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has settled out-of-court with a Quebec company, reaching a settlement over litigation for copyright infringement.

In an press release dated Sept. 10, the BSA said it first contacted Electro-Kut Inc. in late 2012. Based in Laval, Que., Electro-Kut does sub-contracting work for manufacturers, specializing in electrical discharge machining.

The BSA informed the company they had received information the organization was using unauthorized copies of software licensed by Siemens Product Lifecycle Management, a member of the BSA.

In a press release, the BSA said it didn’t get any response from Electro-Kut when it asked the company to voluntarily perform an internal audit and to give the results to the BSA to review. Despite doing follow-up communications, Electro-Kut did not comply, nor did it respond to the audit request. The BSA filed a statement of claim in the Federal Court of Canada in Toronto in March.

As part of the settlement of the dispute, Electro-Kut paid undisclosed damages to the BSA. It also agreed to delete all unlicenced copies of software installed on its computers, to acquire any licences required to become compliant, and to commit to better practices in software licence management.

Software copyright “is something people take very, very seriously in Canada. We are only trying to set things straight. We are trying to protect the copyright of our members. We’re trying to essentially protect IT innovation,” said Rodger Correa, compliance marketing director for the BSA, in a phone interview. “The vast majority of the companies that we investigate are collaborative with us, and this is meant to be a process that is meant to do one thing. It is to legalize and eliminate the use of unlicenced software.”

The BSA, which represents more than 70 companies such as Apple Inc., Adobe Systems Inc., IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., McAfee Inc. and Symantec Corp., has 11 offices worldwide.

In the past, small businesses have said they find it difficult to comply with the BSA’s software licencing policies, or to obey copyright laws when they’re not familiar with IT.

“We understand that the majority … seems to align with small and medium-sized businesses and the SMBs. And we totally understand that larger corporations, larger organizations, have in general many more resources to dedicate to something such as a software management program,” Correa said.

“And we understand that small to medium-sized businesses are multi-tasking and there’s a lot on their plate. But we also understand when there’s a difference between licence mismanagement and blatant piracy … At the end of the day, as a business owner, they are fully responsible for what’s on their computers.”

In the case of Electro-Kut, company owner Christian Delisle refused to give specifics on the settlement with the BSA. But in a short phone call, he said he believed the BSA discovered copied software through a tracker installed in the program.

However, the BSA has said most of its information received on companies pirating software is through tips.

“Approximately ninety-nine per cent of all piracy reports submitted to BSA are done so through our anti-piracy website (or hotline) where informants may choose to report anonymously as was the case in this situation,” responded the BSA in an email.

A press release from the Business Software Alliance says its court claim “sought a declaration that Electro-Kut knowingly circumvented a Technological Protection Measure (contrary to recent amendments to the Copyright Act) and infringed the copyright of a BSA member by installing and using unauthorized copies.” The Copyright Modernization Act passed into law in June 2012 and contained protections for so-called digital locks, or Technological Protection Measures, making it illegal to break any safeguards placed on a piece of software by the manufacturer to prevent copying. It was one of the bill’s more controversial aspects.

But in a phone interview, the BSA wouldn’t confirm whether it had used any parts of the Copyright Modernization Act to pursue Electro-Kut. The act came into force in late 2012. However, Correa said it would leverage the law if it helped it pursue other companies infringing on copyright.

In 2009, the BSA settled with 12 Canadian companies out of court over allegations of software piracy, including a school board in Saskatchewan that paid $191,543 in damages.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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