Dealing with pirates is a regular occurrence for the US Navy, but the naval warfare branch of the armed forces is now facing piracy accusations itself - and not ones of the maritime kind.

German company Bitmanagement Software has brought a federal lawsuit against the Navy that claims it made more than 558,000 unlicensed copies of the firm’s 3D virtual reality software.

According to the complaint, the Navy agreed to license the BS Contact Geo software on a limited and experimental basis in 2011 and 2012. The trial involved installing the program on 38 computers for testing and integration into the Navy's systems.

The military arm was impressed with the software, and began negotiations with Bitmanagement to secure a licensing deal for a wide-scale rollout. However, as these talks continued during 2013, the Navy was allegedly “simultaneously copying and installing that software, without Bitmanagement's advance knowledge or authorization, on a massive scale."

The company claims to have discovered that its software had been surreptitiously installed on 558,466 Navy computers. But in 2014, the Flexwrap software that tracked the number of duplications was disabled, meaning Bitmanagement wasn’t able to know the scope of the deployment or limit its use - so that number could be even higher.

With the licensing fees for each piece of software being around $1067 at the time, the company is seeking copyright infringement damages of more than $596 million. As pointed out by Ars Technica, the amount of damages could go up substantially if the Navy loses. With aded interest, punitive damages, legal costs, attorney fees, and statutory damages, it could total $150,000 per infringement.

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