Autodesk Anti-Theft Recoveries Top $20 Million
Corporate Copying Declines but Information Superhighway Robbery Expected to Push Overall Piracy Rate Higher in 1996
SAN RAFAEL, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 1, 1996--Autodesk's aggressive anti-theft program has surpassed $20 million in funds recovered to date from software pirates, the company announced today.
Despite these inroads, Autodesk is prepared for a 1996 increase in software theft, fueled by CD-ROM duplicating technology and "Information Superhighway Robbery" over the Internet.
"The Information Superhighway has opened the door to a new kind of highway robbery -- the home shoplifting network," said Sandra Boulton, director of Autodesk's anti-theft program.
"We have the world's largest single-company program for fighting software theft, in terms of recoveries and volume of cases," Boulton added. "But it's a dubious honor. We'd much rather see piracy disappear, and with it the need to devote resources to protect our customers from cheap, illegal copies of our software that may not work and can't be supported. We'd rather devote these resources to R&D."
-- Law enforcement agencies joined the fight against software piracy as criminal cases began to emerge, some with complex organized crime ties. For the first time, Autodesk was involved in criminal prosecutions -- two in the last quarter of the year.
-- Autodesk recovered $3.9 million by pursuing illegal users of the company's software, a 4.8 percent increase over 1994 recoveries of $3.7 million. This represents more than a ten-fold increase over recoveries recorded for 1988, the first year of the company's anti-theft program.
-- Autodesk's anti-theft hotline, 1-800-NO COPIES, saw a five-fold increase in calls during the last six months of 1995. Although many callers were reporting suspected software theft, more than half were requesting information to help them establish and maintain guidelines for proper software use within their organizations.
Theft of software is likely to increase in 1996, despite a continued reduction in piracy among big corporate customers, who have tightened their operations in response to extensive education and enforcement efforts. The overall increase is expected because of technological advancements that make it easier to create, market and broadly distribute counterfeit software to individual buyers, who may or may not be aware that the software they are buying is illegal. Key enablers include low-cost devices for duplicating CD-ROMs and the ability to download pirated programs via the Internet.
Autodesk is stepping up its efforts to prevent an increase in software theft during 1996 by improving worldwide coordination of its anti-piracy programs and by adding resources and staff, including a person whose sole mission will be to research and recommend action against Internet-linked software theft.
Traditionally, the majority of culprits have been uninformed corporate users. For example, an engineering firm might buy one legitimate copy of AutoCAD (the world's leading PC-based design software, developed by Autodesk), and make several illegal copies for use throughout the firm. Many of these users have not realized that copying software is a federal crime that can mean steep fines and even prison terms for violators.
U.S. law clearly stipulates that it is illegal to make or distribute copies of copyrighted material, including computer software, without authorization. The only exception is the user's right to make a single backup copy for archival purposes. People who break the law risk civil penalties as high as $100,000 per copyrighted work.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of 10 or more copies of software with a total retail value exceeding $2,500 is a criminal offense, punishable by up to five years in jail and fines up to $250,000.
Autodesk -- along with the Business Software Alliance, an industry group of leading business software developers -- has worked successfully to encourage major corporate customers to create internal software guidelines and better monitor software usage. Among this group, Autodesk has seen the amount of theft level off in the past year.
However, Boulton noted, "Now we are seeing a new breed of software pirates that are much more disturbing, dangerous and difficult to pursue. These new, counterfeiters are linked to organized crime, often with complex global connections."
As a result, law enforcement agencies have become more interested and involved in the problem. In the fourth quarter of 1995, both the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation worked with Autodesk on the company's first major criminal cases. These two cases alone represent losses of millions of dollars of Autodesk revenue:
-- Thomas Alefantes, known in the industry as "Captain Blood," was arrested in November by the L.A. District Attorney's Office after being pursued for years by Autodesk, Microsoft and other software developers. He pleaded guilty to counterfeiting a registered trademark and is awaiting sentencing. Autodesk believes its losses from Alefantes activities amount to millions of dollars.
-- Howard Dennis Barnes, charged by the FBI on Dec. 18 with criminal copyright infringement and trafficking in counterfeit trademarked goods, pleaded not guilty and is in jail awaiting a hearing scheduled for February 20. Barnes advertised nationwide on CompuServe and in the classified ads of newspapers throughout California, and led people to believe he was reselling software for companies facing bankruptcy.
Autodesk is the world's leading supplier of PC and UNIX-based design software and PC multimedia tools. The company's 2D and 3D products and data management tools are used in many industries for architectural design, mechanical design, film-making, videography and geographic information systems.
The fourth largest PC software company in the world, Autodesk has more than three million customers in 129 countries. Autodesk products are sold through Autodesk Systems Centers, Dealers and Distributors worldwide. For more information on Autodesk, call 415/507-5000, type GO ADESK on CompuServe, or log in with a World Wide Web browser at http://www.autodesk.com. -0-
Note To Editors: Autodesk can arrange interviews with representatives from Autodesk, the Business Software Alliance, software dealers and individual customers. For more information on the FBI case against Howard Dennis Barnes, contact U.S. Attorney Christopher Painter, 213/894-0358. For more information on the L.A. District Attorney's case against Thomas Alefantes, contact Larry Morrison, L.A. District Attorney's Office, 213/974-4745.