US Army Admits to Software Piracy, Pays $50M

Dennis Faas's picture

The United States government has agreed to pay $50 million in compensation after effectively committing large-scale piracy. The problem? The US Army installed software on 9,000 military computers without a proper license.

The software, which was produced by Texas-based firm Apptricity, was used to track the movement of troops and supplies in real time.

The system allows staff to get a complete picture of everything they are tracking on a single screen, yet have the ability to drill down to fine detail -- such as finding which particular compartment in a vehicle or plane a specific item is currently in.

The US Army has used the software during military and international aid operations in places like the Middle East and Haiti. (Source:

Army Used Software Widely Without License

The problem was that the US Army didn't buy the software outright, but used it on a license basis. The license allowed it to use the software on up to 500 computers and three servers for a total cost of just under $5 million per year.

The makers of the software became suspicious when they realized the software was being used by the military all around the world. It quickly became apparent to Apptricity that its software was being used on far more than 500 computers and three servers.

After lengthy discussion, the US Army eventually admitted it was using the software on somewhere between 9,000 to 11,000 computer devices and just under 100 servers. (Source:

Apptricity responded by initiating legal action, seeking damages of $224.5 million, which it estimates as the cost the army would have paid if it purchased a license for every machine on which it used the software.

Two Sides Will Continue Working Together

However, the two sides have initiated negotiations. It seems Apptricity wanted enough of a payment to acknowledge the seriousness of the breach of copyright, but knew that if it pushed too hard it might lose a massive client.

The settlement for $50 million is around 20 per cent of the cost of the licenses that the army should have bought, but Apptricity will continue to be a military supplier.

The army says it is still investigating how the piracy happened and whether anyone will face disciplinary action.

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