A German software company has just filed a lawsuit against the US Navy claiming that the military branch pirated more than 558,000 copies of VR software.
If proven in court, the Navy might have to pay a whopping US$150,000 per copyright infringement, though the company is currently only seeking US$596 million in damages.
According to released court documents, the pending lawsuit was filed on 15 July by Bitmanagement Software – a German 3D VR company that makes a type of software that enables users to work together in a highly detailed virtual space.
In the lawsuit, the company argues that the US Navy was given 38 licences to test out the software before it committed to fully purchasing 558,466 licences for all of its needs.
Then, instead of purchasing the full package, the Navy copied and installed the trial run of the software on all of their machines.
"In 2011 and 2012, Bitmanagement agreed to license its software to the Navy on a limited and experimental basis. Those individual PC-based licences authorised the Navy to install BS Contact Geo on a total of just 38 computers for the purposes of testing, trial runs, and integration into Navy systems," the company’s lawyers claim in the lawsuit.
"In order to facilitate such testing and integration of the software on Navy computers in preparation for the large-scale licensing desired by the Navy, it was necessary for Bitmanagement to remove the control mechanism that tracked and limited the use of the software," they continue.
The alleged transgression occurred in 2013 while the two organisations were still in the middle of negotiating the terms of the licensing contract. As the Bitmanagement team claims:
"While those negotiations were ongoing, however, and without Bitmanagement's advance knowledge or consent, the Navy installed BS Contact Geo software onto hundreds of thousands of computers. Bitmanagement did not license or otherwise authorise these uses of its software, and the Navy has never compensated Bitmanagement for these uses of Bitmanagement's software."
In other words, the team is claiming that the Navy straight up stole their software by illegally copying and distributing it to hundreds of thousands of PCs, costing the company a gigantic licensing deal.
While it’s important to note that the Navy’s side of the argument has yet to be told, the lawsuit seems – at least this early on – pretty serious.
According to Joel Hruska from Extreme Tech, the Navy was, in fact, hiring programmers around the time that the possible infringement occurred, and the job posting specifically details that the Navy was working on developing a 3D VR program using Bitmanagement’s software as a model.
The funny thing is that this isn’t the first time the US military has been taken to court over pirating software in this manner.
Back in 2013, the US Army agreed to pay Apptricity – a company that makes logistics software – US$50 million after illegally copying and distributing their software to some 9,000 devices.
So far, the Navy hasn’t commented on the current case, which means we will likely have to wait and see what will come of the pending lawsuit.
If the previous case with Apptricity is anything to go by, they might attempt to settle out of court for less than what Bitmanagement is asking for.