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Autodesk Against Piracy: An In-Depth Look

In our ever increasing digital society, companies such as Autodesk, Inc. produce new and creative software meant to make the lives of consumers easier. However, while new technology allows Autodesk to create this software, the same technology allows individuals to pirate or illegally download Autodesk’s copyrighted works. Autodesk fervently pursues alleged copyright infringement wherever they may find it. What many do not realize, however, is how easily the company can search for, find, and pursue legal remedies when it comes to the illegal use of their software.

The more common business practices that allow companies such as Autodesk to seek out any form of copyright infringement start simply with an outside person directly reporting to Autodesk a suspected unauthorized use of software. This commonly occurs with disgruntled ex-employee situations where a person has inside knowledge of a purported unauthorized use.  Next, Autodesk can simply do an audit of every license that one company has. The audit can occur for any reason that Autodesk can muster, but most commonly ensues when Autodesk has been given a lead on possible copyright infringement from a third party. When Autodesk audits a business’ use of software, it is looking for several common licensing issues such as:

      • The business has more licenses installed than it owns
      • The serial number is invalid or registered to another company
      • The company is using licenses that were previously used as an underlying license for an upgrade

While audits may aid in discovering companies who illegally use copyrighted software, what about the individuals who illegally download and profit from Autodesk’s software? There are a number of locations on the internet that anyone with the power to use Google can easily find, and subsequently download, anything they desire in the digital world. However, while the market for illegally downloaded software is extensive, companies have found ways to fight back.

“Header Probing” entails using an active engine on a large network, such as an office building or college campus, which actively searches for file headers of certain size that contain key buzzwords like “Adobe”, “AutoCAD”, and “Autodesk”. Once the engine has located a file header containing one or more of the buzzwords, Autodesk can then see exactly what has been downloaded and act accordingly.

“Peer-to-Peer Network Sniffing” is a more active way in which companies such as Autodesk can find the person directly responsible for the illegal sharing of its copyrighted software. Peer-to-peer network sniffing involves setting up an account and performing searches for what other people are sharing. Once a user name is found to be associated with illegally shared files, it then requires few negligible, legal hurdles to request IP and physical addresses from the ISP.

The ” Torrent Honey-Pot” may be the most devious, yet genius, way for a company such as Autodesk to find illegal use of their software. This method allows the company to either host a torrent of their software themselves or allow a pirated file to continue to share and simply watch who downloads the software. Using a bit-torrent protocol, it is not difficult to see what users are connected to the company’s “honey-pot”. Once complete, all the company has left to do is obtain an IP address and bring legal action.

Even with the many methods that a company can use to find and stop potential copyright infringement of their software, the illegal use of software continues to increase. With some software costing well over $2,000.oo per license, you can see why some may find it better to risk being caught. However, to date, Autodesk has pursued more than 6,000 companies who have used unauthorized copies of its software, and has posted recovery of more than $60 million in North America alone. All in all, one thing is clear: Autodesk is watching.

Has Autodesk contacted you regarding alleged copyright infringement? Dorman Bell is a business and technology focused law firm based in Dallas, Texas and has a dedicated section to defend organizations against software license audits from software publishers such as Autodesk. For more information, call us at (214) 736-7168 or visit our contact page and we will get back with you as soon as possible. We look forward to serving you!!!