Ansys Software’s Embedded Anti-Piracy Technology Discovers Pirated Software

By Sam Ulhaq. December 9, 2020.

In the past, court cases related to license compliance were regular events. In fact, those in the IT industry should be able to recall when the Business Software Alliance (BSA) even named organizations that used unlicensed software. However, whilst license audits are as frequent and painful as ever, it is now common practice for all parties to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) to ensure no publicity of the event.

Ansys, Inc., (“Ansys) a Pennsylvania software company that develops engineering and 3D design simulation software, has filed a new lawsuit on the 5th of November 2020, for alleged unlicensed software use that was reported via its embedded anti-piracy technology. The defendant in this case is Actox Corporation (“Actox”) of California, which specializes in satellite telecommunications technology and it appears that both parties were not satisfied with each other’s assertion about the alleged license infringement.

To root out piracy and enforce license compliance, Ansys has integrated Piracy Detection and Reporting Security Software (PDRSS) into its software, which includes several engineering and 3D design software titles. Should PDRSS identify unlicensed or pirated software in use, it transmits a detailed report of the infringed product, as well as users IP address and Mac address to Ansys.

According to the complaint, over a 5-year span, Actox accessed Ansys software on a minimum of 278 occasions and as a result, in early 2020 it reached out to Actox, but did not receive a sufficient response to address this issue. After a letter from Ansys’s legal team, Actox responded in June 2020 refuting that it infringed any Ansys software license.

The complaint reads that in the reply, Mr. Al Hatset of Actox, claimed that there was no response as there was no infringement and that Actox was not willing to engage in out-of-court settlement discussions to address the alleged incompliance, even though evidence of the infringement had been provided to Actox.

The PDRSS software continued to report unabated use of unlicensed software by Actox. Ansys claims that it believes that the “infringement is knowing, intentional and wilful” and that it has suffered, and continues to suffer, injury, damages, and irreparable harm.

Ansys requests that the court orders an injunction on the use of Ansys software by Actox and any of its associates, requires an award of damages, and a share of profits, which are to be determined by a court, as well as attorney’s fees, interest, and any other relief that the court may deem just and proper.

Using experience of license compliance, one could predict that there are two ways this case can go. Firstly, the lawsuit can continue and both parties can publicly damage their reputations via accusations and counteraccusations. However, it is significantly more likely that both parties will take the second option: proceed with an out-of-court settlement that will ensure ongoing secrecy.

While software audits are still as common as ever, albeit under cover of NDA, it is worth noting that the global economic slowdown due to Covid-19, has hit software vendors. The SAM industry is already reporting increased levels of audit activity as a means of recouping lost revenues. Using embedded “phone home” technology is just one way that some vendors are identifying incompliance.

We, therefore, recommend that a strong SAM program, using SAM software that recognizes a broad range of software applications, is in place for your business. This will guard against potentially painful software audits and reduce costs by reducing unused software in your environment.

Contact Xensam to learn more.

Xensam: Next Generation SAM

References: Case No: 2:20-cv-01694-NR (ANSYS, INC. v. ACTOX CORPORATION et al)

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