We’ve made the point for a long time that, on a long enough timeline, pretty much everybody is a pirate. The point is that the way copyright laws have evolved alongside such useful tools as the internet makes knowing whether common sense actions are actually copyright infringement an incredibly dicey riddle to solve. Often times without even trying, members of the public engage in infringing activities, up to and including the President of the United States.
And, it appears, up to and including entire branches of the United States military, though claims of accidental infringement in this case would appear to be rather silly. Bitmanagement, a German software company that produces virtual reality software, is accusing the US Navy of what can only be described as massive levels of copyright infringement.
In 2011 and 2012, the US Navy began using BS Contact Geo, a 3D virtual reality application developed by German company Bitmanagement. The Navy reportedly agreed to purchase licenses for use on 38 computers, but things began to escalate.
While Bitmanagement was hopeful that it could sell additional licenses to the Navy, the software vendor soon discovered the US Government had already installed it on 100,000 computers without extra compensation. In a Federal Claims Court complaint filed by Bitmanagement two years ago, that figure later increased to hundreds of thousands of computers. Because of the alleged infringement, Bitmanagement demanded damages totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.
Both parties have since investigated the issue, with the Navy reportedly simply admitting that it installed the software on nearly half a million computers. Bitmanagement had assumed the Navy would be paying for these installations, but the military branch failed to do so and instead tried to work out much lower licensing costs with the company long after the fact. For its part, the government insists that it bought concurrent licenses rather than client licenses, but this defense makes little sense for any number of reasons. The scale of installations suggests that more than 38 users would be on the software at any given time, not to mention that Bitmanagement’s VARs are not authorized to sell concurrent licenses, and that nothing in the contracts the Navy agreed to even mentions the word “concurrent.”
In a request for summary judgement, Bitmanagement is asking for the government to be liable for the hundreds of thousands of installations it carried out and pay for them accordingly.
Now, while this infringement by the US government seems anything other than accidental, keep in mind that this same US government that regularly puts out reports and comments on the dastardly amounts of copyright infringement carried out by other foreign governments and their citizens. It seems as though America should get its own house in order, at least at the level of the federal government, before pointing any more fingers.