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  • Writer's pictureVincent Lim-Teh

Company liable for copyright infringement after its employee installs unlicensed software

Inzign, a Singaporean medical device manufacturer was sued by American software company, Siemens Industry Software, after an Inzign employee installed an unauthorised version of Siemen’s NX software on an unused workplace laptop. The employee had used the CAD/CAM/CAE software on several occasions. The unauthorised use was discovered by Siemens through a built-in automatic reporting function in its software. Siemens then offered to allow Inzign to “legalise” the infringement by paying a license fee of SGD 79,587 (approximately USD 60,000) which the latter rejected.

In its suit, Siemens claimed SGD 259,511 (approximately USD 193,000) in damages as it contended that Inzign was directly and vicariously liable for copyright infringement.

The High Court found that while Inzign was careless in its management of the laptop and its supervision of its employees, it was not directly liable for copyright infringement as it had no knowledge of the infringing no practical control over the employee’s action. However, the Court did find Inzign vicariously liable for the acts of its employee, as there was a sufficient connection between their employment relationship and the infringing acts.

The Court also found the damages claimed by Siemens to be excessive and instead calculated the damages as SGD 30,574 (around USD 23,000) based on the licence fees that Inzign would have paid Siemens.

While the topic of copyright infringement and piracy policy may not sound like the most exciting subject matter for your next team building exercise, it is a crucial that businesses provide proper training and education to employees in order to avoid a potentially expensive infringement law suit.

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