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NSW Police hit with $1.8m legal bill after piracy case

Widescale copyright piracy: Micro Focus alleged police and other agencies were using 16,500 copies of its software when police were only ever entitled to 6500 licences.

Widescale copyright piracy: Micro Focus alleged police and other agencies were using 16,500 copies of its software when police were only ever entitled to 6500 licences. Photo: Michele Mossop

NSW Police incurred a $1.8 million legal bill defending itself against a multinational software company that sued for wide-scale copyright piracy, figures obtained under government information access laws show.

Software company Micro Focus alleged in 2011 that the NSW Police Force, Ombudsman, Police Integrity Commission, Corrective Services and other government agencies illegally used its ViewNow software, which is used to access the intelligence database known as COPS.

The company alleged police and other agencies were using 16,500 copies of its software on various computers when police were only ever entitled to 6500 licences. The group initially alleged $10 million in damages but later increased this to $12 million after reviewing the results of a court-ordered, $120,000 KPMG audit of the NSW Police Force's computer systems.

The police force maintained during the court proceedings that it had paid for a site licence that entitled it to unlimited installations of the software for all of its officers.

Despite this, it settled the matter out of court last year for an undisclosed sum. The other agencies previously settled the matter out of court, also for undisclosed sums.

No internal documents were handed over to Fairfax Media as part of its government information access request.

Darren Brand, Senior Sergeant co-ordinator at the NSW Police information access and subpoena unit, denied a request for documents relating to how much was paid to Micro Focus as part of the settlement, and why the matter was settled out of court.

Mr Brand did however divulge that no one was sacked as a result of the legal action by Micro Focus and the legal costs for the case totalled $1,829,709.29.

''To put these costs in context, Micro Focus has claimed as much as $12 million in damages,'' he said.

Mr Brand said there was a stronger public interest against releasing all of the information requested. He said it would ''breach'' the NSW Police Force's obligation to maintain the confidential terms of the settlement.

Mr Brand also believed the release of that information ''could result in further legal action against [the police force], which would incur further expenditure of government funds''.

But Sydney piracy investigator Michael Speck said it "beggars belief" that the NSW Police Force had continued to pursue the case even after all other government agencies had settled.

"One can only assume [it] was motivated by ready access to the public purse," Mr Speck said.

"They have settled the case after fiercely resisting it on commercial terms that include the settlement being confidential. You'd have to wonder how the confidential settlement sits with the obligation that police have to properly investigate and report on alleged misconduct."

Mr Speck said the public deserved to know if police had properly investigated the matter internally, if they had taken steps to ensure something like the matter never happened again, and if action would be taken against the individual who allegedly set it on the path of software piracy.

twitter This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb

twitter This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb

29 comments

  • This translates to the income of one camera on one freeway lane set to +2kph of the posted limit. Small change really.

    Commenter
    Tony
    Location
    Optional
    Date and time
    April 27, 2013, 1:25PM
    • The South Australian police a few years back were found to be copying pirated movies USING police computers. The police were never charged or fined for pirating movies, the reason, there were too many police officers involved so the case was dropped!!!

      Commenter
      Mark of Adelaide
      Date and time
      April 27, 2013, 3:44PM
    • Tony,
      What has a speed camera on the side of the freeway go to do with the police? They are operated by an entirely different agency and have NOTHING to do with police???

      Commenter
      RS Man
      Date and time
      April 27, 2013, 8:42PM
    • i love it how the police can use taxpayers money for out of court settlements that are hidden from the people who paid for it,
      that way we dont know about all the mistakes......Secrecy only hides incompetence which leads to a lack of integrity to hide the truth....

      how are we any different from places like China? please EXPLAIN THIS !!!!

      Commenter
      binyapaul
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      April 27, 2013, 9:44PM
  • Wow way to go NSW Police. What an example you have set. It appears that accountability is not something that you have learned even after the Wood royal commission and subsequent institutional reforms. The other agencies are equally unaccountable.

    On the legislative action front there must be amendments which should do away with confidential settlements when tax payer funds are used for such purpose. The $1.8 million mentioned above was spent to defend the indefensible and still they ended up coughing up more as settlement.

    Commenter
    Sam
    Date and time
    April 27, 2013, 2:47PM
    • Am I missing something here? The police spokesman said .."To put these costs in context, Micro Focus has claimed as much as $12 million in damages,.. So? Apparently it is OK to spend nearly $2m of public money defending what their lawyers obviously told them was indefensible. The software company was unlikely to settle for anything less than the $12m as they knew they had all the aces. So where does the $12m come from? Money that should have been spent on/for or on behalf of the people of NSW goes offshore due to someone's incompetence or stupidity.

      Commenter
      Albervin
      Date and time
      April 27, 2013, 3:10PM
      • The amount of resources allocated to software licence management in many government departments is dismayingly low - and consequent under/inappropriate staffing where something like this can easily slip past a less experienced eye.

        Hopefully these settlements will focus some much needed attention -and resources - on the complexity of this risk-mitigating function.

        Commenter
        Quasimofoso
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        April 27, 2013, 6:47PM
      • Actually if they in fact ended up paying 12m plus legal costs then they could have developed their own software. But wait a second, since this is government that would have ended up costing $12billion like the advanced avionics we tried to develop and fit into an old helicopter at defence!

        Commenter
        Sam
        Date and time
        April 27, 2013, 8:13PM
      • speed cameras....or we in the west call then flash for cash machines

        Commenter
        skeptic
        Location
        perth
        Date and time
        April 28, 2013, 8:22AM
      • Simple. Doc the pigs wages. Why should joe public pay for this. Only be a few bucks out of every cops oversized pay check.

        Commenter
        Dan
        Date and time
        April 28, 2013, 12:38PM

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