About the SIIA
The Software & Information Industry Association is a private trade organization with absolutely no independent law enforcement authority. The SIIA’s members include the largest software publishing companies in the world and most notably, Microsoft, Adobe, Symantec, Network Associates, Autodesk and Macromedia. These companies provide the Software & Information Industry Association a power of attorney to act on their behalf to accuse businesses of software piracy. Accordingly, the SIIA can enforce only those rights that its member software publishers have. Legally, software companies usually have a contractual relationship with a customer based upon a software license and also have the rights provided under copyright laws that protect the holder of copyright against infringement. These are the rights that the Software & Information Industry Association’s enforcement department is attempting to protect.
How it Works
The Software & Information Industry Association maintains telephone hotlines and a web site to encourage confidential sources, typically disgruntled employees and vendors, to make reports against companies of all sizes. The SIIA offer rewards of up to $50,000 and promise confidentiality to informants. The Software & Information Industry Association investigates reports of software piracy without adequately confirming the veracity of the information provided or the motive of the person making the compliant.
Once a report is received, the Software & Information Industry Association makes a decision about whether to request a self audit in lieu of filing suit. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the Software & Information Industry Association pursues the self-audit approach. Acting either through an internal enforcement attorney or an outside law firm, the SIIA will send a letter to the target company requesting a self audit. The request for an audit is a critical stage in the process, and the time when an experienced attorney can help your business the most. If your company has received an audit letter from the Software & Information Industry Association, you should contact an attorney now who defends SIIA audits.
Why You're a Target
Regardless of whether you are running unlicensed software on your computer networks, it is likely just a matter of time before your business receives a letter from an external auditor, such as SIIA. Having represented many companies in SIIA audits, Scott & Scott’s lawyers believe that there are only two types of companies: those that have been audited by the SIIA and those that will be audited by the SIIA. The Software & Information Industry Association spends substantial resources marketing and paying reward money to disgruntled employees and vendors to encourage them to “rat” on your business. With rewards of up to $50,000 and no accountability for false reporting, these vindictive complaints may cause injury to you, your business, and your business’ reputation.
Your business, regardless of its size, is a target because no matter what, someone is going to think you treated them unfairly and may make a report to “get even.”
The Software & Information Industry Association’s primary enforcement tool is to send a threatening letter indicating that an investigation has commenced and offering to forego litigation if the target company provides a self audit. A self audit consists of a listing of all SIIA member software running on a company’s computer networks, appropriate indicia of ownership for the software (including copies of media and manuals) and dated proofs of purchase for each title. It is important to note that companies are usually under no legal obligation to cooperate with the Software & Information Industry Association. In most instances, however, cooperation will yield the most cost effective resolution. But, that is not necessarily always the case.
It is very important to engage an attorney experienced in fighting the SIIA before any documents are produced. Once produced, the documents can and will be used by the SIIA to leverage its legal position when negotiating fines or pursuing litigation.
The lawyers at Scott & Scott, LLP have the legal and technical experience to assist you with your audit as the first step in minimizing your company’s exposure to fines.
After reviewing of the results of a self audit the Software & Information Industry Association will send a letter either concluding the investigation or making a demand for payment of a fine and requesting other onerous conditions for settlement. To view a sample Software & Information Industry Association settlement demand letter click here. To use our Fine Calculator to estimate your exposure click here. If you have received a Software & Information Industry Association settlement demand letter, it is not too late to obtain the assistance of an experienced attorney. Our lawyers can help you negotiate a reduction in the proposed fine and guide you through the non-monetary portions of a potential settlement with the Software & Information Industry Association. If you have received a settlement demand letter, you now realize that this is a serious legal matter that requires experienced counsel to protect your company’s interests.
The Software & Information Industry Association has developed a standard formula for assessing fines as part of its settlement process. It is important to note that the SIIA is not a governmental entity and has no independent authority to levy an enforceable fine. Software & Information Industry Association fines are therefore merely offered in settlement to avoid litigation and, like all pre-litigation settlement offers, are negotiable with the help of experienced counsel.
Dated Proof of Purchase Required
The SIIA's methodology for calculating fines starts by treating as unlicensed all software products for which there is a lack of adequate documentation, including dated proofs of purchase. All proofs of purchase must be dated prior to the Software & Information Industry Association's initial letter to be considered valid evidence. Because companies may not always have access to the requisite dated proofs of purchase, the SIIA's proposed fines are often based, in part, on software titles that companies legally own and properly acquired.
The Arbitrary 3x Multiplier
After disallowing credit for valid software without dated proofs of purchase, the Software & Information Industry Association then applies an arbitrary multiple of three times the full retail price for each software title.