Dice Corp is in the business of selling software into the niche market of the security and alarm industry; and, as a part of that business was a nonexclusive licensee, a dealer, of an accounting and business software package, THOROUGHBRED. Dice found the THOROUGHBRED license to be cumbersome and restrictive.
So, Dice designed some self help that allowed Dice to sublicense the THOROUGHBRED software multiple new locations and users. The self help was a bit of custom code that facilitated the installation of the licensed code without any of the restrictions – the install code, for instance. Dice sublicensed to several end users using this free wheeling process.
Thoroughbred, the licensor, exercised their rights to audit the sublicenses that Dice was granting; and hired a private detective to verify that there was a whole subset of unauthorized sublicensees that Dice had set up. Thoroughbred sued; and Dice defended that it was contract breach, not copyright infringement.
The trial court in the Eastern District of Michigan on July 21 found that there was copyright infringement, not breach of contract; but, limited the damages to be paid to Thoroughbred to be the amount that Thoroughbred would have gotten but for the unauthorized licenses. This damage calculation is not the amount that the plaintiff was entitled to under the statute, but in favor of keeping the ongoing business relationships going, perhaps enough for Thoroughbred.