Responding to Autodesk Audits
The BSA and SIIA are not the only organizations pursuing business for software copyright infringement. Though it is a member of both the BSA and SIIA, Autodesk, which manufactures the popular design software AutoCAD, often pursues audit targets on its own.
The audits begin much like those instituted by the BSA or SIIA. The target of Autodesk’s audit will receive a letter from a law firm representing Autodesk demanding the business’ cooperation in disclosing the number Autodesk installations on its network and the number of Autodesk licenses it owns, including serial numbers. The law firm will assert it has received information that indicates the business may have more installations of Autodesk software than it is licensed to use. The letter will go on to describe the various penalties associated with copyright infringement and it may threaten the business with civil litigation.
Targets who receive such letters should treat the matter very seriously. It is important to know your legal rights and protect your legal position before responding to a request for information from a software publisher who is trying to conduct an audit. Additionally, many companies who prepare their own responses to Autodesk without the benefit of counsel and before conducting a thorough investigation often receive an unexpectedly high settlement offer from Autodesk.
In many cases, Autodesk demands a settlement payment calculated as the MSRP of the allegedly unauthorized products installed on the business’ network multiplied by three. The multiplier, Autodesk argues, is the penalty for using unauthorized software and is assessed in lieu of proceeding with formal judicial resolution. The use of multipliers as an approximation of damages is a hotly contested issue.
When responding to Autodesk audit requests, companies should work with experienced counsel to thoroughly investigate the software usage on their computers, protect themselves by requesting agreement from Autodesk regarding the use of the materials that will be produced in the audit, and negotiate a resolution geared toward ensuring future compliance.