With the introduction of new technologies to identify and address copyright infringement, software companies have temporarily gained an advantage over unlicensed users, but for how long?
Traditional investigative work is time consuming, complicated and cumbersome, so its not hard to understand why so many software vendors have not made a serious attempt to address unlicensed use among their customers. Now that technology has become available to automate the process of identifying and addressing instances of unlicensed use, this is changing.
ITCA has been the “go to” expert in internet-based and actual field investigation work to identify corporate copyright infringement. Our investigative techniques include web crawling, social media searches, analysis of entitlement data and financial checks, but we also set up whistleblower programs and cooperate with informants who are often disgruntled former or current employees. Dating back to 2006, ITCA has been working with customers like Microsoft and Autodesk to set up compliance programs based on applying our proven investigation techniques. We have provided Autodesk with the opportunity to scale up its software asset management efforts considerably, in a short amount of time, due to our expertise and standardized work procedures.
Over the last decade, we have seen widespread adoption of so called “phone home technologies,” which are embedded in software applications that are targeted by hackers. These technologies are designed to inform the software vendor when its applications have been hacked and who is using the unlicensed applications. But what if the phone home technology itself gets hacked? Or what if companies using illegal software “smarten up” and disconnect their machines from the Internet so that the technology cannot communicate anymore? Would this mean the end of the fight against piracy?
ITCA sees evidence that most sophisticated copyright infringement is already taking place outside of the purview of companies who rely purely on phone home technology. Countless instances have been reported of companies that were informed about alleged unlicensed use, but then reports of the infringements stopped coming in even though the companies continued to illegally use the software and refused settlement. These companies and their technical staff are connected with other companies and share their experiences. There have even been blog postings on how to deactivate phone home technology for certain product titles.
While infringement data will continue to be provided by phone home technology, the companies identified will be mostly unsophisticated infringers, for example rogue employees who act outside of their companies’ policies. Such infringements rarely lead to a satisfying outcome for either party, and thus, when relying only on phone home data, software vendors are at risk of chasing their tail and not having visibility to the real infringers. Inevitably, if software companies want to stay ahead of the game and remain competitive in the market, they must keep looking for new ways to identify piracy.