Creative solution for copyright infringement by UK university


This question is sort of a follow up to:

Basically, I'm selling software on the honor system for $5 to individuals and $999 to large entities. This doesn't work and I will be changing this, but that isn't the point of this question.

A very well known university in the UK is using my software for its student government elections and paid only the $5 price. I've sent them emails and spoken on the phone with the bursar, and they refuse to do anything.

I know what the legal solutions are (I'm an attorney), but since I am in the US and it is only $999, it probably doesn't make sense financially to hire a UK lawyer to address this.

I'm looking for creative non-legal solutions. I don't know much about the UK and universities there. Anything I can do to shame/embarrass the university into paying the remaining amount owed? For example, is there a public/government agency or a copyright enforcement group that might be interested?

Software Legal Copyright Intellectual Property Software Licensing

asked Dec 8 '11 at 00:34
1,936 points
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  • +1 Great follow up question, thank you for adding in the context questions! – Joseph Barisonzi 12 years ago
  • Out of curiosity, is it possible that the student association or whoever oversees the elections is actually a separate non-profit organization? I know of several schools in the U.S. with that kind of arrangement, and it seems like that would make them a non-profit with 0 employees and therefore qualified for the $5 price. Any chance something like that is happening? – Kevin 12 years ago

3 Answers


I would do three things:

  1. After the initial cease-desist letters to the legal department of the university for violation of the software license -- let it go. Don't spend any more karmic energy on trying to collect.
  2. With the help of someone at the University right a "Case Study" of how the software is being used and the impact. See if you can get a Political Science professor or graduate student at the University to co-write the article with you. Name the Univeristy by name. Do not make it anonymous. (If they contact you to complain reference your letter where they are violating the license of the software)
  3. Write a guest post on an appropriate blog about your experience with making the software available,, and include in that experience the specific name of the University failing to use the proper license. It would be great if the blog happened to be in the UK.

And with a little linking, posting and support on your site of the "Case Study" and the "Guest Blog Post" you will get $999 of earned media out of their name-- and you can call it even.

answered Dec 8 '11 at 02:48
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points
  • I agree with options 1 and 2. However, option 3 has a potential of back firing on you. For a company to engage in mud slinging, however justified it is, is a bad idea. Case in point, we were approached by a company to integrate our software with theirs. After googling their name we found a blog they maintained that discussed several legal actions they are taking against some of their current clients. The reason is failure to pay so they have a very good reason for doing this; however, the extremely public discussion on it was a big turn off and we declined. – Chris Lively 12 years ago
  • I appreciate that perspective. If it was written as mudslinging -- then I would agree. I do not bleieve that Writing a truthful experience about marking your software and as part of a truthful and complete story you discuss the truthful and complete experience of how a specific customer chose not to properly license the software would be "finding trouble" Tone (professional) and basis (facts) will set the framework. I know that this will be controversial -- and in most situations I wouldn't reccomend. In this case, with the type of software and the frame -- I think it would work. – Joseph Barisonzi 12 years ago
  • Joseph, thank you very much for the thoughtful post. I do have similar concerns as raised by Finding Trouble, but I think it could be done as you suggest. Now I just have to find the right forum for it! – Kekito 12 years ago


You could contact the student government entity and ask them to address the problem. I would ask nicely in the initial email and go from there. They may be able to talk to the bursar.

answered Dec 8 '11 at 00:56
1,231 points
  • Good suggestion but won't work in my situation. – Kekito 12 years ago


These might be the people you're looking for: the Federation Against Software Theft.

answered Dec 8 '11 at 01:37
Giles Thomas
1,540 points

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