OT: Interface legality concerns

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I realize that this question may be better suited for a cellphone group but
most postings that go on there are for unlocking phones and downloading ring
tones...



My problem is that I'm thinking of taking a contract to develop a software
driver that will provide and interface to several different Cellphones from
different manufactures.



For items such as the phonebook, most phones now support the GSM AT Commands
to obtain this information.  The calendar for example is only obtainable
from proprietary interfaces that are not documented from the manufacture.



Does anyone know the legalities of reverse engineering these interfaces?  Is
it even legal to connect to an embedded system if you are not using the
software provided from the manufacture?



I though that I'd post these concerns here, if anyone can suggest a better
place please feel free to it?



Thank you in advance,



Jamie



Re: OT: Interface legality concerns

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If I design a piece of equipment with an RS232 connector I very much doubt it is
illegal for someone to connect a terminal to it and start typing away in the
hope of making use of it...

Trying to reverse-engineer the contents of the device (by whatever means) is
probably illegal in some countries by now.

Geo

Re: OT: Interface legality concerns

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Is
it is
the
is

The EU has taken a position in the copyright directive that even
de-compilation of a piece of code is permitted if it's the only method of
getting the interface specification. De-compilation or dis-assembly is a
much more drastic reverese-engineering task than just probing an interface.

Tauno Voipio
tauno voipio @ iki fi



Re: OT: Interface legality concerns

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interface.

Thanks for the information, I'm not looking to deassemble any code just
sniff the serial connect to determine the interface commands...

Do you have a reference for your comments above?

thanks!
Jamie



Re: OT: Interface legality concerns

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of

The EU Council Directive 91/250/EEC 14 May 1991, Article 5, part 3.

A good starting point may be
<http://europa.eu.int/comm/internal_market/en/intprop/docs/index.htm

HTH

Tauno Voipio
tauno voipio @ iki fi



Re: OT: Interface legality concerns

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Get a lawyer.
--
Alex Pavloff - remove BLAH to email
Software Engineer, ESA Technology

Re: OT: Interface legality concerns


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better

ya, thanks smart guy...  Can you suggest which kind?  Is there such thing as
a lawyer that specialises in software patents/issues? Or has Microsoft put
them all on retainer ;-)

Jamie



Re: OT: Interface legality concerns
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Unfortunately, yes. They'll probably list their skills as "intellectual
property".


Re: OT: Interface legality concerns

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patents/issues?
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Thanks for the help Gary... I've booked an apointment...

Jamie



Re: OT: Interface legality concerns
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Look for recent comments by Richard Stallman on why the term "IP" is meaningless.
He thinks about this a lot.

Intellectual property contains the concepts of patent, copyright, and trademark,
somewhat related but very different. If you mean patent, say patent; if you mean
copyright, say copyright; if you mean trademark, say trademark. WTF is IP?


Re: OT: Interface legality concerns
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trademark,
you mean

Well, it's good to know that I'm not the only one lost in this ;-)



Re: OT: Interface legality concerns

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meaningless.
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IP is a term lawyers use in threats when they don't want you to
understand what your rights are. The more they can confuse you, the
less likely you will be able to defend yourself, or even understand
where you stand.

Bob McConnell
N2SPP


Re: OT: Interface legality concerns
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No general answer to this, and you probably should consult a lawyer
before selling this product, but:

* Reverse-engineering for the purpose of assuring compatibility is
explicitly legal in most jurisdictions.

However:

* In the USA, the manufacturer may sue you under the DMCA if they can
create a tortuous definition that your product is a "circumvention
device" of some kind.

* If some aspect of the communications protocol is patented, you may
be required to license the patent (or face the litigious music,
again).

Re: OT: Interface legality concerns
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Aside from the legal issues, I would be much more concerned about your product
being very quickly obsoleted. Because the manufacturer of the cell phone has
no incentive or legal obligation to maintain their existing interface
protocol, they are free to change it at any time. I would not be surprized if
the next model (or even the next revision of an existing model) used a
completely different protocol for accessing the calendar and all
other non-standardized functions. I wouldn't even be surprized if a
manufacturer decided to add some kind of encryption to their protocol.

Look at how often new cell phone models are released on the market, multiply
this by the number of manufacturers, and multiply that by the amount of time
it takes you to "sniff out" one new interface protocol. Now keep this
figure in mind and carefully re-examine the terms of your contract.

Re: OT: Interface legality concerns
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multiply
time

I'm going to have to disagree... PC connectivity for Cell phones is pretty
similar across a manufactures product line (just look at how many models are
supported by their synch software...).

Going from manufacture to manufacture, you are correct...they vary quite
substantially..... Except for new phones that support the standardized
synchML interface.

Thanks for you input,

Jamie



Re: OT: Interface legality concerns

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The ninth circuit court (California) ruled earlier this year that a
contract prohibiting reverse engineering overrides certain explicit
protections afforded to the practice by existing IP law.

The ninth circuit has the worst record of overturn on appeal - that
is, they get overturned by the appellate courts more often than any
other circuit.  But the case in question hasn't been appealed yet.

If the decision is upheld (or not appealed), I expect every US
manufacturer of anything will quickly move to include shrink wrap
licenses forbidding reverse engineering of their products.  Most
consumer items now have no such license - manufacturers fully expect
that their competition will obtain and examine their products and
compete instead with name recognition, quality, pricing and features.

For the time being I think the question of reverse engineering is in
legal limbo - at least in the US.  

George

Re: OT: Interface legality concerns


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[...]

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Has the wishful silly practice of "shrink wrap license" ever been legally
validated?

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So is the concept of "shrink wrap license", AFAIK, DMCA not withstanding.

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Re: OT: Interface legality concerns
On Fri, 26 Sep 2003 15:52:58 GMT, Bryan Hackney

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AFAIK, the only real decision that has been made was that the license
terms had to be viewable by the customer before the customer took any
action which constituted acceptance of the terms - such as opening
packaging.

Aside from that, the legal merits of particular licenses are being
handled on a case by case basis.

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A number of IP attorneys have privately told me their opinions of DMCA
as a law.  Basically they conclude that the DMCA introduced no new
protections relative to the existing law and simply lowered the bar
for proving infringment and expanded the scope of damages which could
be claimed and the penalties the courts could impose.  The attorneys I
have spoken with all consider DMCA a self serving industry law which
is mostly not in the public interest.  Every one of them would like to
find a real merit case to try.

George


Re: OT: Interface legality concerns
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It's in limbo too, more or less. I think there have been court cases
going both ways, declaring the shrink wrap licenses invalid or valid.
A few states have passed explicit legislation (UCITA) to give shrinkwrap
licenses more validity.

Some info on UCITA:
  http://www.ala.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Our_Association /
     Offices/ALA_Washington/Issues2/Copyright1/UCITA/UCITA_101.htm

As I understand it (IANAL!), many shrink wrap licenses don't even meet
the requirements for a valid legal contract. I don't know if the
licenses that have been declared invalid were declared invalid on that
ground, or because they contained terms that wouldn't be enforceable
even in an otherwise valid contract.

It might be worth the OP's time to post to misc.legal.computing or
misc.int-property for more information. Hiring a lawyer might be
smart too.

--

Re: OT: Interface legality concerns
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http://www.ala.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Our_Association/Offices/ALA_Washington/Issues2/Copyright1/UCITA/UCITA_101.htm

UCITA's in big trouble.

In the meanwhile, purchaser's ownership of "copy" and right of first sale
seem to be alive and well.

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It's just silly to think that a commercial "contract" that you did not sign
could bind you to terms in the "contract", regardless of whether you
can understand the terms, or if they're even legal.

Just for double-belt and suspenders, make sure a complete stranger opens
and "agrees" to the terms of your software before using.

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