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Posts Tagged ‘Siemens’

Siemens PLM Software has been suing John Doe Defendants in federal courts for the piracy of their NX software since it was in version 7 (so far, I have seen claims against users of NX 7, NX 8, NX 8.5?, but not yet for NX 9, NX 10, or NX 11 — all of which are available on the bittorrent networks). Most recently, I have seen lawsuits focusing in on the unlawful use of the Solid Edge ST9 Foundation software.

In June, I wrote the “What to do about the Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. v. Does case (TX)” article which provided specific information surrounding the lawsuit from information acquired from the Siemens PLM lawyers themselves. However, back then, there was much still unknown, and now (almost 6 months later), I have a much better idea of how this is happening, what Siemens PLM is doing to catch those using the software illegally, whether claims of piracy are leaking over to the employers of the engineers who use the pirated software at their workplace, and how they are handling claims against those defendants, both in and out of the courtroom.

What you need to know about these lawsuits is that the Siemens PLM lawsuits still deceptively look like “copyright troll” lawsuits, but they are not. I will get into this momentarily.

*UPDATED* LIST OF FEDERAL COURT CASES FILED:

IN THE CONNECTICUT DISTRICT COURT:
Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. et al v. Demin (Case No. 3:16-cv-00553)

IN THE NEW YORK SOUTHERN DISTRICT COURT:
Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software, Inc. v. Does 1 – 100 (Case No. 1:14-cv-01926)
Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software, Inc. v. Does 1-50 (Case No. 1:11-cv-08469)

IN THE OHIO SOUTHERN DISTRICT COURT:
Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software In v. Manufacturing Services International, Inc. (Case No. 3:16-cv-00182)

IN THE PENNSYLVANIA EASTERN DISTRICT COURT:
Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software, Inc. v. Does 1-50 (Case No. 2:12-cv-06795)

IN THE TEXAS EASTERN DISTRICT COURT:
Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software, Inc. v. BTL Machine, Inc. (Case No. 4:14-cv-00506)
Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software, Inc. v. Does (Case No. 4:15-cv-00582)
Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software, Inc. v. Mercury Metal Forming Technologies, LLC (Case No. 4:14-cv-00002)
Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. v. Does (Case No. 4:15-cv-00017)
Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. v. TWIVision Engineering Group, LLC (Case No. 6:11-cv-00679)

IN THE TEXAS SOUTHERN DISTRICT COURT:
Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. v. Does (Case No. 4:16-cv-03552)
Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software, Inc. v. Does 1-100 (Case No. 4:16-cv-01422)

JOHN DOE DEFENDANTS ARE GETTING CAUGHT THROUGH THE *USE* OF THE SOFTWARE, NOT THROUGH THE ACQUISITION OF THE SOFTWARE.

In September of 2016, I was still piecing together how a person can get caught not through the download of pirated software via BitTorrent, but through the USE of that software (that article is still available for viewing, although the picture is more clear to us now as I describe my current understanding of it here, specifically tailored to the Siemens PLM Software-based lawsuits).

As we’ve learned, most Siemens PLM NX Software available for download on the piracy websites comes with a serial number (“SN”) and an “activator” which modifies the application to allow it to accept a random password that the SN activator generated.  (Not relevant, but still interesting to know:  The serial number + details about the computer or laptop upon which it is installed creates a “Unique ID” which can be checked with valid IDs on the server; this circumvents a computer from using a “valid” registration code for a computer for which that registration code was not licensed to.  Thus, even though the serial number activator provided the software with a valid serial number, the company servers know the software is pirated.)

This application modifier is known as a “crack,” and software which is altered to accept the serial number generated by the crack thinks locally (that is, on the laptop in which it was installed) that the software was properly acquired, purchased, and lawfully registered. Most cracks also revert the executable file used to run the file back to its original unaltered state once the software has been registered.

The problem is that even cracked software connects to the internet, for example, to access libraries in the program file which are stored on the company’s servers. In other words, for economy purposes, it would take up too much hard drive space to store every piece of a large multi-gigabyte-sized program on each person’s hard drive. Thus, companies now store core components of their software on their servers. This is generally referred to as “cloud-based software,” but what exactly is stored online with the Siemens PLM software is still unknown (and they keep this purposefully undisclosed because they track the IP addresses of the computers who run the software and access these files online).

EVEN IF THE SOFTWARE HAS BEEN REGISTERED using a “SN and an activator,” (as provided on the bittorrent websites), when the software connects to Siemens PLM’s servers to access pieces of the software to run, if the registration code (or more accurately, the Unique ID, as described above) does not match a valid paid registration from their own records, that software unbeknownst to the user is flagged as being unlicensed, and the IP address is recorded.  We now understand that the software user is not made aware of this until he is implicated as a John Doe Defendant in a copyright infringement lawsuit.

EVERY TIME that user uses the NX software, another entry of unlicensed use is recorded (date, time, etc.) and the IP address of the internet connection used when accessing the software is also logged. This is how a Siemens PLM lawsuit against a John Doe engineer can leak over to his employer receiving letters for the infringement of their software, even when the software was acquired at the accused John Doe engineer’s home.

WHO IS THE TARGET OF THESE LAWSUITS.

I mentioned above that the Siemens PLM lawsuits look deceptively like “copyright troll” lawsuits, but they are not. Rather than extorting a few thousand dollars from every John Doe Defendant regardless of guilt, Siemens is looking for a particular defendant.

Siemens PLM Software wants to find the engineer who is providing “paid” engineering services, either 1) from his own laptop in his own small business, or 2) from his employer’s place of business where unbeknownst to the employer, that employee is bringing his unlicensed software to his workplace and using that pirated software at work [noting that his work does not own or pay for a license for the software].

In other words, Siemens PLM wants to find those engineers who are using their software but who are not paying a license for the use of that software, and they want to turn that enterprising engineer into a paying customer. Moreso, Siemens PLM wants to find that company (the employer of that engineer) who is benefiting from the unlicensed use of their software, and to turn that corporate entity into a “volume license” paying customer. This is where the “big bucks” are made.

WHAT IF YOU ARE A STUDENT?

Students are a different story than paid engineers. Just as law students are fed unlimited free case lookup services and are encouraged with points and free coffee mugs for using as much of services as they can [only to be hit with a multi-thousand-dollar subscription upon graduation for what a few days ago was free (think, WestLaw, LexisNexis)], engineering students are seen as the same “cash cows” for Siemens PLM as law students are seen by the WestLaw/Nexis case lookup services. A poor engineering student today is seen by Siemens as a future subscription-based customer for the rest of his working career, and if not, that engineer’s employer will be a “volume license” customer which is even more profitable for Siemens.

If you have not yet figured this out, I have found that engineering students (and those individuals who are smart enough to figure out that the NX software has specific applications for use in conjunction with their 3D printers) find themselves in the spider web of these lawsuits more than anyone else. These individuals ‘mess around’ with the software in ways which do not provide them an income (what we call “non-revenue-producing use,” or “personal use”). Rather, they use the NX software (or more recently, the Solid Edge ST9 software) to gain professional skills knowing that if and when these students do find employment, use of the Siemens PLM software will become a necessity. So the students download it, play around with it, then get sued and call me fearing that their professional lives are over.

But no attorney at Siemens PLM — not Robert Riddle, and certainly not Steven Dietz — wants to end the financial life of a future customer. Aside from the fact that a student has no assets to seize, it is my understanding that Steven Dietz would rather turn that student into a loyal customer. For this reason, I have been able to accomplish resolutions of claims with students in a way in which is simply not available to the engineer who uses Siemens PLM’s unlicensed software for profit.

That is not to say that an engineer won’t be able to “get out” of this lawsuit — it simply takes a bit more work, perhaps paying Siemens PLM a settlement fee based on their particular circumstances (read that again carefully), and based on what software was allegedly used, what module add-ons were used or needed, whether the use was for personal or business reasons, and whether use of the software is still needed in the future.

Lastly, [since I am listing scenarios I’ve seen over the past few months,] non-engineering students who have roommates or suitemates who are engineering students also have been the recipients of the subpoena letters from their ISP (most recently, Comcast). While Siemens does not see the non-engineering student or enterprising 3D printer genius as a future customer, your engineering roommate or suitemate is still seen as such, and thus involving him or her as part of the solution can easily fix a $150,000 copyright infringement lawsuit against you.

So as you see, Siemens PLM looks like a copyright troll, but they are not. Their attorneys are often not interested in merely a settlement, but in converting the accused John Doe software user into a customer (or, as a future customer). This means that settlements are accepted where there is a future benefit to Siemens PLM, as they are not looking to use the lawsuits as a means to “cash out” or to “punish pirates.” Obviously this could change, and there have been circumstances where it is more feasible to simply defend a client by representing him or her in the federal court rather than having him agree to anything he or she did not do, but for the most part, Siemens PLM seems to be straightforward on what they seek to accomplish with these lawsuits.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

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This is a follow-up article to the “What to do about the Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. v. Does case (TX)” article I wrote last week.

I did a bit more digging into the Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. v. Does 1-100 (Case No. 4:16-cv-01422) lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and I learned more about their software, and more about where some of the John Doe defendants are coming from.  What I also learned was that this is not the first time they have sued defendants for copyright infringement.

The Siemens Product Lifecycle Management (“PLM”) software being sued over is known as the Siemens NX software.

According to Wikipedia, “NX, formerly known as NX Unigraphics or usually just UG, is an advanced high-end CAD/CAM/CAE software package originally developed by Unigraphics, but since 2007 by Siemens PLM Software… NX is a direct competitor to TopSolid, CATIA, Creo, Autodesk Inventor, and SolidWorks.”

The Pirate Bay shows 9 torrent files for “Siemens NX” software (below).

062016 Siemens PLM NX

Surprisingly, for version 9, there are only 3 seeders (uploaders).  For all others, there is only one seeder.  For a program that takes on average 1GB-5.7GB to download, a download like this could take forever to complete.

Looking at version 10 (the current stable release; version 11.2 is probably a fake), there is one seeder (uploader) and one leecher (downloader).  See attached.

062016 Siemens PLM NX 10

As dry as this post may be, the point is that my suspicions were correct — even though the bittorrent file provides a serial number (probably a valid, but likely an OLD registration code), and even though there is an “activator” which modifies or “cracks” the pirated file to allow the software to accept the old serial number [it likely does this by blocking the “authentication” feature when the software checks with the server to verify the registration key], the software looks to the user as if he has successfully registered the software.

However, through the normal use of the software, the activator software is likely not persistent, which means that after the software is registered using the old key, it restores the software’s executable (.exe) file to its original state.  Then, when using the software, it connects to Siemens’ servers for whatever purpose (to download an update, to check for new features, etc.), and this is how their copyright enforcement / IT department can identify the IP address of the individual using a pirated copy of the software.

In sum, what this means is that Robert Riddle and the Siemens copyright holder likely knows how long the software has been in use, and which IP addresses have been using an old or invalid serial number.  This will likely be a consideration when discussing the matter with the plaintiff attorneys on behalf of my clients.

What all this means for you — 1) June 22nd appears to be the date that Comcast will be ordered to hand over the names and addresses of the 100 accused John Doe defendants, so there is no anonymity and the John Doe defendants will be exposed to being named and served as defendants in the lawsuit. 2) If you have been using the software, they likely know more details than you would like as to what you have been doing with it.  3) Speak to an attorney (me, or anyone else) about what options you have to get out of this, whether you were the downloader, the purchaser (of a pirated copy of the software), or whether you have absolutely no idea why you have been implicated as being one of the John Doe defendants in this case.

 

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This is one of the more difficult blog entries to write, because the “Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc.” case is not the typical bittorrent “extortion” case, but rather, more of a “compulsory licensing” case.

In short, it would be too easy to say that the 100 John Doe defendants were implicated as downloading or uploading Siemens’ CAD software using bittorrent, because this is not the case. Siemens’ software appears to “phone home” when being used, revealing the computer users IP address (thus making them a target in a lawsuit such as this one).

Cracks and keys probably were part of the software download package, if the software was downloaded via a website. Alternatively, the download instructions perhaps instructed “to block the internet connection using a software firewall,” but the downloader forgot to read the instructions.

Lastly, some of the defendants are believed to have purchased the software (e.g., while the software license itself could cost $20,000, the pirated copy cost $50), but the software they purchased was pirated. Thus, when they entered the key to register the software, the key was flagged as being a pirated copy.

In short, Siemens is a software company looking to stop the unlicensed use of their software, and for this reason, they filed the Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. v. Does 1-100 (Case No. 4:16-cv-01422) lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

The weird part for me about this case is that there are so many software solutions out there which would accomplish the result for significantly cheaper.  The Siemens software modules appear to be commercial and high-end, which is more than a typical engineer would need to do their work.

So… what to do now. If you purchased a pirated copy or downloaded an unlicensed copy of the software, all is not lost. This is why you will be hiring an attorney — to speak to your plaintiff attorney and “make it right,” whether that means purchasing a copy after-the-fact, or signing a licensing agreement for the months or years the software was in use.

If you are a business owner, or if the software is in use in your engineering company (or on the laptops of your employees) without authorization, you are the plaintiff’s prime targets, and the licensing strategy will likely be more comprehensive.

If you have absolutely nothing to do with this lawsuit and yet you were implicated as a John Doe Defendant, well, this happens too, and I’d be happy to represent you telling them that there will be no software licensing deal, and that there will be no payment to the plaintiff copyright holders.

The immediate concern is that like all copyright infringement “John Doe” lawsuits, your plaintiff copyright holder has been given permission by a federal judge (here, Texas Judge Keith Ellison) to issue subpoenas to the internet service providers to hand over the subscriber contact information to the plaintiff attorney by or before a certain date.  That date is quickly coming to a close, so this is why you have been trying to contact our firm to figure out your options in how to proceed.  I’d be happy to discuss these with you, obviously time permitting.

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