On January 29th, The Verge reported that Adobe is suing the fashion chain Forever 21 for a number of copyright infringements and un-licensed software. The Verge states that:
“Forever 21 pirated 63 different instances of Adobe software including copies of Photoshop, Acrobat, and Illustrator. Autodesk and Corel also joined Adobe in the suit, based on pirated copies of Autodesk, WinZip and PaintShopPro, among others”
It has also been made public that Forever 21 continued to infringe copyright even after being made aware of the situation by Adobe. They are a huge organisation, with a well-known brand and huge profit margins. There is simply no excuse for them to be using pirated or illegal copies of software. The fact that Adobe also told them they were infringing copyrights and they still continued to do so is unforgivable.
Forever 21 are an American fashion chain that is currently based out of Los Angeles, California. In 2013 Forbes reported that they had sales of over $3.7 billion, with over 480 stores around the world. Before they found trouble with Adobe, Forever 21 have also been in trouble for issues around employee safety and more interestingly copyright infringements from other clothing brands.
However, with that said it baffles us that they have been found to be using pirated and unauthorized copies of Adobe, Autodesk, and Corel and WinZip software. They certainly have enough money to legally acquire software, so why put the organisations reputation and increase the risk potential by using pirated copies of relatively (apart from Autodesk) cheap software applications?
No one is safe. It does not matter how big an organisation you are, or how well known the brand is, if you are found to be using software illegally then you will be caught and fined. The article does not disclose how much money Forever 21 will be fined, but we can expect to hear more about this case in the coming weeks. We would assume that an example will be made of them, to highlight the fact that pirating software and using under licensed software is no acceptable and will be strongly punished. This is also a wake-up call to other well-known organisations that may be under the impression that they are safe from the auditors.
Both the ITAM world and the general business world can learn a lot from this case. The ITAM world has another opportunity to highlight it’s importance, and also it is quite a wake-up call to show that organisations that we may not of considered as being under licensed or using pirated software (such as well know brands or organisation, you would assume they have their software assets managed correctly). It shows that ITAM still has some way to go before being a basic function within any organisation.
This is also a wake up call for the retail world and other organisations. You are not safe from the auditors. If you are using software illegally or using pirated software then you will be caught. Now is the time for organisations to start addressing their software estates and taking software licensing seriously. We keep saying it, but now is the time to start implementing ITAM and addressing the software risks within the organisation.
Quite simply it is down to poor governance, ignorance, arrogance and a lack of education around software and software licensing. I suspect that Forever 21 had the mentality of ‘we wont ever get caught’ or ‘auditors don’t care about retail organisations, there are bigger fish to fry’. Wrong. There are a number of organisations that still do not take ITAM or software licensing seriously, and do no consider being under-licensed a big risk or top priority for addressing. This mentality needs to change, and it gradually is but not quick enough for our liking.
We reported last year that the BSA stated that there was $60 billion worth of unlicensed software in operation within organisations, with a small Planning and Design organisation also being fined. Furthermore, during our recent trip to New York, our very own Martin Thompson worked out that if you add all of the customers of the SAM tool vendors, it equates to hundreds of thousands of businesses. There are millions of businesses out there that will require an ITAM or software licensing governance program that simply do not currently have something in place yet. The ITAM discipline is still just scratching the surface in trying to make an impression on the global business environment.
The fact that Adobe has gone to the press with the information of this case shows that there has been a breakdown in the relationship with vendor and organisation. Usually, when a vendor goes to the press it is as a last resort, and all over avenues have been blocked by the organisation. Whilst this is only speculation, it is usually the case. Forever 21 have a history of not following the law with stealing people’s patents for designs with clothing etc, so they may feel as though they do not have to answer to Adobe. Also, the fact that Adobe have contacted them already to say that they are infringing copyrights and are using software illegally, and Forever 21 continue to do so, clearly shows Forever 21 have no respect for software licensing or copyright infringements.
We have the mantra of ‘If you cannot manage it, do not install it’ here at the ITAM Review. There are simply no excuses for being under licensed, and even less excuses for pirating software! We believe we are the voice for the community, but being under licensed or pirating software is something that cannot be condoned, and we are firmly on the side of the software vendors should any organisation be found to using illegal copies of software.