This is one of the more difficult blog entries to write, because the “Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc.” case is not the typical bittorrent extortion case, but rather, more of a “compulsory licensing” case.
In short, it would be too easy to say that the 100 John Doe defendants were implicated as downloading or uploading Siemens’ CAD software using bittorrent, because this is not the case. Siemens’ software appears to “phone home” when being used, revealing the computer users IP address (thus making them a target in a lawsuit such as this one).
Cracks and keys probably were part of the software download package, if the software was downloaded via a website. Alternatively, the download instructions perhaps instructed “to block the internet connection using a software firewall,” but the downloader forgot to read the instructions.
Lastly, some of the defendants are believed to have purchased the software (e.g., while the software license itself could cost $20,000, the pirated copy cost $50), but the software they purchased was pirated. Thus, when they entered the key to register the software, the key was flagged as being a pirated copy.
In short, Siemens is a software company looking to stop the unlicensed use of their software, and for this reason, they hired attorney Robert Riddle (more accurately, his firm) to file the Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. v. Does 1-100 (Case No. 4:16-cv-01422) lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
The weird part for me about this case is that there are so many software solutions out there which would accomplish the result for significantly cheaper. The Siemens software modules appear to be commercial and high-end, which is more than a typical engineer would need to do their work.
So… what to do now. If you purchased a pirated copy or downloaded an unlicensed copy of the software, all is not lost. This is why you will be hiring an attorney — to speak to your plaintiff attorney and “make it right,” whether that means purchasing a copy after-the-fact, or signing a licensing agreement for the months or years the software was in use.
If you are a business owner, or if the software is in use in your engineering company (or on the laptops of your employees) without authorization, you are the plaintiff’s prime targets, and the licensing strategy will likely be more comprehensive.
If you have absolutely nothing to do with this lawsuit and yet you were implicated as a John Doe Defendant, well, this happens too, and I’d be happy to represent you telling them that there will be no software licensing deal, and that there will be no payment to the plaintiff copyright holders.
The immediate concern is that like all copyright infringement “John Doe” lawsuits, your plaintiff copyright holder has been given permission by a federal judge (here, Texas Judge Keith Ellison) to issue subpoenas to the internet service providers to hand over the subscriber contact information to the plaintiff attorney by or before a certain date. That date is quickly coming to a close, so this is why you have been trying to contact our firm to figure out your options in how to proceed. I’d be happy to discuss these with you, obviously time permitting.