It's not just teenagers and hackers using software illegally. Adults, including some engineers, are doing it too. Indeed, several CAD companies have been involved recently in legal disputes with each other and with code developers over source-code theft and copyright infringement. The most recent example: Alibre Inc. (www.alibre.com) of Richardson, TX, has charged that one of its former code writers tried to illegally distribute its Alibre Design software through a Russian website under the name of RaceCAD.
Alibre learned of the alleged theft from a user who saw a promotion for the software and thought it was a new competitor. When Alibre downloaded the software itself, company officials say, they saw what they believed was an identical program to Alibre DesignTM. "The name was changed internally from Alibre to RaceCAD," says Steve Emmons, Alibre's Chief Technology Officer. "It's clearly just copied."
Among identical features, Alibre says, are the use of the ACIS source code licensed from Spatial, as well as the user interface, with pixel-to-pixel match for the icons; the internal organization using Java; the folder structure—a consolidation of Alibre Design layers into one; almost all of the 7,153 classes with the same names as those in Alibre Design 6.0; and the peer-to-peer collaboration features in the internal structure. Additionally, Alibre says the developer used STEP tools, DWG drawings, and D-Cubed's constraint manager.
Design News was unable to reach RaceCAD for comment.
J. Paul Grayson, Alibre CEO, likens the incident to bank theft. "The analogy is like a person who works in a bank and wants to put money in their pocket…they can do it," he says. "What's unusual here is that it's as if he is a bank teller who got on a plane to Russia, and he's already got the money with him." Grayson says one of the difficulties is getting the Russian law enforcement authorities to care about the case. "There is the risk that a year from now another CAD product that isn't so easily proved could be sold somewhere else," he says.
Alibre says that the individual had agreed, via email exchange, to take RaceCAD offline so that it can't be downloaded. But, says Grayson, "He will not destroy our source code and promise not to do it again." Alibre now faces the arduous process of actually locating the individual in Russia, and pursuing the case through Russia's legal system.
Such charges of unauthorized use of software are not uncommon. In July 2002, SolidWorks (www.solidworks.com) faced a similar situation. The company had contracted Geometric Software Solutions (GSSL) in India to debug SolidWorks 2001 Plus. A GSSL employee at the time who was involved with the debugging resigned from the company after allegedly copying the source code and later, says SolidWorks, began selling it via email to U.S. software companies. U.S. law enforcement authorities subsequently set up an undercover sting and eventually arrested the employee in a hotel in New Delhi. SolidWorks was still waiting for the prosecution at the time of this writing.
In yet another case, Autodesk announced in October of this year that it was suing LT-Extender, a German company responsible for offering upgrades to Autodesk's AutoCAD LT® software. Autodesk alleges that LT-Extender violated copyright laws by illegally copying AutoCAD files in order to extend functionality. The lawsuit is currently pending.
And, HLB Technologies fought a lengthy court battle with Cadkey over the latter's alleged reverse engineering of HLB software, which reportedly prohibited reverse-engineering in its shrink wrap license. In June 2003, the courts ruled in favor of HLB Technologies, forcing Cadkey's owners to sell the company to International Microcomputer Software, Inc. (IMS) to get the funds to pay the fine. Cadkey will continue to develop products as part of IMS.
Outright theft of source code, such as is alleged in the Alibre and SolidWorks cases is only one aspect of a larger problem involving unauthorized software use. Another aspect is unauthorized copying of software for use by those without licenses. It results in some $12 billion in lost revenues to software companies annually, says Bob Kruger, vice president of enforcement at the Business Software Alliance. "It is by far the biggest intellectual property protection problem for software companies, and saps revenue that would otherwise be used for R&D," he says. Although the BSA generally does not get involved with direct counterfeit software cases, they do offer software-piracy information and prevention tips to companies involved in piracy disputes (see sidebar on resourses).
CAD companies are tightening up procedures to avoid source-code theft. Says Holly Stratford, VP General Counsel for SolidWorks, "we're not going to share source codes with third-party consultants off-site, though we will continue to do so onsite." Alibre vows to "redouble the efforts to stop piracy in the future," according to CEO Grayson. The company currently has a source check-in, check-out format that eliminates hacking, but developers still have access to copy it.
Other companies, like PTC and Autodesk, have developed aggressive anti-piracy programs. On its website, PTC offers a section devoted entirely to piracy (www.ptc.com/company/piracy/index.htm). Pirated software is very prevalent, says Mike Pfrommer, VP of MCAD Integrations at PTC. "People who vacation abroad can buy their products unlicensed on the streets." At Autodesk, the Piracy Prevention Department has provided information on piracy studies, toolkits, copyright laws, and recent settlements on its website (www.autodesk.com/piracy).