Games Developer Settles Software Piracy Complaint

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A Maryland gaming software developer that has worked with major game publishers and U.S. government agencies has agreed to pay US$75,000 to settle a complaint by the Business Software Alliance that it was using unlicensed copies of Adobe and Microsoft products, the BSA announced Thursday.

It's "ironic" that BreakAway would be using unlicensed software when the gaming industry is a major victim of software piracy, said Jenny Blank, BSA's director of enforcement. "We also find it ironic that software developers are frequently software piraters," Blank said. "We have a very high percentage of software developers in our list of pirating companies. You would think that they would know better."

BreakAway didn't respond to an e-mail and a phone message seeking comment on the settlement. The company, founded in 1998, has developed games for giant publisher Electronic Arts, Firaxis Games and Sierra Entertainment.

BreakAway, based in Hunt Valley, Maryland, also has developed training games for a variety of organizations, including the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Justice, the International Center On Nonviolent Conflict, the Institute for Defense Analysis, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., according to its Web site.

In January, BreakAway was selected as a team member in an $8.6 million research and development project focused on cybersecurity training at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Microsoft was also one of the team members.

A second company, Aetrex Worldwide, which sells orthotic footwear, has also settled a BSA complaint that it used unlicensed software, the trade group announced Wednesday. Aetrex agreed to pay $100,000 to settle the BSA accusations, the trade group said.

Aetrex didn't immediately respond to a request for comments on the settlement.

In both cases, BSA heard about the unlicensed use of software through confidential reports made on its Web site, Blank said. Many of the 2,500 reports BSA receives a year come from current or former employees of the companies reported, and the trade group has paid $274,000 in rewards for qualified tips since 2008.

In BreakAway's case, the company agreed to an audit of its computer systems after BSA received the report, Blank said. The company has agreed to remove the unlicensed software and implement stronger software asset management practices, she said.

The trade group provides tools for software licensing audits at "We want companies to get legal before we knock on the door," Blank said.

Many companies that get caught are simply careless, Blank added. "We get the real down-and-dirty pirates, too, the people who are clearly doing this knowingly and deliberately," she said. "[Most offenders] tend to fall in the middle of, 'I thought I was legal,' or 'I knew there might have been a problem, but I didn't get around to it yet' -- people who knew or should've known, but didn't act."

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