US Navy accused of piracy

A German company says the US Navy has committed 429,000 separate acts of piracy.
26 March 2018

The US Navy is accused of software piracy, to the tune of $600m. Source: U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released

T he US government has sailed into choppy waters recently, with its Navy accused of piracy on the high seas (of the software market).

German company Bitmanagement has filed against the US government in the Court of Federal Claims for a partial summary judgment, on the grounds of the Navy using its software without adequate payment.

Seven years ago the US Navy began to deploy BS Contact Geo, a 3D virtual reality application, which it agreed to use on 38 machines at a cost of $30,000.

The software house discovered shortly afterward that the Navy had installed over 100,000 instances of the software, therefore some 99,964 separate acts of piracy, at least.

By the summer of 2013, it transpired that the US government (in the form of the Navy) had installed the software onto over 420,000 computers. Bitmanagement is seeking damages which total hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The Navy admits that it began installing the software onto hundreds of thousands of machines in the summer of 2013, and that it ultimately installed the software onto at least 429,604 computers. When it learned of this mass installation, Bitmanagement was surprised, but confident that it would be compensated for the numerous copies the Government had made,” according to the filed motion.

“…it became clear that the Navy had no intention to pay Bitmanagement for the software it had copied without authorization, as it declined to execute any license on a scale commensurate with what it took.”

The motion filed in the Court of Federal Claims asks it to rule that the government is liable for copyright infringement.

The government has argued it bought concurrent use licenses for BS Contact Geo, which permitted it to install the software right across the Navy network. Bitmanagement disputes this and attests that “concurrent” does not appear in any contract, nor was there any agreement about widespread installation.

Conversely, the Navy argues the contracts “impliedly authorized” that the software could be installed hundreds of thousands of times.

The two parties had reached a previous agreement that an earlier version of the app could be installed on 100 computers, although it seems that this agreement does not have any ramifications for the later alleged levels of piracy.

“Bitmanagement respectfully requests that this Court grant summary judgment as to the Government’s liability for copyright infringement and hold that the Government copied BS Contact Geo beyond the limits of its license, on a scale equal to the hundreds of thousands of unauthorized copies of BS Contact Geo that the Government either installed or made available for installation,” Bitmanagement’s motion concludes.

If the government is found liable, the scale of damages will be set later, but Bitmanagement notes that this could be as high as $600 million.

That’s around 37.5 million gold doubloons in olde monie; a king’s ransom worthy of any scurvy dog.