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British Police Accused of Stealing Software 76

Posted by samzenpus
from the was-that-wrong? dept.
judgecorp writes "The West Yorkshire police force is in the British High court today, accused of stealing intellectual property from a firm whose software decodes forensic data from mobile phones. Forensic Telecoms Services claims the force illegally used and sold copyright data from a commercial mobile phone forensics application it had been using in high profile cases."
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British Police Accused of Stealing Software

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  • But but.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TechLA (2482532) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @08:09AM (#37772792)
    They didn't steal anything, they only made a copy! Original owner still has his copy too!
    • Re:But but.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by tbannist (230135) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @08:17AM (#37772820)

      Specifically, the article alleges that they used (part of) a list of results from the manual of a private system when they developed a competing application. The case seems flimsy, they're going to have to prove that the list should be considered "a work" as opposed to just data. Data isn't protected unless it has some merit of it's own. Lists are generally not protected.

      • by pev (2186)

        Data isn't protected unless it has some merit of it's own

        Erm, doesn't all stored data inherently have merit? If it didn't, no-one would store it?!

        • by tbannist (230135)

          That might not have been clear but it needs to have merit beyond the value of the data. For instance, you generally can't protect a list of publicly available information no matter how much work was involved in creating the list. They'd have to show that the information on the list is secret, but if it is actually secret then it shouldn't be published in the manual, or the police should have had to sign a non-disclosure agreement before receiving the manual.

          • by belmolis (702863)
            Another consideration is whether the charge is actually copyright infringement. I've noticed that the press, like much of the general public, doesn't understand the different kinds of intellectual property. The information in question might, for example, be considered a trade secret.
      • by DRJlaw (946416)

        Data isn't protected unless it has some merit of it's own. Lists are generally not protected.

        The European Union disagrees with you, since directive Directive 96/9/EC [wikipedia.org] created a sui generis database protection in the mid 90s.

        FYI the United Kingdom is, in fact, a member of the EU which has enacted [opsi.gov.uk] enabling legistlation effective as of 1998.

        Why do you feel qualified to evaluate the strength of the case, when you apparently have no actual knowledge of the law in the UK? The European database protection right i

        • by tbannist (230135)

          I didn't present myself as someone qualified to analyze the situation. Did I use a phrase like "In my professional opinion"? Or "I'm an expert on British Copyright Law"? I gave my opinion of the case based on my understanding of the law. I'm not an English citizen and I'm not particular interested in EU copyright law.

          There's no reason to be so confrontational in your post, you could have merely pointed out the relevant law in a friendly manner instead of coming across as a pompous ass.

          Which looks even w

          • I didn't present myself as someone qualified to analyze the situation.

            No, but you presented your uninformed opinion as if it were fact. The information I'm not an "English citizen and I'm not particular interested in EU copyright law." belonged in your first post, not now after you were caught out spouting nonsense about a law in a country you don't know about.

            Even "IANAL but" or "IMHO" would have made your original post reasonable, but presenting it as it was makes you look like a pretentious ass.

            • by tbannist (230135)

              Except, of course, that everything I said is both true and accurate.

              Both you and the other guy both appear to be tedious pendants. I offered my opinion and the reason for it, you are free to disagree with me, but you don't do yourself any favors when you're a dick about it.

          • by DRJlaw (946416)

            There's no reason to be so confrontational in your post, you could have merely pointed out the relevant law in a friendly manner instead of coming across as a pompous ass.

            There certainly is. You quite declaratively stated something that any informed person would know to be false, and even worse were moderated highly for it (and still are). If you announce that the moon is made of cheese, you're going to be confronted.

            Which looks even worse since you're correction has only a minor impact on my analysis, th

        • OP made the common mistake of projecting things as he knows it into contexts he shouldn't.

          Happens all the time even in the US. State laws are similar here, not the same. Many folks can barely distinguish between States and the Fed, for that matter. So it only requires a smidgeon of unworldliness to make a mistake. And granted that we are of course the natural masters of the world (grin), please don't expect too much of us when it comes to worldliness:

          http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/11/1120_0211 [nationalgeographic.com]

        • FYI the United Kingdom is, in fact, a member of the EU which has enacted [opsi.gov.uk] enabling legistlation effective as of 1998.

          As an aside, I note that you linked to opsi.gov.uk, which has simply redirected to the new legislation.gov.uk for some time now, which makes me wonder where you found that link... I know it's a bit petty of me, but there's really "no excuse for being unaware" of the change and still "presenting yourself as someone qualified to analyze the matter...".

          Also, legislation only has the one t in it.

      • I believe you are trying to explain the difference between data and information. Information is the result of using data to create something useful.
      • Specifically, the article alleges that they used (part of) a list of results from the manual of a private system when they developed a competing application. The case seems flimsy, they're going to have to prove that the list should be considered "a work" as opposed to just data. Data isn't protected unless it has some merit of it's own. Lists are generally not protected.

        No kidding.

        So if I decide to make an oven that has a ventilation system in it, and in my manual, I mention that it has three buttons that say "On", "Off", and "Restart". That's breaking someone's copyright because they, in the past, decided to make an oven at some point in the past, with a manual that mentioned the ventilation system had "On", "Off", and "Restart" buttons?

        Their response should be "Oh, sorry.. Let us change our error codes from '1-128' to '1000-2000' with random gaps in the numbering, and

        • So if I decide to make an oven that has a ventilation system in it, and in my manual, I mention that it has three buttons that say "On", "Off", and "Restart". That's breaking someone's copyright because they, in the past, decided to make an oven at some point in the past, with a manual that mentioned the ventilation system had "On", "Off", and "Restart" buttons?

          Nope. Neither would using the same 3 words of the text of a novel wouldn't break someone's copyright. So why would you expect it to?

          But lists certainly are copyrightable, just as much as novels are. For example tide tables are just lists of tides of when high and low tides are predicted to appear at a certain place. Nothing but lists of times. In the UK, they are published by the admiralty, a government department. But if you want to use them yourself in a newspaper or an app say, you have to pay for a lic

          • Nope. Neither would using the same 3 words of the text of a novel wouldn't break someone's copyright. So why would you expect it to?

            But lists certainly are copyrightable, just as much as novels are. For example tide tables are just lists of tides of when high and low tides are predicted to appear at a certain place. Nothing but lists of times. In the UK, they are published by the admiralty, a government department. But if you want to use them yourself in a newspaper or an app say, you have to pay for a license. They most certainly are copyright.
            http://www.ukho.gov.uk/PRODUCTSANDSERVICES/SERVICES/Pages/TidalPrediction.aspx [ukho.gov.uk]

            You're right. Mine was intentionally a disproportionate analogy to make a statement.

            Expand that list of three out to 100 or so. Give each line item a description, and order the list by number. Copyrightable? Yes. Stupid for someone, IMHO, to use copyright protection on a list that doesn't actually DEFINE the product; it's simply a list of data for reference. However, it is copyrightable, you're right.

            Effectively, depends on who was first, but two companies should theoretically be able to sue for copyr

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        The work is the manual, not the data itself. The way it explains and organises information was copied into design documents for the new system that the police developed, which is usually an infringement of copyright. That is why clean-room development is used when cloning a product (most famously the original IBM PC BIOS) - to avoid infringing on the copyright of not just the software but of the documentation too.

        Clearly the police found the information valuable as they made their software based on it, and

        • by tbannist (230135)

          That didn't appear to be the claim made by the plaintiff, the article indicated that the system produced results that contained tell-tale errors that indicate some of the data was copied from the manual from the plaintiff's system, which is a substantially lesser claim. Whether that data represents a significant portion of the system's functionality will be likely be a key question.

    • by JosKarith (757063)
      If the police are pirating, does that make them Privateers?
  • they made it for personal use only, I bet they were not distributing this software...
    • by Allicorn (175921)

      Hehe, yeah. TBH I doubt they'll even be able to try that particular blag since TFA says that West Yorkshire Police are now actually selling their own forensic tool based on the allegedly stolen information.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by benito27uk (646600)
      yes they were... From TFA..."but the force went on to repeat alleged infringement in 2007 when it updated the software, now named OLIVE, and made it commercially available."
  • According to TFA the police didn't copy the software, they only used its documentation:

    “... accuses West Yorkshire Police of taking copyright data from Hex’s manuals to develop its own mobile phone forensics application.”

    That looks like clean room design and should be perfectly legal.

  • Didn't the UK adopt the infamous three-strikes policy?

    • Rings a bell. Perhaps they did. But given that they started selling the software, they'd have hit that at their 3rd customer if not before.

  • The Police? Accused of stealing?

    What's next? Accusing them of abusing suspects?

1: No code table for op: ++post

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