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The Military Piracy Software

US Military Settles Software Piracy Claims For $50M 127

Posted by timothy
from the where's-the-bsa-when-you-need-'em? dept.
Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC reports that the U. S. government has agreed to pay software maker Apptricity $50 million to settle claims that the U.S. Army pirated thousands of copies of the firm's provisioning software. The report indicates 500 licensed copies were sold, but it came to light an army official had mentioned that 'thousands' of devices were running the software." $50 million in tax money could have paid for a whole lot of open source software development, instead.
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US Military Settles Software Piracy Claims For $50M

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 28, 2013 @06:42PM (#45551593)

    $50 million could have paid for a whole lot of private sector open source software development.

    If the military had spent the money on development, they might have finished the request for proposals before running out of funding...

    • Yeah but open source projects don't give principals free vacations, cars and other bennies.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        they also require the source code be distributed, so the program is essentially gifted to the US army's enemies...

        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @08:06PM (#45551981) Journal

          they also require the source code be distributed, so the program is essentially gifted to the US army's enemies...

          I don't know of a single OSS license that requires distribution of source to anybody except recipients of binary versions (who, one hopes, the Pentagon would check for friendliness before sending software to, not that we have a terribly good track record on that...) It's commonly more widely distributed than that, for convenience or philanthropic reasons; but it would be perfectly doable to keep even an aggressively GPLed project in-house/among close collaborators only, with the only caveat being that you'd need to be using only LGPL or less encumbered external components.

          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            If the software is developed for the US Government (USG), then the terms of the GPL don't really even apply: the GPL requires you to distribute (or make available) the source code to everyone you distribute binaries to. Well, if you're only distributing binaries to yourself, then there's nothing to do. So if the USG doesn't distribute the binaries to anyone else outside the government, then they don't have to distribute source code anywhere.

            • That is true, licenses don't even enter the picture until you are distributing to parties who would otherwise be unlicensed.

              I was thinking of use cases like the various 'America+NATO Buddies!' shared or partially shared, or one nation with purchases by allies, etc. weapon system procurement arrangements that we've done over the years. In a situation like that, you aren't just dumping it on github; but there are multiple organizationally distinct groups using and modifying the product, each of which proba
            • by mwvdlee (775178)

              If you don't want to distribute the source, what's the point of using an open source license?

            • by unixisc (2429386)

              But if the software is changing hands b/w say the USAF and the US Navy, or b/w Centcom and Pacific fleet, then is that considered 'distributing only to yourself' or is it considered distribution? All of the above come under the Pentagon, but are different organizations, or aren't they? This is where the license becomes more fuzzy.

              But the OP's point still stands - the US government could have worked on BSD licensed software (even if they wanted to steer clear of Theo's OBSD) and made that the basis of t

              • by Grishnakh (216268)

                But if the software is changing hands b/w say the USAF and the US Navy, or b/w Centcom and Pacific fleet, then is that considered 'distributing only to yourself' or is it considered distribution? All of the above come under the Pentagon, but are different organizations, or aren't they? This is where the license becomes more fuzzy.

                I would call the US Government a singular entity.

                You think it's "distribution" if the IT Department of Corporation X gives software to the HR department of that same corporation?

          • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Friday November 29, 2013 @04:41AM (#45553585)

            Software (and any other copyrightable work) developed directly by an employee of the US Government is, unless it qualifies to be secret, required to be released into the Public Domain, which means that you can't even attach the limited restrictions of a permissive/promiscuous license like BSD to it.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        Yeah but open source projects don't give principals free vacations, cars and other bennies.

        depends largely on the open source project. quite a few have done exactly that...

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      $50 million could have paid for a whole lot of private sector open source software development.

      Unlikely that it would have bought an equally useful product.

      $50 million isn't that many employees really, well less than 500. Those 500 people are not going to create software of the same level of quality (assuming the commercial software isn't complete shit) with the same level of experience thrown in as the company who's been doing it for years.

      There is FAR more to writing software than just lines of code, but unfortunately only a few projects in the OSS world actually understand that, and pretty much a

  • by Mitsoid (837831) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @06:44PM (#45551609)

    it could have also paid for the software... and probably be a lot cheaper then $50 million on open source...

    I only say this because there is an obvious 'zomg go open source' vibe to the post... Obviously, it would be nice id governments threw money at open source software development, but then o then taxpayers would probably complain since it doesn't directly benefit them in a way their minds can comprehend

    • like all those taxpayers complaining about GNAT and tor?
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, because opensource lets you quickstart easily and cheaply.

  • According to court documents filed in 2012, the deal with the military meant up to 500 named users could access the software.

    Apptricity later estimated that 9,000 users were accessing the program, in addition to the 500 that had been paid for.

    The unauthorised copying only came to light after a US Army official mentioned "thousands" of devices running the software during a presentation on technology.

    Well there's your problem right there!

    One might have assumed a BSA sting except, well, it's the gub'ment.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      I doubt the Army official knew they were pirated. Pirating is usually caused by carelessness at the lower levels of an organization, not a general org plan to pirate. Although, it could be argued that higher levels didn't bother to take inventory or were sloppy at record keeping.

      • I doubt the Army official knew they were pirated.

        I don't believe this.

        The Army has a professional IT program. Everyone from the commanders down to the bottom have to do CBT's and attend briefings on this subject.

        The grunts using the apps might have no clue what / when / where the software was loaded, but the officers from the butter-bars on up certainly did.

        • Having been in the Army a long time, I can tell you we rarely know where the licenses for software come from, or whether they are needed or not. This includes the "professional IT program" people. Does FBCB2 need a license? I don't know. Does Blue Force tracker? Same. Did someone buy a license for us? Probably, but I would have know idea if they did or did not.
  • Oh man (Score:1, Insightful)

    by XPeter (1429763)

    This submitter has the typical Slashdot FOSS douchebag attitude. This case has NOTHING TO DO with open source software, yet you can always find a way to jam it in there eh?

    • So the Army should have used Open Source, folks say? Which project does the same or close to this commercial product?

      • If it doesn't exist, then they could have developed it; probably would have cost much less than this did.

        • If it doesn't exist, then they could have developed it; probably would have cost much less than this did.

          Clearly you are not familiar with both internal and external government software development.

        • by exomondo (1725132)

          If it doesn't exist, then they could have developed it; probably would have cost much less than this did.

          With the ridiculous budget blowouts on government technology projects i highly doubt that.

    • Re:Oh man (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Goody (23843) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @07:17PM (#45551777) Journal

      I think timothy added the FOSS douchebag statement, not the submitter.

    • $50 million in tax money could have paid for a whole lot of open source software development, instead.

      Buying 10,000 useless items because they are on sale does not make it a good deal. You have less money and 10,000 useless items.

    • by Mitreya (579078)

      This submitter has the typical Slashdot FOSS douchebag attitude. This case has NOTHING TO DO with open source software, yet you can always find a way to jam it in there eh?

      I am sure that timothy (not the submitter, btw) had done due diligence research and verified that Apptricity offerings are also available or nearly-available in a viable FOSS project. Because otherwise it would be irresponsible to make such statements:

      $50 million in tax money could have paid for a whole lot of open source software development, instead.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rtb61 (674572)

      Every government software expenditure on software licences has something to do with the alternate, the development of a free open source software solution. Where the purchase of software licences exceeds the cost of direct development of the software solution, which can then be made available to the public for free those people who paid for the development, then that is money blatantly thrown away and brings to immediate mind, what was the corruption in the process that allowed that poor decision. The only

    • by couchslug (175151)

      When your taxes pay for things such as (unclassified) equipment manuals and training guides, they are free to reproduce both in the DoD world and by the public.

      If your taxes paid for development of FOSS software solutions, DoD, the rest of the government you also pay for, and the public wouldn't be paying even more for vendor lock.

      Paying for the development and maintenance of software is fine, but vendor lock is less fine.

  • Simply not true (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday November 28, 2013 @06:53PM (#45551653)

    $50 million in tax money could have paid for a whole lot of open source software development, instead.

    Bullshit. A government designed website cost over $600 million, for $50 million you only get the committee that argues about the design, and only for a year or so.

    • by Trogre (513942)

      No it didn't. $600 million was budgeted under the heading of that particular project and supporting IT infrastructure, but that's government accounting. I doubt anyone here knows how much of that actually went on development and how much went straight to pork.

      Hint: give me $2m + $3m for infrastructure and I'll get a system up and running that I guarantee would be better than what you got.

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        I think if we gave just about anyone over 18 with a slight knowledge of computers $2m + $3m they could go to school, learn what is needed and get a system up and running better then what we got.

        That is one of the problems with the expense here. With what was spent, you could have picked high-school kids with little programing background, sent them to college and did better in about the same time span.

  • ha? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by superwiz (655733) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @07:08PM (#45551725) Journal

    $50 million in tax money could have paid for a whole lot of open source software development, instead.

    How would that not be spending tax dollars to compete with private industry? What kind of an ass backwards priority system does this poster have? Take money away from honest citizens at gun point and give this money to their competition? How is this even remotely ethical?

    • by lapm (750202)
      Whats there stopping this corporation to take some of that money and help develop that opensource solution. Whats wrong with you? Anything government does is away from some private sector people... Example, they could hire private accounting corporation to run the whole tax system.
      • by superwiz (655733)

        Anything government does is away from some private sector people

        No, not everything. There is no private army. There is no private national highway system. There is plenty of things that the government can do that cannot be done by the private industry. But why compete with the private industry while taxing it? That's just so damn obnoxious.

    • by ewieling (90662)
      I feel it is a government's duty to maximize the good done by the money they spend. I also feel in many cases spending money on open source software development does more good than spending the money on closed source software development.
    • How would that not be spending tax dollars to compete with private industry?

      Compared to the US Army committing theft--BSA terms--of at least $50 million on the private sector, only to later begrudgingly pay some sort of settlement on the part they accidentally outed themselves on? At least direct open source software development could be some sort of honorable route. Btw, why aren't we also hearing about dishonorable discharges and criminal trials leading to prison terms? Because I'm pretty sure anyone e

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Pay private industry to develop the open source software, just as anyone else in the market is free to do.

      There is no obligation to vendor lock.

    • Even the incumbent makers of hammers would be happier living in a world where it isn't illegal to make a better hammer. They might moan and cry about it, and pretend like their case is special, but everyone is worse off when policy becomes "hinder technological progress to protect the economy of old technology".

      Presumably the poster is trying to say that making the software open source is promoting the technology available to everyone, and since it is progress in technology, there is no need to protect the

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      $50 million in tax money could have paid for a whole lot of open source software development, instead.

      How would that not be spending tax dollars to compete with private industry? What kind of an ass backwards priority system does this poster have? Take money away from honest citizens at gun point and give this money to their competition? How is this even remotely ethical?

      How is it remotely ethical for government to spend our money on anything other than open-source software? Remember, all that really means (since 1991 or earlier) is that you can get your hands on the source code, especially if you've got the binary. In cases where the software is not secret, the code should be released to The People, who paid for it. In cases where it is, it should be held in escrow so that it can be studied in the future.

  • Its the government, what did you expect :P Government does everything in way its most expensive as possible.
  • This company should have hired the RIAA's lawyers...
  • by Tom (822) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @07:47PM (#45551913) Homepage Journal

    $50 million in tax money could have paid for a whole lot of open source software development, instead.

    Maybe, but then again maybe they needed something that works today, so funding development of something that will work in two years simply wasn't an option? Not everything in this world is a conspiracy, you know?

  • by deviated_prevert (1146403) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @07:54PM (#45551933) Journal

    Most likely what happened is the US Military bought the software, which may or may not be the best solution but clearly it was the most viable software solution available suited for the specific needs of modern arm forces logistics. Then what happened is the user seat requirements outstripped the original purchase numbers. BECAUSE THE FRIGGIN' SOFTWARE is written on a per seat basis and most likely a timed rental lease. And this is why the distribution became a warez situation.

    EVERYBODY wants to pull a Microsoft and create something that becomes a cash cow that feeds them beyond the actual value of the original creation, is timed to expire and cause the users to send more cash.

    Now we complicate the situation with the recent cutbacks in military funding for procurement of frills like this software. Someone with a hand on the accounting made the decision that increasing the site license numbers was not financially justified. This in turn caused the military IT person(s) responsible for deployment of this software to but heads with staff that was lower down than the pencil necks that cut their procurement budgets. So most likely some Colonel somewhere reamed out the poor IT staff so bad about not having the rights to deploy more copies without the budget that they just turned a blind eye and handed out copies instead of facing some Colonel Blowhard every time Lieutenant Hothead complained about the IT department not letting them accomplish their mission.

  • by aiadot (3055455) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @11:08PM (#45552599)
    Random teenager downloads enough music CDs to fill his iPod -> millions in damage representing the sum of the full price of each song

    US government downloads software on more devices it's licensed to -> get's a 90% discount in the fine and not even a warning
  • Seriously. Does the OP of the summary really not understand that open source != free? Publishing the source code has nothing to do with licensing. If the military had paid for 500 copies of open source software and installed it on thousands of machines, they would STILL BE PIRATING IT.
  • $50 million in tax money could have paid for a whole lot of open source software development

    I'm a staunch advocate of open source software, but for military applications? Would it be wise to share your military's tools with every other country on the planet? Would that not be assisting your enemies?

    • by unixisc (2429386)
      The military doesn't have to make it open for everybody, just those they distribute to. And hopefully, they don't distribute to our enemies.
  • by mysidia (191772) on Friday November 29, 2013 @03:14AM (#45553261)

    Apptricity later estimated that 9,000 users were accessing the program, in addition to the 500 that had been paid for.

    This is equivalent to Microsoft claiming you pirated windows server, because you only bought 500 CALs, but your organization has 9000 employees.

    Through some bit of magic, they say you get this license thingie, that you have to permanently assign to a specific piece of flesh and blood ---- no matter how many computers you have running the software; or how many employees you have on the job at a particular moment -- you don't count those: you count the total number of people your organization hired.

    50 million divided by 8500 is close to $6000 per employee.

    I would call that predatory + difficult to comply with licensing, not "piracy" --- the folks making out like bandits here is the software company.

    I'm sure a fraction of the 50 million could have funded a contractor to build the product, and provide the military the rights to the software --- and unlimited, perpetual licenses.

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