Autodesk visits Blenderhead. Any Advice?

Here is some interesting news. Autodesk people visited a studio where I consult today. The fellows straightaway started by saying that they can help me ‘legalise Autodesk software’. Now, I am well known in some studios in Bangalore, India as an Open Source Evangelist. I teach Blender as well as hold workshops on software like Wings, Gimp, Inkscape Etc. They were not looking for the studio where I consult. They were specifically looking for me!!

Now this took me totally by surprise. So I asked them if they are trying to sell 3dsmax or Maya to me. They were categorical that some sources have informed them we are illegally using their software Etc. They had my name right but the company name was wrong. Of course their information is also wrong. Not only do we use only open source software in our firm, we are actually vocal about the benefits of opensource over commercial software. I had also posted that I will institute an opensource 3d pipeline at the local art university where I hold guest lectures.

I have actually stated on forums and websites that Blender is a far better alternative to software like 3dsmax for people who are cost concious. Obviously this is not illegal right? I have the right to review, evangelise or advice. The Autodesk person admitted that he knew I use Blender but also insisted that we use his sftware. I suggested that perhaps he has the wrong place, but he had my name right. Now perhaps Autodesk is working on improper or unverified information or maybe it is just a blatant attempt to undermine opensource success.In any case I lodged a written complaint against Autodesk at the local police station for tresspassing, and a cautionary statement against harrasment and attempted I.P theft (Can’t have these fellows wandering within a design firm looking at work in progress. They sell their products to other design firms and I don’t trust their intent.)

  1. It is obvious that Autodesk is trying to take some measures against opensource 3d spreading in small cities like Bangalore which are quickly becoming animation outsourcing hubs. By trying to harass key evangelists like me perhaps they hope to make a dent in the public acceptance of software like Blender.

  2. They were trying to make me start using Autodesk products by forcefully selling it to me. Their approach is ‘we have proof, so just buy the software legally’. This seems like a new way to promote Autodesk products, but it doesn’t work with everyone. In India a lot of people pirate 3d software, so they must have come fishing and just their luck that they ran into a Blender Head.

  3. They refused to disclose the identity of the ’so called informant’. Which is obviously a lie. There can be no informant because we don’t use Autodesk products for any body to Inform about. I’m still curious though.
    I would love to pursue the matter. I know Autodesk is a large company and they can make things difficult etc. but they trespassed into my office premises and falsely accused me of using their products. I asked him to put all this in an email. (I was secretly hoping to post it here…) but he refused to put his accusations in writing. I have his name and business card though.

  • Any ideas (Legal Ones!) on how I can do something about this?
  • Do you thing it’s worth pursuing or should I ignore them?
  • Have other commercial 3d software firms tried similar tactics with open source evangelists?
  • Am I right in suspecting Autodesk of foul play or do you think it’s a genuine mistake on their part?

My guess is that they made a list of every business and individual in the area that is working with 3d, then assumed that 90% of those were using Autodesk products and that 90% of that software was pirated. After they assembled the list they just went to each place and started shaking the trees to see what falls out. I doubt that there was anything targeted about it at all. Doing actual research to determine who is using what software and under what license takes time and money, making unfounded blanket accusations is cheap. If the business doesnt use Autodesk software they might be intimidated into buying some anyway, if they use it without a license they might be scared into purchasing, and if they use it with a license they will be doubly sure to continue doing so.

Almost certainly a competitor or disgruntled previous employee is the source of the “information.” That’s how they get all of their info.

Personally, I would write a letter (physical letter, not email) to Autodesk management clearly stating your position, your assumption that what happened is probably not Autodesk corporate policy and just the actions of an overzealous local rep, and that if he shows up again, you’re calling the police for trespass. Mark the letter as cc: to several different Autodesk officials, and to the Free Software Foundation as well.

Also, next time ask them to send their complaint, etc., via registered mail to your attorney (even if you don’t have one), as you do not discuss legal matters without a record and without your counsel present.

They won’t bother you again.

3 Likes

Just don’t feel intimated, they are fighting a lost war there :slight_smile:
If there is anything i can do via Blender Foundation, contact me. I’m interested in having a good network of contacts like you anyway! (ton at blender org). Very cool work you do!

-Ton-

5 Likes

Hadn’t seen a post from you here in a while Ton, not since I was using my old username:eek:

Anyway, Autodesk is interested in market share, but as long as Ton is the head of the BF Autodesk won’t get every last of those using Blender.

Besides, Ton has been fixing quite a few bugs lately according to the mailing lists. I think it’s still planned to work on 2.50 and the event refactor after Apricot, am I right?

How in the world does a company end up with more powers than the police. It usually takes a judge owed warrant for the police to enter a building and conduct a search so how does Autodesk do so without one because am sure search warrants are not granted to companies or individuals.

Any ideas (Legal Ones!) on how I can do something about this?
It’s best if you contact the free software foundation and ask them for legal advice. They are a sort of guardians of free software rights and what happened to you, appears a lot like some FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) tactics. The foundation’s attorneys should have more experience and knowledge how to approach such situations than us regular blenderheads.

Their website:
http://www.fsf.org/about/

Am I right in suspecting Autodesk of foul play or do you think it’s a genuine mistake on their part?
Personally I think it’s more like foul play. Being the top dog in the industry, they certainly want to keep their position and possibly see a big threat in open source software, such as Blender. It’s not hard to see a lot of parallels with the Microsoft vs. Linux “battle” that’s been going on. In any case, it’s most irresponsible of them to knowingly or unknowingly allow such behavior of their employees or contractors.

I agree with jrs about it being just one instance of a blanket operation in your area. I’d bet you were likely not targetted and there is no “informant” at all. It was strictly coincidental that they walked in to your firm. They may have had your name and had seen your work, but probably knew little else about you, as is obvious from their erronious accusations. There’s probably a subtle compliment in there somewhere that they considered your final products to have been made using their software.

They used to do this kind of thing here in the States, too, but I’m guessing got into a bit of legal issues with it. Now there are usually regular official (company mandated) audits of software licencing in most organizations, conducted by either internal auditors or from specialized consulting firms. In a country like India where such legal issues have yet to “mature” they can still go about it the old-fashioned way. Goin’ fishin’ anyone? Vaminos a pescar!

Sounds like Max and Maya came to bump off Suzzane! :smiley:
And OMIGOSH! Is that a post from Ton? I joined in March, had been watching this place since October, and this is the first time ever… :wink:

Autodesk cracking down on pirated software? hmm, sounds like a good opportunity for blender… Even if they’re selling their software for a lot less there than they do here in the US, which wouldn’t surprise me.

I wonder how legit they were. I am sure it wouldn’t be hard to print up some fake business cards. It could have been a competitor trying to social engineer their way in to see what you guys were up to. I think the best course would be to write a letter like harkyman suggested. If it was an overzealous employee working on their own I am sure Autodesk will do something about it. If not they will probably do a “oops, you got me” and offer you something for your trouble. Maybe that “something” for your trouble you could convince them to open source some part of one of their programs. I’d be interested in hearing what comes of it.

off topic: Do you have a link to your site? I’d like to see your work, but couldn’t find a link through Google.

Blender is heaven-sent in poor countries like India. With 3d apps costing 3-5k bucks per license I could imagine many 3d users there leaning on the illegal side.

This is what I’ve been wondering about. If poor countries’ only salvation is open source software, you’d expect that local programmers, which are abundant in India, would put all their weight in contributing to the code so heavy that it would surpass even the leading 3d apps out there. But that is not what’s happening. They’d prefer to be mere users only instead of developers.

Just my 2c.

Two things pop into my mind:

trying to sell you their product and making you a customer / eliminating competition on purpose

or they just walked into your place simply using their information as a trick to see if they might be right.

Without proof the cannot do much.

I think I would keep a cool head but take the trespassing and IP issues serious.

Its much easier to devote time and effort into developing software that you give away for free when your basic needs are already met.

1 Like

What your doing sounds awesome!

I bet they just assumed all 3d studios were using Autodesk Products.

Things you could do:
-phone other studios and asked if they were harassed by them. Could help build a legal case.

Since they came to your work, they could be considered door to door salesmen. What are the laws of door to door salesmn?

I heard about some architecture offices in Brazil that received the visit from AutoDesk.

I think they look to your final project and conclude that you are using their product (odds are they are right :wink:
They don’t chase unknown offices, but if you have a project in a concurs, or is working to some public project (e.g. designing subway stations) you are spotted.

I also heard that these companies (AutoDesk, Microsoft, Adobe …) sometimes work together with the police (in Brazil pirate software is federal crime). So they raise the potential victims and knock the door. If you don´t have a legal license (sometimes the office has only one legal license, and hide the other computers :confused:) they make a deal with you.

You buy the license instead of being prosecuted (the fee is 20x the license value). :spin:

very very great news. Blender is great. I have also shifted from maya5ple to Blender.

Thanks much for all the advice, and thanks much for your support as well Ton. Yesterday’s post and questions were in wonderment, but the advice I have recieved has given me an idea for my business which involves converting people’s current 3d pipeline into opensource. Perhaps I can place an ad that reads like “Harrased by Software Audits and Piracy Crackdowns? Get better 3d for free.” etc. Of course I’m not undermining commercial software developers, but just taking what they will discard and prosecute anyway.

About the Autodesk guy, I don’t think he’s coming back but I’ve now got a lawyer as well. In any case I will be needing one henceforth I think. Funny thing is he was accompanied by a reseller. I suppose they were pretty confident of a sale.

Before this, I had never really wondered about action taken by Autodesk, BSA, etc against piracy or what they do to people. But yesterday I spent a lot of time on Google and have learnt a lot. People think the music industry is heavy handed but it turns out the software industry is no slouch either. The actual No. of cases booked are not as high, but they ensure that either the software is bought or all the offender’s hardware in the premises is confisticated by the Government and the place sealed.

The thing about India is that buzzwords direct the career choices of the masses. Ever since the media reported the animation outsourcing boom about 6 years ago, thousands of animation institutes have opened up. And these are mega chains with several branches each. All of them teach Max and Maya. Not many people have heard of Cinema4d, XSI, Houdini etc. Blender is unheard of by and large!!

So many of these people get into animation as a career! They take bank loans of upto USD $ 6000 (about 3,00,000 rupees a huge amount!) to take these courses believing that they will be able to make a lot of money later. These courses are typically 2 hours a day and obviously for many people this is a full time thing. So they pirate copies to practise at home. Some join larger firms while some go into business since they anyway have a PC and the pirated software in it. A good starting point is architectural visualisation, set design etc. When the firms make some money it becomes a question of use the money to hire another guy or to legalise the software. Guess what happens more often than not? The ridiculously overpriced softwares don’t give anybody a break! and these people are treated like criminals. Maybe it’s illegal, but wanton I.P breaches are a far different story.

Actually causation considered perhaps it’s a good thing afterall. The fear of imprisonment (upto 7 years according to copyright act amendment, 1994, India) and with companies like Autodesk actually creating a hatewave among 3d users with their heavy handedness allows smaller players to take advantage of the emotional disturbance caused. Often human will requires a severe shock to change the course of mindsets and habits. Perhaps rage and embarrassment will prove a greater benefit to Opensource than Autodesk ever thought.

For Linuxpimp21:
My startup is called Pencilsauce. No official website yet, though this serves for now. Some of my Blender work on cgtantra here and some mesh screenshotshere. I moved Kablam, an illustration frim from commercial to Opensource last year. See their work here andhere. All 3d is Blender!!

It would be interesting to post this case at CG Society forum http://forums.cgsociety.org/forumdisplay.php?f=2.

I guess this is the biggest one in the internet. Reaction of other 3d guys would be really interesting. I guess they would not expect such a behaviour from Autodesk. This may provide to the case the needed medias publicity that may scared Autodesk people.

Maybe official complaint to Autodesk head quoter would solve things faster then dealing with some little local guys.

These advices are some kind of result of my own experience with legal cases with big companies. (I was on side of the one, so I know what may be efficient tools.)

JiriH is right, IMO, just post this case at CG Society forum.