Australian Police Accused of Mass Software Piracy

Australian police are involved in a massive piracy lawsuit. Software company Micro Focus is claiming that the police are making unauthorized use of its ViewNow software, which they use to access the COPS criminal intelligence database. In addition, it's alleged that the police shared the proprietary software with third parties. Micro Focus is fighting the case in court and is demanding at least $10 million in damages.

pirate policeThe Aussie police are clearly not setting the right example when it comes to copyright infringement. In 2008 computers of the South Australian police force’s IT branch were found to contain hundreds of pirated movies.

There is, however, an even ongoing bigger case in which the New South Wales police are accused of massive software piracy involving its criminal intelligence database.

The software in question, ViewNow, is developed by the UK company Micro Focus. While the company licensed its software to the police in the past, it discovered nearly two years ago the police were using thousands of unauthorized copies.

Even worse, the police also shared the software with third parties such as the Ombudsman’s Office, the Department of Correctives Services and the Police Integrity Commission. All without permission from the software company.

In an attempt to get compensated for several years worth of mass piracy, Micro Focus has filed a lawsuit in which it’s demanding more than $10 million in damages. Micro Focus’ managing director Bruce Craig says they saw no other option than to sue, as they can’t go to the police.

“When someone pirates your software you think who am I gonna call, the police? In this case, they’re the pirates,” Craig comments on 7.30.

“This is potentially a crime that has to be handled as a civil matter because everybody’s got their hands dirty,” he added. “The victims can’t go to police – it’s the police who are doing the stealing.”

At the center of the legal battle is a dispute over the licenses for the ViewNow software. Micro Focus says the police had licenses to install ViewNow on up to 6,500 computers, but in fact more than 16,000 copies were installed. In addition, the police shared copies with other organizations without permission.

“The licenses were for police only. Yet police were out there handing out our software like confetti,” Craig says. “They did not pay for those extra licenses. It’s incredible. It shows an organization that’s completely out of control.”

The police on the other hand claim that they are not aware of any restrictions. Instead, they claim that they could use as many copies as they want according to their interpretation of the contract.

To make matters even worse, Micro Focus is now threatening a new lawsuit as they suspect that the police have replaced the ViewNow software with an alternative called NetManage Applet. This application also belongs to Micro Focus, and they have not licensed the police to use that without restrictions either.

Who’s right and who’s wrong will eventually be decided by the court, but there is already one losing party – the taxpayer. The police have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and the case has barely begun.

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