According to the latest figures from Australia’s BSA Software Alliance, companies in the architecture and engineering sectors were amongst the worst offenders in Australia when it came to illegal usage of licensed software packages in 2014.

BSA settled 12 cases of illegal software usage in Australia worth a total of $825,000 last year, of which nearly half involved the architecture/design and engineering sectors, at 27 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

Other industries prominently represented included the manufacturing sector at 20 per cent, sales and distribution at 17 per cent, real estate at six per cent, media at four per cent, IT at two per cent and recruitment at two per cent.

Those businesses caught using unlicensed software were made to purchase authentic software licenses as well as pay fines for copyright infringement.

One of the largest illegal software usage cases settled in Australia in 2014 involved Victorian architectural drafting firm Planning and Design. The company agreed to pay $118,000 for the unlicensed usage of software packages during a period of roughly five years, including Adobe Photoshop, Acrobat and Autodesk AutoCAD.

At the time of the settlement in November BSA Australia chair Clayton Noble said the case served as a timely reminder of the potential perils faced by businesses that engage in software piracy, which include heightened security risks on top of legal and pecuniary ramifications.

"This case highlights the financial risk businesses take by using unlicensed software," said Noble in an official statement. "It's also important to recognise the IT security risks these businesses are also taking, such as security threats from malware, leaving systems and data open to threat, which can impair productivity and cause loss of work."

Another major case settled last year involved a Perth engineering firm that had been using unlicensed copies of Autodesk since March 2012. The unnamed business settled the case out of court with BSA in September, paying $65,000 in damages in addition to buying software licenses for future usage.

Victoria has emerged as the chief hotbed for illegal software usage by industry in tandem with the heavy representation of the architecture and engineering sector amongst settlement cases. Companies in the Garden State was responsible for the vast preponderance of software settlements in Australia last year, accounting of a stunning 73 per cent of the total.

Western Australia came in second, accounting for 14 per cent of cases, while New South Wales and Queensland proved far more circumspect, responsible for nine per cent and four per cent respectively despite their larger populations.

According to BSA Asia Pacific compliance programs senior director Roland Chan, the prominence of Victorian companies amongst software settlement cases is due to the rising prominence of Melbourne as a centre for creative industries, including the architecture and engineering sectors, all of which make extensive usage of sophisticated software applications such as CAD programs and BIM.

"With this surge in industry we are seeing a notable increase in the number of Victorian businesses reported for use of illegal software," said Chan.

  • Manser Associates in the UK admitted to using unlicensed software in the late 1990's. With margins squeezed the cost of software to Architectural firms is a major overhead. Coupled with the computers which must be high vcapacity the cost for each station is in the vicinity of AUD $20,000, and around $2500 each year for upgrades. Are Architectural firms getting a high value for this investment? Architects are likely to require higher capacity broadband and IT services. The latest versions of BIM software make it highly probable that the Architectural firm will require a cloud based storage of data also provided by the BIM software provider. In the future they will be hostage to any additional service fees which the provider may feel waranted. There is no "Consumer"protection to represent architects and to ensure they are getting vaslue for money with software. To this, one must say that software becomes a priority over trained staff and for those who illegally install, always a disgruntled former employee who is willing to blow the whislte on software piracy. With the cost of a software license close to that of a small car, this is a major investment and cost centre for engineering.

  • Pirate/illegal software usage used to be quite common in engineering consultancies for software like AutoCAD and Microstation. I'd say its getting difficult these days as things like cloud computing and online sharing of data is becoming more common place and you'll get caught.
    One noteworthy point is that in the EPC sector for mining, oil and gas where the detailed design has been offshored to low cost countries and the big 'western or Australian' engineering companies have set up offices in those countries, these companies openly use pirate software. If they did the same here in Australia, the directors would be thrown into jail!

  • Given the cost of Architectural software, this would not suprise many in the industry — with cost of an software package ranging from $7,000-15,000+ per seat, the figures from BSA of $825K = $387K for arch/eng firms. That equates to between 25 and 51 CAD/BIM computers, or about 20 computers if you included graphics design software.
    What might surpise people is to realise that the $118,000 settlement by Planning and Design, they probably had just 5 or 6 computers with pirated software.

    This handful of cases in design/engineering are trivial when you consider firms must spend $2,000-5,000 per seat, per annum to keep their software licenses current. Contrast this with most other industries and you can see that the average annual cost of software is around $200-300/p.a. or less.
    I wouldn't condone piracy, but consider that expenditure on software has little impact on business financial returns, so it's plain to see why small business is compelled to take risks like this.