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Australia Piracy Your Rights Online

Australia's Largest Police Force Accused of Widespread Piracy 112

Posted by timothy
from the professional-research-purposes-only dept.
beaverdownunder writes "UK software giant Micro Focus is demanding at least $10 million in damages from the New South Wales police for widespread use of unlicensed copies of its ViewNow software it is alleged were used by members to access the COPS criminal intelligence database. Although other government organisations also alleged to have mis-used the software have settled with Micro Focus, the NSW police refuse to do so, instead seeking to fight out a battle in Federal court."
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Australia's Largest Police Force Accused of Widespread Piracy

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @09:29AM (#39781031)

    We acknowledge that the crime didn't happen in the U.S., and the company involved is British. But we feel we have jurisdiction.

  • by P-niiice (1703362) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @09:34AM (#39781073)
    Those cops put their lives on the line everyday! Who else would protect us from murderers, robbers and people who don't ....pay for....things they use...

    nevermind
  • The eye patches, hooks for hands and tendency to say "Argh" a lot should have been a dead giveaway!
    • by azalin (67640)
      Also both groups have some creature sitting on their shoulders that keep on repeating the same phrases over and over. One is a beautiful pet though, while the other is usually ugly and rather vicious.
    • The eye patches, hooks for hands and tendency to say "Argh" a lot should have been a dead giveaway!

      Also not much of a handicap down under :)

  • That's what they want ISPs to do to others...

    Also note that when Micro Focus started investigating the cops illegal software copying, the cops began deleting the software from a number of systems.

    That is willful destruction of evidence of a crime.

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550)

      Also note that when Micro Focus started investigating the cops illegal software copying, the cops began deleting the software from a number of systems.

      That is willful destruction of evidence of a crime.

      Sure, right, because that could have been in no way a move to cease breaking the law by keeping it.

      • by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @10:09AM (#39781355)

        Also note that when Micro Focus started investigating the cops illegal software copying, the cops began deleting the software from a number of systems.

        That is willful destruction of evidence of a crime.

        Sure, right, because that could have been in no way a move to cease breaking the law by keeping it.

        Kind of the same way a drug dealer flushes his goods down the toilet when the police arrive to serve a warrant - he's not destroying evidence, he's just trying to cease breaking the law.

      • by Ryanrule (1657199)
        Gee officer, I slowed down from 150 MPH to stop breaking the law, its cool right?
        • Gee officer, I slowed down from 150 MPH to stop breaking the law, its cool right?

          After you pay the fine, you're still not allowed to drive at 150 mph. That's the point here.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @09:47AM (#39781165) Homepage
    it seems whenever a major multinational corporation or government entity is charged with piracy, they arent. theyre simply "out of compliance" or "underlicensed" or some other equally innocuous amorphity they can escape through hiring a compliance officer, cutting a comparatively insignificant check, and saying theyre sorry. when a private citizen is charged with piracy its almost always widespread, intractable, correlated to violent terrorism, and prosecuted at the fervor of a rape case. its exactly the opposite of what it should be.
    if as numerous industries do you are trying to make the case for intellectual property, it seems to do irreparable harm to the thesis to have a double standard for something so dire. if indeed using BusyBox and not adhering to the GPL or downloading the latest Nine Inch Nails album and not paying for it is just the same as stealing a car, then the logical conclusion is this police department should be disbanded. but if in practice we see a double standard then we're led to consider legitimately that piracy probably isnt as demonic as copyright clearing houses would hope you will believe.
    • corporation licensing is not the same as music downloads and being in compliance is not easy. Also trying to take a compliance case to the courts may set a bad precedence. What happens when the judge or jury can't work out the licensing rules that are different for each piece of software or get confused about what is the right paper work needed to say that you have a good license. Some times COA do not count other times they do.

      • by bmo (77928) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @10:24AM (#39781509)

        corporation licensing is not the same as music downloads and being in compliance is not easy

        Bullshit.

        Under the law, they are the same. Copyright law does not distinguish between software, multimedia, or books.

        --
        BMO

        • Thanks for the laugh... I needed that.

          The corporation is treated just like a human being... except when it isn't.

          • by bmo (77928)

            And this has nothing whatsoever to do with what I said. How is this even a reply?

            --
            BMO

      • by Mabhatter (126906)

        All those apply for REGULAR PEOPLE (ie small businesses) right now. Courts happily buy into these cases all the time.

        Corporate licensing is like complaining you have "too many" cars to keep valid insurance and tags on... That's just another piece of "complex paperwork" too. Wonder what the Police opinion on that is?

    • by synapse7 (1075571)
      What happened with the government IPs showing up on the youhavedownloaded site?
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Maybe the BSA learned their lesson from the Ernie Ball incident. [cnet.com]

    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @10:30AM (#39781595) Homepage Journal

      The corporation has become the biggest scam of human history.

      Mod me down if you like, but here is why: it's a system where they have managed to make it so that NO ONE can ever be held legally responsible for anything. You have a CEO that make millions in many companies that can't be held to account for anything (or even elected to governor in the case of that medicare fraudster Rick Scott). You have such concentration of wealth and power that ever case doesn't become a matter of law, but who has paid the most for lawyers where, in most cases, the individual is TOTALLY locked out of the process of civil justice. And even if you get a judgment, all the corporation has to do is refuse to pay it and then the legal process starts up all over again. As a nation we still hold the option of revocation of charter since a corporation is a legal entity, but our politicians are paid-off dupes and they would never have the nerve to use it, even in cases like Monsanto where their poison can *literally* be found in every human body on the planet.

      Say hello to the new boss... same as the old boss. We're back where we were when it comes to monarchy, friends. It's just a different type.

      • by Painted (1343347) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:54AM (#39782781) Homepage
        It's almost like the legal system is set up to generate more and more lawsuits, isn't it? It seems like the people who are in charge of creating the laws have some sort of vested interest in keeping the legal system complex, thus requiring more and more specialists in law (I dunno, I'll use the term "Lawyers" to describe these specialists).

        Remind me, what percentage of politicians are lawyers?

        :-/
      • Say hello to the new boss... same as the old boss. We're back where we were when it comes to monarchy, friends. It's just a different type.

        Except one minor difference, if you're smart enough and work hard enough you can become king. Most of the wealthiest people in the world right now are entrepreneurs. Sure our system isn't perfect but it's the most productive and socially mobile system in human history. Carlos Slim Helu, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet all self made. Here in Australia where this story is from, a our local rich list is littered with self made people. So let's not too excited by a couple of bad stories in the press.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          if you're smart enough and work hard enough you can become king

          Adolf Hitler and Stalin were smart and hard working enough to become the equivalent of kings. That does not mean that their societies were better than that of King George III just because they were able to rise from humble beginnings and didn't have to rely on the divine right of monarchs..

    • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @10:42AM (#39781735)

      downloading the latest Nine Inch Nails album

      Odd choice of example, there. The Slip was released under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike license. You may distribute it without contravening the licensing terms as long as you do not profit from the distribution, and you don't attribute the work to anyone other than Trent Reznor.

      I understand the point you're making, but that kind of mistake is the sort of thing idiots will jump on to "prove" you know nothing of the subject.

    • by kiwimate (458274)

      Letting slide the inflammatory language, they are different.

      Pirates are quite frank about their intentions - they usually want to get something for free because they don't see why they should have to pay for it. A pirate who is illegally downloading music or movies or software will admit they know what they're doing is copyright infringement, but claim it is justifiable because of the pricing structure or because of evilness on the part of the MPAA or because they wouldn't buy it anyway or some other ration

      • Piracy is not as simple and black and white as you make out. How about: Hard drive with legit copy of Windows crashes. Pirate copy of Windows installed on replacement hard drive. Or the other way around: Hard drive with legit copy of Windows is moved to a new computer, where it refuses to work. Replaced by pirated copy. Old computer junked. Another one: Thanks to a bug in the DRM, a legit copy refuses to run. Customer service is unable to resolve the issue. Problem solved by replacing legit copy

        • by Firethorn (177587)

          If I was in NSW's shoes, I'd dump that COPS software in favor of something open.

          Who says there's any version of the software that's 'open'? It sounds like it interfaces with international criminal databases. It's probably quite specialized.

        • by kiwimate (458274)

          Piracy is not as simple and black and white as you make out.

          I'm not sure I make it out to be quite as black and white as you say; I did, after all, sprinkle my comments with the caveat/weasel word "usually". Without getting into all kinds of semantic arguments, I would say I don't see anything morally wrong with most or even all of the examples in your first paragraph. I'd hazard to state that most vendors wouldn't, either; as I commented in my post, the difference is intention. Your examples are all demonstrating an intention to do the right thing, by purchasing th

    • If you EVER question why something is happening that seems unfair or inequitable .... If you EVER see failed logic in a situation where the obvious solution or answer isn't the one chosen -- just follow the money!

      Almost every time, it winds up explaining things.

      When you're a major multinational corporation or a govt. agency using software and you're not paying for all of it? The best strategy for the software publisher is to give you every opportunity to get compliant. It's established that those users hav

    • it seems whenever a major multinational corporation or government entity is charged with piracy, they arent. theyre simply "out of compliance" or "underlicensed" or some other equally innocuous amorphity they can escape through hiring a compliance officer, cutting a comparatively insignificant check, and saying theyre sorry. when a private citizen is charged with piracy its almost always widespread, intractable, correlated to violent terrorism, and prosecuted at the fervor of a rape case. its exactly the opposite of what it should be.

      Not from a copyright holder's financial standpoint. If you sue a private citizen you won't get much money out of the endeavour, so the idea is to make piracy seem so bad individuals won't do it, because it's not worth suing them all. But when you sue a company for piracy, they are very likely to send you a lot of money. So having businesses pirate software is a great way to get more out of them than you would with normal licence fees (since they are probably using more copies than they would have willing

  • Thieves (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @09:50AM (#39781197)
    Police department wants to fight it out in federal court to try and establish their right to steal software? Hmm...
    • Re:Thieves (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @10:15AM (#39781399)

      Police department wants to fight it out in federal court to try and establish their right to steal software? Hmm...

      It's possible that the contract is not as clear as Micro Focus makes out it to be and the police department thought they had a site license. Since the police department is willing to fight rather than pay up, it's quite possible that the contract is unclear enough that they could win - if it was really a clear 6500 seat license contract, it's not likely that the police department would pay millions in legal costs to delay an inevitable $10M penalty.

      • by Whiteox (919863)

        Police claim that they lost the contract. Also after deleting the illegal copies, they replaced it with pirated versions of another front end also by Micro Focus.

  • A friend who has worked for several lawyer firms says they never buy more than one copy of anything and often swap software with other firms. He thought it pretty much standard legal firm behaviour from what his collegues had said.
    • by mathew42 (2475458)

      A good rule of thumb is avoid providing services to lawyers.

      My father-in-law was burnt badly by a firm of lawyers renting a property. They refused to pay rent and were well prepared to fight payment through the courts. The costs of hiring lawyers to pursue the rent made it cheaper to evict them. Eviction still required lawyers, but it was cheaper.

      Standard practice until recently in Australia was for Barristers to declare themselves bankrupt every couple of years to avoid paying tax.

      • by King_TJ (85913) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @11:31AM (#39782435) Journal

        This is very true, on the whole.... There are exceptions out there, of course. (I do some computer service work for a law firm I've worked with for years, and while they're always a little slow to pay their bills, they always do pay - and with a certain consistency in the delay. Not only that, but they even send me gifts every Christmas season.)

        Law firms are high-risk clients though, in the sense that if *anything* goes wrong (even something they perceive as wrong but is simply a misunderstanding on their part) -- you can bet they'll want to resolve it via the channel they're most comfortable with. Most small businesses want to AVOID the courtroom at all costs, since they don't really have A) good enough documentation/record keeping to successfully fight a court battle, B) enough spare time to devote to one, or C) enough money to cover the legal expenses.

        Plus, one thing I've learned over the years is that most lawyers in a given area seem to know each other. (EG. I had hired an attorney one time, who I wasn't very pleased with. I did some computer work for someone else who I found out was also a lawyer, though not in the same specialty of law. During our conversation, I mentioned a few of my concerns, in passing. Next thing I know? My attorney is calling me on my cellphone on a Sunday morning, demanding to know why I'm dissatisfied with his work and trying to defend his actions! Turns out the two of them occasionally saw each other at the restaurants they frequent for lunch during the week and my concerns were "gossiped" from one to the other!)

        IMO, there's a really good chance that if you hire a lawyer against another lawyer you're having issues with -- the two of them will "have a talk:" off the record, and agree to some sort of resolution in advance that benefits BOTH of them more than you!

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Standard practice until recently in Australia was for Barristers to declare themselves bankrupt every couple of years to avoid paying tax.

        I was about to say that if you did that in the UK, you would surely no longer be able to practice as a barrister, but looking at the Bar Standards website, that doesn't appear to be the case. Unbelievable.

    • by TheLink (130905)
      Maybe the would-be plaintiffs realize that they might sue the offending law firm "successfully", but so expensively that you and your lawyer "adversaries" can all have a very nice dinner on the new yacht, while laughing at the "winner" of the lawsuit.
  • Jail them! (Score:5, Funny)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @09:54AM (#39781235)
    Copyright infringement? I would sentence them all to life in a remote penal colony...oh, wait.
    • by Zocalo (252965)
      Sorry, but I believe both the US and UK are full. Can't even give them hard labour in an Asian sweatshop since Apple spoiled it for everyone. I was going to suggest some time doing IT support in a Call Centre, but apparently USAid pulled funding from those just this morning and I don't really want a cruel and unusual punishment rap.

      TANJ, damn it!
  • by lwoggardner (825111) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @10:03AM (#39781313)

    Someone screwed up, or misinterpreted the contract. Maybe thats the NSW Police or maybe it was an overeager MF salesperson a decade ago. Vendor says you owe us big time, org says nu-uh we'll just remove the software. Most corps and vendors settle before the lawyers get involved but occasionally things go further.

    The massive beat up about the cops being untouchable and the vendor not being able to get the police to investigate themselves is complete bollocks. Seriously since when do the cops get involved in corporate contract disputes?

    National media coverage of MicroFocus suing their customers is probably not a good way for them to drum up business.

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      Seriously since when do the cops get involved in corporate contract disputes?

      When they're one of the parties in the contract, paying licenses for the software?

      National media coverage of MicroFocus suing their customers is probably not a good way for them to drum up business.

      To me it sounds like they pretty much have a lock on that market. People who need regular access to those police databases need the software, there's no other options that aren't vastly more expensive due to 'duplicating the wheel' problems.

  • Australian police pirates...

    join the Party!

  • Is this a surprise? The Brits sent boatload (metric units of course) of murderers and crooks... I'm sure a few pirates would have gone through too.
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Murder wasn't a transportable offence - it was a capital offence. I'm sure a few slipped though but not boatloads of them.

      Piracy was also capital not tranportable.

      Crooks aplenty of course.

      • by tdelaney (458893)

        That really depended on the "murder". For example, one of my ancestors (the one whose surname I have) was tranported here for two "murders". In actuality, it appears he was involved in a riot in Ireland in which two people were killed, and he was convicted on that basis. Unfortunately, the records stop there due to the loss of records in Ireland around the time (riots, church burnings, etc).

        In any case he made good - became foreman for the chain gang that built the road to Mrs Macquarie's Chair; got his Tic

      • by mjwx (966435)

        Murder wasn't a transportable offence - it was a capital offence. I'm sure a few slipped though but not boatloads of them.

        Piracy was also capital not tranportable.

        Crooks aplenty of course.

        Most people were transported for petty crimes, burglary, petty theft and the like. The hardened criminals like murderers and rapist stayed in Mother England.

        The reason for this was when a convicts sentence was up, they weren't sent back to England (too expensive, bodies take up room from precious cargo), they were given a parcel of land in Australia that they could do what they liked with. You dont just set hardened criminals free in a large, uncharted land do you, so they all stayed in England

        Also, s

  • It may prove to be interesing to live where the police hate you!

  • by mezion (936475) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @10:51AM (#39781853)

    Simply comes down to the contract, which we can't see.

    The software in question is called ViewNow. It is a mainframe computer program NSW Police began using in 1998 to access the COPS database, which holds the highly confidential details of just about every citizen in the state.

    Mr Craig ... says police were allowed to use up to 6,500 ViewNow licences and if they wanted any more, they would have to pay for them.

    They made software with no copy protection, and were suprised that noone could be bothered to write down every computer they installed it one - especially at 6500+ copies?

    Micro Focus say when they asked police just how many ... licenses they were using, a police employee allegedly told them: "Oh f--k. We've rolled out 16,000 devices".

    Maybe they made up some new terms after the fact and no-one can remember nor has a paper trail to prove otherwise.

    Mr Craig said."The minute we advised police there was an issue they began de-installing our software. They de-installed it without keeping records."

    If you realize you are in breach of the licencing terms, isn't the requirement to stop using the software and uninstalling it the correct procedure?

    In essence, the NSW Police defence is that it has all been a terrible misunderstanding.

    NSW Police say on their reading of their contract... gave them the right to reproduce as many licenses as they wanted.

    Simply comes down to the contract, which we can't see.

    • If you realize you are in breach of the licencing terms, isn't the requirement to stop using the software and uninstalling it the correct procedure?

      Short version: Yes. Goes for just about any situation where you are running software you don't have licence for. If you delete all of the offending copies there really isn't much they can do in court except try to extract past-payments.. and that can be flogging a dead horse and can make courts quite irritable.

      Having been the IT guy on the wrong side of a couple

    • by T Murphy (1054674)

      If you realize you are in breach of the licencing terms, isn't the requirement to stop using the software and uninstalling it the correct procedure?

      NSW Police say on their reading of their contract... gave them the right to reproduce as many licenses as they wanted

      Makes no sense to uninstall software to avoid breaching licensing terms you say you aren't breaching...

  • >> The software in question is called ViewNow. It is a mainframe computer program NSW Police began using in 1998

    Uhh no it isn't. Its (just) an X server that runs on a PC.

    • by BitterOak (537666)
      True. According to this page [bomara.com] this is X server software that runs on Windows. The article is a bit misleading, suggesting the software in question runs on a mainframe. This is unlikely as the claim is they need 6500+ licenses, and it is unlikely they have over 6500 mainframes! This is PC software that lets them access data on a mainframe, presumably through an X11 type interface. Given that they need so many licenses, it would seem to make more sense to use a free alternative, such as Cygwin/X.
  • whatcha gonna do when they pirate YOU.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:20PM (#39785157)

    Regular Slashdotter but posting AC. Back in the late 90's we used Windows Micro Focus COBOL a lot but we needed the Y2K version for our server that we complied the code on. Had a nice chat with the sales guy who asked what we did with it, and then a letter arrived saying we were in violation of our license and we needed a RTL for every PC we had it installed, which would have cost $60000 or they'd see us in court. Thank goodness we had a copy of our original license which allowed us unlimited clients as part of the original server install. Our legal team then wrote back telling them to piss off (in legal speak obviously). After that we migrated off their platform ASAP, wouldn't trust them as far as I could throw them.

  • There's a lot of comment here about whether it was piracy, but note that it isn't just about the 6500 seats, they actually gave copies of the software to other organisations so that they could access the police systems. In fact, that was how Micro Focus came to hear about what was going on.

  • Whether police or not, government agencies often turn a willfully blind eye to licensing requirements. For some perverse reason, they think that because they're government they can do whatever they want.

    Here's a clue for government agencies: You're subject to the same laws and restrictions as citizens, and then some, not less.

    • by idontgno (624372)

      Here's a clue for government agencies: You're subject to the same laws and restrictions as citizens, and then some, not less.

      Sorry, I can't hear you over Sylvester Stallone yelling (in a bad fake Australian General accent [wikipedia.org]) "I AM THE LAW!"

      Although, in an ironic twist that kind of ruins an already poor joke, Judges of the Judge Dredd milieu are supposed to be bound to a higher duty to the law, such that their punishment for infringements are supposed to be more harsh than the equivalent for a citizen.

  • Keystone Kops
  • Main Force Patrol (MPF) was the only police force in Australia.
  • Anyone old enough to remember INSLAW? http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/1.01/inslaw.html [wired.com]
  • by pbjones (315127) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @05:59PM (#39788301)

    Although I think that people should pay for what they use, It may be a case where the EULA didn't include Government Agencies, but the Government should pay, especially since the current convervative would be right behind and anti-piracy action.

  • This company has some old products. And some new license agreements. Possibly by the appearance of some new brushes in management who had ideas about how clients should be paying them.

    I suggest you take a good look at what you have signed and see if it matches what you _think_ you have rights to. Always good advice anyway.

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