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UCITA is passed 333

Posted by Hemos
from the it's-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it dept.
A reader wrote to say "According to InfoWorld , "The Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) was voted on during a meeting in Denver of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL)...The vote count was 43 states in favor of the proposal, six against, two abstaining, and two not present." Looks like the end of any rights users *thought* they might have had. "
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UCITA is passed

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  • How does this apply to embedded software, or to anything not sold by a "software" company? A good chunk of the products produced a battery or a plug have some sort of EEPROM with software on it. Certainly any of the major home eletronics does.

    So will this affect them? If I can't "transfer" software without permission, how can sell a used car? Will Maytag be able to come to my home and shut down my refrigerator?
  • With all the security concerns already out there, doesn't adding a new way to just magically disable your software seem like a recipe for disaster? How long before hackers start doing it to companies? Or a virus that disables your software starts going around?

    Evan Reynolds evan@evan.org

  • so they put in the magic hooks that let you shutdown WinOhOh or whatever remotely ... and what do the hackers do? half of them reverse engineer it and ship patches to disable that 'feature' .... the other half reverse engineer it and start shutting down random Win00 machines, maybe they shut them all down .... only the trusted, open source OSs are left running ..... heh and they're worried about Y2K .... just you wait .... I bet they shut down ALL the machines at M$ first ....
  • by zagmar (20261)
    Plus I would be willing to bet that when it hits the courts, it will be overturned. Especially the bit that would outlaw reverse engineering. If it weren't for RE, there wouldn't be a PC industry, and we would be slaves to the first inventor of any item.

  • I'm going to side with the "big" software companies on this one and back the UCITA all the way! Why? Because it does nothing but make Copyleft and Open Source more valid approaches to making and distributing software. The more fascist the shrinkwrapped licensing method seems the better, IMO. Does anyone see any reason why this wouldn't be the case? LouZiffer
  • Without government intervention, the free market MUST provide consumers with the best possible products.

    Absolutely not. Do you believe Microsoft provides the best possible products? If not, what government intervention has caused this--- intellectual property protections?

    Go read "The Rise of Worse is Better." Good products do not necessarily survive in the marketplace, for very good reasons. If you ever have the chance, ask Andy Rappaport about "The Great Value Illusion" or read his article on "The Computerless Computer Company." Technical superiority does not ensure marketability.

    The free market may be the most moral choice for an economic system, but don't ever mistake it for optimal. The rest of your post is well taken, though.

  • Does anyone else see this as as much of a Bad Thing as I do. Granted, I copy plenty of software and it probably is wrong. That's another topic altogether. But that a company has the legal right to look into my computer and see if I am illegally running their programs with copied serial numbers etc. Uhm, it scares me a bit to say the least. I mean, is crap like this even legal under the constitution. I think it's kindof funny that they claim it will "outlaw reverse engineering" and how are they going to do that? All geeks, you must HALT your progress in seeing how things work. I'd like them to try to stop me from figuring out how ICQ works..etc. etc. blah

    Anyone think that the standards for peeking into our computers will be open source? Then we can block dis bullshit with our handy dandy multi-pupose firewalls.

    Where is this country going?
  • That's the best thing that could ever happen for GPL and other Open Source licenses. The danger of tactics like that is that there is an invisible line. On one side is the status quo, on the other is a big backlash. Given the nature of MS, if allowed, one day they will cross that line.

    The above is far from the optimal solution, but it is the most realistic solution.

  • It would automatically retroactivly affect all software out there that used reverse engineering in the past.

    First let me say, IANAL. However, in the USA, I do believe it is not legal to retroactively apply a law. I believe the legal principle is 'ex post facto' -> 'after the fact'. i.e. The legislature can't pass a law outlying bleu cheese, and then arrest you for possesing bleu cheese a week ago when it was still legal. So this will have no effect on currently available reverse engineered products.
  • I agree with you, but I can't stand to see anyone use the old fallacy we all learned in school, that "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." Instead, I suggest we use Frank Herbert's version, "Power attracts the corruptible." There have been examples in the past of entirely reasonable and not-at-all-corrupt people in power. It's just extremely uncommon.
    Anyway, this is just a pet peeve, so don't take it personally. :)
  • What a boon this could be for Open Source and Free Software! Imagine if a 'few' Linux advocates decided to wrap the nastier points of this act into an informative put persuasive package and e-mailed it to, say, a couple thousand companies. Maybe the IT departments. Could they even imagine not being able to communicate to another computer, let alone the 'Net? Their all powerful e-commerce app turning into all useless 1's and 0's? No inventory. No sales. No site hits.

    Imagine the pucker-factor of company X when they read that one small license disagreement could literally stop them in their tracks. It could point to the not-so-fair way M$ has handled it partnerships.

    I call this a temptation because this would be akin to SPAM. Noone likes SPAM (not to be confused with Spam, which is quite good...hmmmmm, Spam!)

    If anyone can figure-out a loop-hole in the ethics of this, please respond and we can all start.
    Maybe we could have a master list of companies and just go down the list (minimize copies).

    I AM NOT TELLING anyone to do this, this is just an idea. I don't want to be responsible for a SPAM war with M$ and it's clients.
  • The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws ( http://www.nccusl.org/ [nccusl.org]) has just approved the UCITA (Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act: http://www.nccusl.org/pressrel/2brel.html [nccusl.org]). As I understand it, the NCCUSL recommends legislation to the law making bodies in each of the 50 states. I am very concerned about the ramifications of this legislation if it were to become law. This law gives undue power to software publishers and stips many consumer rights. Attorneys Generals from 25 states wrote the NCCUSL voicing their opposition to the UCITA, as well as many from the software industry and consumer advocasy groups ( http://www.badsoftware.com/oppose.htm [badsoftware.com]). Some of the specific provisions in this bill that most concern me are:
    • Allows prohibition against "reverse engineering". This is akin to saying I can buy a car, but opening the hood to see how the engine worked would make me a criminal.
    • Allows remotely disabeling software when publisher suspects violation of the terms of the license, without needing a search-warrant. This is akin to saying that if I buy a car that, in the fine print says I'm only allowed to use gasoline from a particular company, and if the car company suspects I used gasoline from a competitor, they could make the car stop working, even in mission-critical situations (like while being on a busy freeway).
    • The user isn't necessarily entitled to see the software license contract before agreeing to it. This is like saying that for a car you bought with a "bumper to bumper" warrenty... The warrenty can cover only the paint job (from one bumper to the other), and that you many not find out until you take the car in for repair.
    • It is legal for software publishers to prohibit sale or transfer of a software license... Something like saying when you're ready for a new car you need to throw out the old one, because you aren't alowed to sell it.
    • The software publisher can limit thier liability to the cost of the software, even if the user has paid for additional services over and above the price of the software. This would be like if (God fobid) if you drove your new car off the auto lot with your family and the car exploded killing everyone except yourself, that the car company would owe you no more than the price of the car, and to collect that, you may be required to call a special refund service that could charge you twice the value of the car for just the phone call... and that even after the car exploded you would still be obligated to pay for the 5-year service contract.
    I hope this helps you put this proposed legislation into some perspective.
  • by werdna (39029) on Friday July 30, 1999 @04:11AM (#1775350) Journal
    **Opponents** of UCITA and its parents missed several opportunities to have a better bill. Now is a time for some introspection, rather than continued choir-preaching and whining. Did we do the best we could do to effect change?

    UCITA is another demonstration of the inefficacy of the *flame on* mode of opposition when faced by a politically powerful opponent. By repeatedly overstating the case, opponents of UCC Article 2B ultimately lost any hope of compromise on substantive issues while TPTB simply moved away from ALI, passed the UCITA, and is likely to get the bill passed in a sufficient plurality of states to do harm.

    Ultimately, the final bill is worse than intermediate drafts of UCC2B, and is that any surprise? Then was the time to compromise.

    Now, encouraged by successes in Congress and state legislatures with assorted Y2K legislation and the DMCA, TPTB are coming to the view that it is easier to try to take all of what they want than to achieve consensus, and in so doing they have actually been aided by the self-marginalizing conduct of their opposition.

    This is the difficulty of overstating the case against a powerful opponent.

    Arguments made against UCITA and UCC2B overreached to the point that few legislators will take seriously an opposition that merely decries the entire bill. It is a mistake, a serious mistake to oppose UCITA wholesale from this point on, as it was a mistake not to compromise earlier to remove the more negotiable and far more onerous provisions. There is a difference between making a good argument and an effective argument, and on this count, the anti-UCITA critics failed to do anything but preach to the choir.

    To be fair, very few Uniform Laws are actually uniformly passed -- not even brilliant successes such as the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. However, they have broadly influenced courts and legislatures in the years that followed, and much harm has already been done just by this vote.

    The best chance of minimizing the impact of this Uniform Law as it comes before the several states is to try to neuter its most onerous provisions -- not to try to kill it or marginalize it.

    And remember, this is Contract law -- if you don't like it, change it by voting with your pocketbook. Write competitive and/or free software substitutes. Don't whine -- do something meaningful to change things. Issues that truly impact the marketplace or threaten individuals who are not techies can be changed -- that is why we no longer have copy protection. If you can't change it, perhaps the market really doesn't care about the point, and it is *we* who are overreaching?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's not clear exactly how the new law intends to define reverse engineering, but it will give companies a dangerous legal foothold. What open source developer is going to be able to defend themselves in a lawsuit by a large corporation claiming their code code was reverse engineered? It doesn't matter if the project is actually in violation of the law, the corporation has the ability to squash it with a barrage of lawyers.
  • It's great that the Libertarian party has principles, and I'll admit that most Libertarians I talk to seem to have a good grasp on those principles. But however wonderful those principles are, you can't assume that the U.S. was founded with your principles in mind but has since strayed from them. The U.S. Constitution indicates that the principles of government include ensuring domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare (that's welfare the concept, not welfare the government program). The U.S. has never really followed Libertarian principles in the past; perhaps the American Confederation which briefly preceded the U.S. was closer to these ideals, but the U.S. has always had other concerns beyond simply national defense and domestic justice.

    I can't argue with many of the specific complaints that you brought up (many of them are indeed bad things), but none of those problems are unsolvable without a Libertarian government, they just require that our current government change its laws. A Libertarian government wouldn't be immune to passing bad laws either.

    That does NOT mean the government has a right to: Dictate what we can and cannot eat and drink (FDA)

    I do disagree with this one. The FDA couldn't care less if you enjoy a snack of leaded paint chips in a light motor oil. However, they do care if a company sells this treat labeled as "crunchy watercress salad in a light viniagrette". This is in the interest of protecting individuals from large corporations, which falls under ensuring domestic tranquility.

  • The reason it looks like Slashdot is because it uses Slashdot's code. I don't like the look as much though, I wish he just changed the green to red and left the rest alone. Slashdot looks good how it is.
  • And, of course, the Supreme Court can still overturn it as unconstitutional (that bit about disabling software remotely could be construed as illegal search and seizure).

    That is true, if the Supreme Court took the time. As it is now, the supreme court is REDUCING the amount of time that it spends hearing cases. The justices are spending LESS time on the bench, and granting fewer cases their audience.

    Congress knows this. State and local legislators know this. A supreme court case could take five, ten years, in addition to federal court and appeal court circuts.

    Yes, eventually someone WOULD win this case in supreme court, but by the time ONE litigant stood up for $singulargenderpronoun&"self", thousands of others would have been bullied in to submitting to the whims of multibilliondollarleagaltactics or suffering the stigma and expense of "making a Federal case out of it"
  • Law Student here..


    "Illegal Search and Seizure" applies only to the actions of the government. Your US Constitutional right to not have the gummint come in and take your cookies (or house soldiers in your basement, etc etc) without paying you for them/it/whatever. In the case of a software vendor and the end-user, you're into the realm of private law, and in private law, as long as it doesn't violate whatever jurisdiction's definition of "public interest", just about anything goes. (Obviously, contracts to do criminal acts can't be upheld in court. Duh.)


    Unfortunately, in my perusal of the links, I couldn't find out which states voted what way. Could someone post a list if they find it? I'm going to try to get the word out amongst the techo-savvy law profs at my school (yes, some do exist).


    Government for, by and of the people only works if the people put down the frickin' remote control long enough to do something.

  • If you want a floating island in the equatorial pacific, this is a place to start:
    http://popularmechanics.com/popmech/sci/9802STRS AM.html
    I'm with you! I want out of here!


  • Or just let them slip away


    "by any means..." X
  • - Not to support script kiddiez or anything, but
    - I'll be laughing my ass off when everyone's
    - (including business and government) software is
    - remotely disabled after the shutdown codes are
    - posted all over the Internet!
    -
    - Fortunately I'll still be able to laugh at them online thanks to free(dom) software.


    No you won't if your ISP uses commercial, UCITA-`protected' software. If the kidz get their dirty fingers on the data needed to kill say the Radius-software your ISP uses to authenticate you, there'll be no more on-line laughing...

  • by R-2-RO (766)
    can it be overturned?
  • They included a "choice of law" section in there. That means, any dispute is covered by their choice of jurisdiction. You buy the product, poen the shinkwrap and VOILA! You have assented to a contract with the vendor that is governed by the laws of a state that lets the vendor repossess your firstborn if you look at the 'ware cross-eyed.


    (not a lawyer, worse, a law student)

  • by orichter (60340) on Thursday July 29, 1999 @04:05PM (#1775367)
    Does anyone else see this as a positive thing. The more rediculous the laws governing software licensing become, the more industries will be forced to take a closer look at those ignored little licenses. Once they start to look a little closer, they might not like what they find, and may actually start to demand the rights they deserve. Just another argument for Open Source software as I see it, and perhaps the most compelling one so far.
  • If they "license" the software in the embedded code, yup. The Maytag man can disable your clothes dryer... or worse yet, Cisco would be able to disable your router, etc. etc.
  • Someone should post a form CGI to email the state representatives - just let em fill out the different fields - I'm sure this wouldn't be hard to do - hey - this could become a new slashdot feature 'annoy the elected officials enough so that they might listen for a change'

    something needs to be done quickly.

  • by scrain (43626)
    It's not law yet. Like the article says, the individual state governments must pass it in order for it to become law. The whole thing is preliminary. The article does say that most of the stuff these people approve does end up being approved by state legislatures, however. Watch for it to come up in your state's legislative schedule, and make sure your state representatives and senators (and US ones, as well... they have a lot of pull in state issues) know what your opinion is.

  • What ever happened to the 'peoples government' , i surely don't want this, and i doubt any of the 'normal' population wants this either, this goverment is becoming so corrupt now adays because of huge corporations and organizations forcing their weight into things and getting their ways, our government is now purely in the interest of the larger bid.. Too bad there is no more land left to create our own country.. Even my grandparents who have been in the war now questions why he served to protect a government, and to fight 'oppression' and evil forms of government when our own is taking away our rights to privacy and anything that we still have left dearest to us. This won't ever reverse, all it can do is go forward until you are catogarized, and totally commanded ala Brave New World..
  • This definitely looks interesting! I'm all for independence as well. What kind of laws govern sea-going living quarters? Do the laws from the country that the ship was constructed from still apply when the ship is at sea?
  • This doesn't seem to be a government body.
    I don't know much at all about legalness but how much sway is this really going to have on the laws. Anyway all Things legal can be contested in courts. I hope.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If the bill passes as a law...you know what to do ;)
  • AFAIK once you are in international waters there pretty much are no laws.
  • WRONG. Let me quote the Perl slogan out of context: "There's More Than One Way To Do It". Corporations use many means to increase profits. For example, advertising, as someone pointed out above.

    This is about the only part that I agree with

    For example, if it is not profitable for corporations to produce eco-friendly products vs. eco-unfriendly products, they will produce much more of the latter. I think it is absurd to conclude from this that consumers "want" or "like" pollution, for example.

    True, its doubtful that consumers like or want pollutioin. This example also shows that consumers do have some power (and in some case quite a bit of power). According to your model, the corporations would only do things that would maximize their profits (and I agree with that). So why is it that we see more and more "eco-friendly" companies, more recycling, companies stopping the use of child labor overseas, pollution reduction, community involvement and improvements (the list can go on and on). It certainly isn't increasing their profits to use more expensive labor or production techniques. It is going to increase their profits in the long run because consumers have made it clear that they want a cleaner environment, fair labor practices, etc. The company is maximizing their profits in the long run if they listen to their customers and give them what they want. To say that companies give consumers what the companies want and the consumers must take it is superficial, actually, that is called a monopoly, or as economists call it "market failure". For the free market to work there must be choice.

    Anyway, you're just baldy asserting that THE way for corporations to maximize their profit is to make the "best possible products". This idea I frankly find simplistic to the point of absurdity.

    Again I have to say that what you are saying is closer to absurd than what the other person posted. If there is really a market (and not a monopoly) then the corp. that doesn't produce the best possible product that the comsumers (as a whole) want then their product won't be bought and the company will not survive. Most of your assumptions seem to be pointing to all corporations being a monopoly. I don't think that is the case but UCITA seems to be trying to give monopoly (market FAILURE) power to all software companies. I do agree that most likely a company isn't making the "best" product but with a free market the trend is towards "better" and what the customer wants. With a monopoly that isn't the case, the trend is towards more profit and towards what is better for the company.

    The other person seemed to be arguing that a free market is a good thing and I whole heartedly agree. You say that his thinking is wrong but you are using the assumption that it is in a monopoly setting. I guess you could say that you are correct in one sense because if you try to use freedom of choice in a monopoly setting then you are screwed (that is why it is called market failure) but that was not the point. The point was that if you get rid of the market failure then good things will happen and the product will be better and the customers happier. UCITA is an attempt to give more monopoly power but for those of us that know about and use "free" software we will choose to not support the monopolists (of course most of us here already don't support them). I feel that the end result is that more people will be forced to join our club (which is good) but I feel sorry for those people that are stuck with the newer monopolistic powers (if UCITA is made into law in all states, which I doubt that it will)

    Dave

  • by 10Brett-T (11197)
    "We think that this will extend the rights of end users," Nimmer said.

    Oh yeah... That's what it'll do.

    So is there anybody on this committee that actually uses computers?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    "The Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) was voted on during a meeting in Denver of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL), a private group of more than 300 lawyers, judges, and law professors. Under NCCUSL guidelines, draft legislation has to be approved by a majority of states present when votes are taken, and that majority must include representatives from at least 20 states."

    WTF is this "NCCUSL" outfit? It sounds like these 300 lawyers, judges, and law professors have granted themselves all the power of the Federal government, with none of its accountability.

    This so-called "law" was made by a process found in no Constitution known to man. I don't think it's gonna fly.

  • Here are a few things to consider:

    First, with the UCITA in force, purchasing commercial software will TRULY become a liability for a company- and in many cases, a signficant one. If I were a CIO, I don't know that I could logically (or ethically) encumber my company with something that could either mean an endless stream of "protection" money being paid to commercial software vendors, or risk being rendered non-functional without the use of the software.

    Second, I figure that if the vendors supporting the UCITA are actually DUMB enough to attempt to wreak havoc on a company because of a perceived license violation, it's nothing that a few very COSTLY lawsuits won't cure.

    Anyone with an IQ slightly higher than your average light bulb will know that just because a law is passed is no guarantee that it's even remotely a good one.
  • You know Linus and Alan are not going to get off their terminals long enough to sue your ass!

    Seriously, how can you run something mission critical with software that can be legally yanked at anytime? Even the suits will be able to understand this.
  • by edhall (10025)

    can it be overturned?

    It isn't even law yet--just proposed law. Each state's legislature has to adopt it. Typically, they have adopted such codes in the past, but it's not a done deal yet. It can still be fought on a state-by-state level.

    -Ed
  • Yes, Bruce's Technocrat.net [technocrat.net] site is a wonderful thing. For those who missed the earlier story, Technocrat.net is devoted to "technology policy" -- laws which affect technology. It may take a while for the site to become popular, and may go through some growing pains, but if it can actually serve to bridge the gap between computer techies and non-computer techies, it may help educate everyone. (I've learned quite a bit from it already -- I'm quite familiar with the computer-related stories, but I haven't followed the space exploration stories as much, and I didn't know anything about amateur radio.)

    I've already submitted a UCITA story to that site. I imagine a lot of other people have, too. I haven't seen one posted yet, but I can't possibly imagine this story not showing up there.

  • The kind of software that would be mostly affected by this mesure NEVER will be open source. We will not see any viable free alternatives to ERP applications, industrial strength CAD/CAM, large custom data mining solutions etc in our lifetime.
    Industrial-strength programs aren't really covered by UCITA, because the people who buy and sell industrial-strength programs don't use the same kind of licenses.

    My employer sells telecommunication billing software; the price varies depending on the exact configuration, but it can be over US$1M. (Our customers include @Home, AT&T Worldnet, GTE Internetworking, MCI Worldcom, France Telecom ... you get the idea.)

    Do we rely on a shrink-wrap or click-wrap license to protect ourselves? Hell, no -- we draw up a detailed license on paper, and our customers, unlike the average MS Office customer, have lawyers that look over every line.

    Does our license say "this product is sold as is, no warranty, if it blows up in your face you'll be lucky to get your purchase price refunded"? Hell, no -- our customers aren't stupid enough to consent to such an agreement, considering how much a flaky billing system would cost them.

  • The response of Slashdotters' response to the ability of software companies to do remote-shutdown of software is extremely amusing. The general sentiment is of Slashdot pro-libertarian; however, this sentiment should agree with the idea that companies should be able to have as much power over their software as they wish, leaving the choice up to the consumer, and not having government interfere saying "You can't shut down software remotely". While some elements of this contract are more government-intrusive than the status-quo, some are actually de-regulations.

    Many people on Slashdot had better come to a decision: do they want government intervention, or not? Should companies run everything? Because companies will start introducing nasties if they are deregulated.
  • I'm getting sick of this #%^$. Buncha money grabbing politicians we've got here. Too bad we can't vote No Confidence on the whole gov't. Maybe it's time to hold rallies in D.C. for Computer User's Rights.
  • You've got some spelling errors in there, but that's not necessarily bad -- it may make your message seem more like "the voice of the people". Or something.

    Here's mine:

    I'm writing to you to express my strong opposition to the proposed Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA), which was recently passed by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. I hope that you will speak and vote against UCITA if/when it is introduced.

    Rather than attempt to compile a comprehensive list of all the problems with UCITA (which would be terribly long and boring), I will discuss only the two most serious problems that I see.

    1. The freedom to reverse engineer software must not be denied.

      Reverse engineering is simply a fancy way of saying "taking something apart to see how it works". No other product has such draconian laws governing what may be done with it once it has been purchased. As a consumer, I'm free to make such small repairs as I am capable of to other products that I own, or to choose a more qualified technician to make repairs for me -- I don't have to take it back to the original dealer.

      But UCITA would put computer software in a special class, with restrictions governing its use in ways that don't affect other products.

    2. In the long run, UCITA may lead to an economic disaster.

      By disallowing reverse engineering, UCITA gives total control over software to the people who wrote it. The software cannot undergo independent testing to determine whether it contains any flaws, because all but the most superficial tests would require some knowledge of how the software works (which could be obtained only by reverse engineering).

      Without testing, "bugs" in software may go unnoticed for long periods of time, becoming a problem only after the software has been in use just long enough to become indispensable. But because the bugs won't be noticed at first, the software companies will find they have a captive market. There will be no incentive to improve their products or their service. And there will be no competition -- developing a competing product would require reverse engineering the flawed one.

      In the short term, this may lead to increased revenues for software companies. But in the long run, the software industry will be dominated by software which is overpriced and which does not work very well. People and companies trying to use this software will end up paying more and getting less in return. Products which rely on the software will fail more often, as the underlying software fails. This leads to a downward spiral which can only end in disaster.

    For these reasons, and many others too numerous to mention in this letter, I urge you to OPPOSE any proposed UCITA legislation.

  • by Beached (52204)
    Why would the American government pass such a law? Could it be the billions of dollars that software companies put in their g-string pocket books and there just giving the paying customer a good time. Once again, the U.S. gives me another good reason not to move to the U.S. from Canada. It may be cold sometimes and we may be taxed, but we can say anything we want in anyway to anyone (e.g. no stupid crypto laws). Also a software company doesn't have the right to disable my software on a whim. This is only going to help open source software(Yeh!) and hurt the closed software vendors. The laws are supposed to protect us, not give companies the right to remove my license because I have a competing product (It will happen, the article reffers to reverse engineering. If company A believes company B reverse engineered their product they can remotely shut down there software)
  • Actually, Back Orifice and other trojans don't require holes in your operating system.

    Think about it. Back Orifice basically gives you the power that telnetting into a unix box with root would give you. If telnet isn't a security hole, then back orifice isn't.

    The whole security problem comes when someone runs code that someone else sends them. If you install software on your computer and are taken advantage of with that software, then it's the fault of that software, not the OS.

    If offering to hide processes from casual browsing, providing net connections, etc, are holes, well then the most secure OS would be DOS 3.3 on my apple //+ because it didn't do any of that. Of course, it wouldn't use anything except 5.25 inch floppies, but 140k is enough for anyone...
  • I thought Micro$oft had some control now. I pity the person who wants software that microsoft doesn't want them to have. Can you say legal BO?
  • How can I agree to something (the EULA) that I haven't even seen until I've opened the package, which, at times, constitutes "acceptance" of certain EULAs?
    Under the current Uniform Commercial Code, as interpreted in most states, you can't. In most cases where shrink-wrap licenses have been tested in court, they've been thrown out for precisely this reason.

    If UCITA passes in your state, however, that will change. That's why software companies have been lobbying for UCITA.

  • These quotes are from a Scientific American article http://WWW.SCIAM.COM/1999/0899iss ue/0899techbus1.html [sciam.com]

    a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin, the natural pesticide incorporated in many genetically engineered crops

    In total, the 11 Bt and other bioengineered corn products on the market occupy 39 percent of total U.S. acreage.

    With these disputes raging, industry's diehard opposition to identifying bioengineered foods may be weakening.

    So up to 39% of US corn has pesticides incorportated into it via genetic engineering, and the industry refuses to let us know if we are eating that corn.

    And don't get me started on selling seeds that produce plants which cannot reproduce.

  • I hope I am wrong, but there seems to be a large tendency for these kinds of laws to infect other countries. Canada would seem to be particularly susceptible to this.

    I think our first hope would be that this law never goes into effect. In the event that it does, you need to head to the really technologically challenged third world countries, where likely this disease will spread last.


  • You wonder if this would be held up in court? It already is. Have you ready any click-wrapped EULA's recently? They claim you do not own the software, that you only have a license, that the manufacturer is not responsible for f___-all.

    UTICA merely attempts to clarify the law in the favor of the vendors. Since this is a relatively unsettled body of law, it will have a huge impact. At our expense.

    Repossesion is just another means of protecting a license. Time limited authorization codes are already common. With net gear some sort of periodic authorization or real-time authentication of licenses will become much more common and much more effective since lots of web gear will require web connectivity to be worth anything.

    Make no mistake. UTICA will shaft end users. Its worth fighting by any means.

  • You accept an implicit contract when agreeing to purchase. This basically means that you have entered into a contract to do what seems reasonable by offering to buy merchandise that a merchant makes available for purchase.

    If the merchant wishes to make any ammendmants to this contract, they must be stated before the offer. This means, for instance, posting an "As Is - All sales final" sign over the merchandise, altering you to the deal. Otherwise, you'd be entitled to a refund if the merchandise didn't perform as expected (ie, you were sold a broken unit.)

    Any contract requires consideration for both parties. In other words, you and they both have to get something out of it. You also can't be held to a contract that you are unaware of (with some very limited exceptions). The EULA, if in the box, or otherwise difficult to read, is invalid for at least two reasons. 1) You didn't know what it said, even if you knew it was there, thus you can't be expected to have agreed to it. 2) You don't receive anything for agreeing to it because you already paid for the package, so unless they offer it with an incentive ("Sign this and we'll send you a rebate for the product") it's not valid.

    I'm sure people would like you to think that EULAs are binding, and would really love to change enough laws to make them binding, but at this point, they're completely worthless.
  • Courts have upheld EULAs and such, except in cases where it's necessary to violate copyrights in order to create interoperable software.

    Really? It was my understanding that no court precidents have been set to uphold EULAs. Is this a misconception? Did I miss something recently?

  • Regarding licensing: No, they have in UCITA Part 1, Subpart B, section 112 which states in part:

    (a)A person manifests assent to a record or term if the person, acting with knowledge of, or after having an opportunity to review the record or term or a copy of it:
    ...
    (2) intentionally engages in conduct or makes statements with reason to know that the other party or its electronic agent may infer from the conduct or statement that the person assents to the record or term.
    ...
    (d) Conduct or operations manifesting assent may be proved in any manner, including a showing that a procedure existed by which a person or an electronic agent must have engaged in the conduct or operations in order to obtain, or to proceed with use of the information or informational rights. Proof of assent depends on the circumstances. Proof of compliance with subsection (a)(2) is sufficient if there is conduct that assents and subsequent conduct that electronically reaffirms assent.

    This gives vendors a ton of wiggle room in order to say "hey! you assented to the license!"


    Regarding license transfer: What you refer to is called the "doctrine of first sale" in legal jargon. However, UCITA aims to remove software from the doctrine of first sale by making it so that you never "own" the software, you just have limited license rights for use of the software. If you buy a book, the copyright holder (or its agents) sell you it, but they can't prevent you from turning around and selling it again, or even giving it away should you so choose. If, however, you only hold a license, you are restricted from transferring that software under the terms of the license. And those terms can be as painful as the company can craft them, so long as they aren't "unconscionable". And one judge's definition of unconscionable is different than anothers.


    On reverse engineering: The curent method of R-E is known as the "clean room technique". I disassemble the program, write a spec for it, then hand off the spec to a 3d party who hasn't touched the disassembled code. That is how the original IBM BIOS was R-E'd. UCITA would allow the license agreement to specifically disallow R-E in section 307. Currently, federal trade secret laws do not disallow R-E. This is a nice end-run around that.


    Unfortunately your confidence in the wisdom of the courts is misplaced. Should a majority of states pass this proposed legislation, we could be looking at a decade or more of protracted litigation to overturn this. In the interim the only people who will benefit are the makers of over-the-counter pain relievers as we try to get rid of our large headaches.

  • IMO, if it has to be shot down in court piece by piece, how good of a legislature could it be in the first place? Each time it goes to court it will waste resources in the form of time in court and money paid to lawyers. And who can afford to hire a lawyer to fight every unconstitutional clause in UCITA? It seems to me that the amount of money lawyers get these days is indicative of the poor design of the laws we've been passing. Maybe software designers should be working alongside politicians to steamline these things ; )
  • It only applies to there clipart, not there application. you can do whatever you want with corel draw 7, just not there clip art, witch semes reasonable, I guess
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • by delmoi (26744)
    anyway....
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • KiCk 4$$ dUd3!! 7h47s s0 k3wl!
    31337 ind33d.
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • yes, lucky you, you live in a place where its illigal to have "hate speach" on a hard drive or transfer it over a computer network (that is exactly the language in the law)

    canada, a happy wonder land of civil liberties.....
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • Who owns the data that will be 'protected' by this reverse engineering clause? Let's assume that I'm writing a book using MS Word (or any other software that prohibits the reverse engineering of file formats). I save my file... I lose my license to Word (maybe I lost the cd and my hd crashed, or switched office software) and I want to edit (read, print out, etc) my book. Without that license, I am no longer able to do ANYTHING with my book and pulling the data from the file format that I don't have a license to use is illegal (a form of reverse engineering)...

    This is like putting your items (book) in a (insecure ;)) safe (file) that is locked with a key (Word)... You lose the key and suddenly, you have no legal right to get your items from the safe YOU OWN. Sure, the safe is easy enough to break... You could get a locksmith to unlock it for you ... but it's illegal to do so! If the owner of the key owns the safe too, then it is their right to keep you from opening it...

    Now let's blur the safe and the contents a bit... Suppose the safe is constructed out of the contents you claim to own and that it's built with the key. The key is the tool that can reorganize the safe into its (usable) contents... The contents and the safe are one. If you own the contents, how can you not own the safe? (Yes, the key made the safe out of your contents... but if you didn't want it to? Save as Text ... hmmmm ... Now you own the contents and they aren't locked in a safe... but wait ... since you refused the safe, the key stole some of the contents (formatting info, graphics, etc)...)

    Let's assume that since we own the contents and the materials used to construct the safe (and since the option of not putting our items in the safe STEALS the contents) that we own the safe. Who can tell me that it's not my right to get a locksmith to break open MY safe to get to MY items? Who can tell the locksmith that he can't do it ... or that he can't make the tools to do it?! Who can say that he can't observe the obvious parts of the original key in his attempts to make such a tool (granted - this last part of the argument is a bit thin)

    I think that this analogy fits the reverse engineering of software fairly well... It's my file and if I want to be able to read my own data, I have the right to try, and I -think- that I should have a right to look at obvious parts of the original key in my attempt to reach my data.

  • Wow, *any* goverment allowing *lube* now, I'm pleased, things are getting better :-P.
  • "reflexive pronoun"

    Anyway, why not just say "they"? That's allowed, even though it may feel awkward to use a plural form to refer to one person.
    --

  • Well what I'm saying is that while it could (which I doupt they would create the law this way in the first place) cause current programs to become illegal. While they couldn't retroactivly arrest you, they could force you to despose of all products in your possession.
  • In short, the tyranny of the majority breaks down to "Kill all the liberals".
  • See this for the full (889k) 1999 draft text.

    http://www.law.upenn.edu/lib rary/ulc/ucita/citam99.htm [upenn.edu]

  • In most cases? Hardly. Indeed, most of the cases addressing EULAs focused on the question of the enforceability of particular clauses, and not on the question whether there was an enforceable agreement.

    The only Circuit Court opinion squarely confronting the issue of contract formation, the ProCD v. Zeidenberg case, expressly held that there was a contract.

    The better view is probably that the particular circumstances of the transaction dictate the enforceability of the EULA. In particular, if you clicked something prior to buying acknowledging that there would be an agreement, or if the package says something about an agreement inside, its probably enforceable.

    Just so you are clear on the theory of these cases, it goes like this. To have a contract formed, you need an offer, acceptance and consideration. The offeror may establish the terms of acceptance in the offer, and hence may say something like: "Here's the deal. I offer to sell. If you want to accept my offer, pay me first, take it home and read the EULA. If you don't like it, return the dough and no deal. If you use it, you bought it." Under this theory, the fundamental tenets of contract law are satisfied, a contract is formed, and the only question is whether public policy is violated by enforcement of the provisions (this almost never happens).
  • by Millennium (2451) on Thursday July 29, 1999 @04:12PM (#1775476) Homepage
    At least this isn't law yet. Individual states still have to pass it, and M$ can't bribe THAT many legislatures (hmmm... well, theoretically Billy could divide up a half-billion among each state legislature, but that'd be too obvious).

    Hell, even if it can, the software companies (most of which are already ethically questionable when it comes to licensing; M$ isn't the only one) will create such outrageous licenses that Open-Source will simply look even better. The divide between OSS and proprietary is growing wider, and it looks as though it could be in out favor.

    And, of course, the Supreme Court can still overturn it as unconstitutional (that bit about disabling software remotely could be construed as illegal search and seizure).
  • You missed the point of the thread, it was a conceptial thread based upon the notion of "what if" they made the accual use of reverse engineered software illegal.
  • Without government intervention, the free market MUST provide consumers with the best possible products. This gets perverted when government incentives exist (subsidies, special protections). (side note: I believe there is a case for anti-trust law, but otherwise I am against governmental interference in the operation of a market.)

    I think that governments need to have some legislation in place to produce an economic domain where capitalism works. Within this domain, the best way to gain wealth is to produce wealth for others; that is what capitalism is all about.

    Capitalism is a set of natural laws describing how economic transactions occur. Many natural laws only hold true within a certain domain. For example, Newtonian physics only works when the objects it describes are over a certain size (not much smaller than an angstrom, say), and are not moving very close to the speed of light in a vacuum. If you go outside that realm, Newtonian physics break down and you need a new set of laws.

    You need certain legislation to keep within the realm of capitalism. The most obvious such legislation is antitrust law. Others include truth-in-advertising laws and contract law; both enforce an ability to trust one's vendor. Tort (lawsuit) law also exists to enforce trust; this gives us reasonable ways to settle vendor-customer disagreements (the fact that tort law is now the first, rather than the last resort, is another problem entirely).

    The government can destroy a capitalism in one of two ways. If it allows citizens to operate outside the realm of capitalism, making it possible for them to gain great gobs of wealth without producing significant wealth for others (say, lying through your teeth and selling snake oil), people will follow their profit motive in ways that don't help others. The other way to failure is to overlegislate, as you said. Overlegislation deadens the profit motive and produces a socialism.

    So where are we (the US) now? IMHO, we are slightly overlegislated (less so than most "capitalist" countries) in most areas. However, we missed one key condition of capitalism: that economic success should not translate to political power in the government that set up the capitalism. Since we missed that trick, our largest companies (with the largest lobbies) are underlegislated, and able to make money by screwing the people over.

  • This really does have the potential to make open source all that much more attractive to businesses and individuals if the OSS folks can seize hold of this and make it clear to the layman what this means. Is ESR planning on writing up a piece to make the rounds with all the publications using this as yet another reason for using open source?
  • The truth is far more interesting. Its nice to be able to take such a view as that proposed, but only if you are a philosopher or a king. In a Democracy (or in discussions between sovereigns), a far more sophisticated view is required.

    The purist view is, simply put, naive. Nothing good, and much bad can come of such absolutism.

    Madison insisted until the bitter end that both houses of the legislature must be numbered, even as it seemed that the Constitutional Convention would be all for nought. Thank the lord Franklin and Washington prevailed upon him, so that eventually he agreed to compromise.

    Northern states insisted that the Southern states accept abandonment of slavery in both the Constitutional Convention and the Continental Congress. And while the horror of that institution survived through and ultimately caused the great Civil War, it was important that they compromise, or else we might all still be British subjects today (No offense or sleight intended to our friends across the pond).

    In short, even as we undertook the greatest feats of our time in making strides toward democracy and liberty, serious and egregious compromises were necessary to accomplish the result.

    Particularly with the UCITA, we are presented with a mixed bag. There is much good (and some very bad) stuff in between the pages, and taking the view that the entire work is a travesty -- that none of it is commercially necessary -- or blaming UCITA for permitting the status quo to continue in other respects will simply cause you to lose credibility. Sure, you're philosophy will be pure -- and it will make fine reading in the textbooks.

    At the end of the day, however, UCITA will become law, and it will be far worse than it had to be for all of us. It didn't have to be as bad as it presently is, and it doesn't have to be as awful as it probably will come to be.

    As an aside, I disagree with the author's presupposition that this Act "causes a loss of freedom." It's a Contact Act, for goodness sake! If you don't want to be bound by the terms, don't contract for them. Indeed, by permitting parties to engage in contracts they would not otherwise have been able to enter, the Act is arguably pro-liberty, not anti.

    For the record, I was a staunch supporter of UCC2B in the abstract, noting that it had some serious problems. I was the centrist trying to fight for reason, to mitigate the bad and to maintain so much good as could be kept. Unfortunately, the polar views taken by the two extreme sides made those efforts futile. Eventually, those with power gave up on compromise and began to take more. Ultimately, they drafted a harsher Act, abandoned ALI, and we now have what we have. Count me as someone who still sees UCITA as a mixed bag, and who is lamenting what it could have been had cooler minds prevailed.
  • It still doesn't make EULAs enforceable. Sure, it *says* it does, but an agreement implies that both parties are in concurrance. How can I agree to something (the EULA) that I haven't even seen until I've opened the package, which, at times, constitutes "acceptance" of certain EULAs?

    Congress is trying to pass yet another Big Business pipe dream, and, even if they do so, it'll get shot down, either in whole or bit by bit, in court.

    It'll be fun to watch the wreckage fall to Earth.

    - A.P.
    --


    "One World, One Web, One Program" - Microsoft Promotional Ad

  • Perhaps you failed to notice the part about making reverse engineering illegal. That part is definitely not god for free software.
  • Remember Herbert's conclusion (or, if you prefer, Douglas Adams' conclusion): the best leader is the one who doesn't want the job.

    Case in point: Linus Torvalds. All he wanted to do was putter around on a 386, and he finds himself "leading" millions of geeks into a place that Microsoft has already laid claim to.

    As far as I can tell, this sort of power hasn't seemed to corrupt him in the least. He has something resembling a regular job. This is because power doesn't corrupt, it attracts the corruptable. But this power didn't attract him; he just produced it, almost by accident.

    BTW, this is an advantage a monarchy has over a republic (though not enough for me to want a monarchy). In a monarchy, the leader does not attempt to become the leader; they just are by birth. In a republic, anyone running for office has selected themselves as a potential leader, as the power has attracted them. Thus, the fact that you want to lead is the first strike against your ability to do it well.


  • It would automatically retroactivly affect all software out there that used reverse engineering in the past.

    This actually has a far greater impact than you could possibly imagine. The only reason why all x86 machines are hardware compatible is that they all have a BIOS that functions in the same way.

    The first BIOS was written by IBM. The first people to emulate the functions of the BIOS and create the first IMB PC clone were Compaq. All PC BIOS'es rely on the fact that they are reverse engineered clones of the original IBM BIOS.

    So, depending on the length of the Statute of Limitations on this, it could be that it is now illegal to use any non-IBM PC!

    Ho hum, just another example of the stupidity of the legaslative bodies around the world.

    Joe
    --

  • If the license forbids you from reverse engineering or talking about how the program works, I think we would all agree that this is a violation of the spirit of copyright and patent policy. UCITA does contain an exception against abuse. However, it will be up to a judge in a court to decide that matter.

    If some software company were to limit free-speech by putting a clause that the software's quality cannot be discussed (no benchmarking, for instance), then this would be a violation of the First Ammendment (in the U.S.) and the UCLA should jump all over that. Since most database vendors have such clauses in their licenses, I would think there would be a case submitted to the courts shortly after UCITA finally passes (if it passes).
  • Wait ten years - there will be two kinds of software for sale: totally free, and totally fascist. People that code on a proprietary basis will resort to network-encrypted executables or worse, eventually, to protect their int. property rights and maintain control of the product. On the other hand, OSS will explode in the opposite direction, so I don't think it's much to worry about.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 1999 @04:22PM (#1775519)
    Look, personal freedoms and rights in this country are going downhill at a rapid rate. I count at least four stories on slashdot in the last week alone about how the government is reducing freedoms that we once had. At this point in time, there are two choices that lie before us, we can either roll over and do nothing, allowing the government and corporations to take total control of our lives, telling us what to do, what to look at, and what to buy. The second option is that we can do somethig about it, we can prevent it, or at least mitigate it. In order to do this we must organize. I think that any organization that happens needs to have slashdot as its focal point, for two reasons; One, because most people who want to do something about this problem read slashdot, so its a good starting point, and two the people of slashdot have the means and the knowhow to coherently argue the issues. In order to organise we need to set up a seperate website, or a forum on slashdot especially for advocacy and protection of freedoms. We need writers who can put together letters that succinctly sum up the opinions and input of all /.ers. And as much as I hate to bring this up in such a forum, we need a strong leader. No advocacy or revolutionary organisation will or has succeeded in acheiving its goals without a strong leader. Thats not to say that any group with a strong leader automatically achieves its goals, but its a prerequisite for coherent action. Well theres the idea, tear it apart, build on it, but don't disagree that something must be done. Geeks of the world unite, for we have nothing to lose but our chains, and nothing to gain but our freedom.
    Joe Stecher
    Stecher@wam.umd.edu

    P.S. Please dont flame me, but if you have constructive criticism, id love to hear it

    "hell is being intelligent in a world of idiots"
  • The American government is obviously not siding with the people anymore, the small business, or the little guy. No it seems rather obvious that we have a corrupt house, congress, senate, president - whatever. The 'government' that we have is obviously controlled corporations who shell out the bucks to get whatever Aristrocrats elected. An example if I may, in Silicon Valley - the most internet dependant place in the entire USA AT&T has taken the entire ISP market into their own hands by having a completely closed - monopolistic hold over the "cable modem" industry. What does Chairman Kennard of the FCC say in a ZdTv interview - is he frightened that one company may POSSIBLY be able to control the entire ISP business in the not-so-near future? ... No unfortunately he doesn't. His attitude is that we can 'sacrifice' the small ISP's to build a large broadband infastructure. I have harsh words for someone who is so near sighted - It seems to me that people are far more interested in filling their own pockets rather than what is good for the public - this may seem like a new concept to many people but it is not. Politicians have always been crooked and dirty - even in Biblical times they were, and they still are. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. To wrap this up, they are taking the money from where it comes... being that the Sun Microsystems, AT&T's, and Microsofts are all out there saying "we need to be protected from piracy -- we need to not be screwed, oh and by the way here's 30 million dollars" the politicians are responding with "Yes Mr. Gates, what would you like in your coffee".
  • by Fizgig (16368) on Thursday July 29, 1999 @04:29PM (#1775534)
    Hmmm, I think I used that subject last time. Oh, well.

    Just wanted to point out again that this will make reverse engineering illegal. So long as we live in a world not entirely defined by RFCs, that's going to be a problem. And depending on what the actual laws say, it might not even help if it's reverse engineered outside of the country.

    And what ever happened to "they moved this to another bill because it's so stupid no one would vote for it"? I'm sad now.
  • Fair enough, but I haven't the time or the inclination to do that again. I deconstructed many of these issues in the last UCITA announcement, and would be pleased to to so again when I do have time. The same complaint of nonspecificity, of course, can be stated about your reply.
  • UCITA is not law yet. The NCCUSL has voted to forward the bill to the states, who must enact it individually. This is, incidentally, how the Uniform Commercial Code works, which governs many commercial transactions. However, it is likely that many states will pass the legislation given the rubber stamp of the NCCUSL.

    It goes mostly without saying that UCITA will be bad for the consumer. It gives software makers many broad powers to limit consumer freedom. For example, shrinkwrap licenses don't even have to be on the outside of the box to be enforceable. Goodbye EULA protesters!

    I disagree with those who say that UCITA will be good for open source software. Under UCITA, manufacturers may be able to enforce gag clauses that prevent you from discussing the product (including performance, etc) with others. This goes against the very nature of the open source process. Also, explicit provisions against reverse engineering may now be enforceable as well. Think of how the Samba team relies on reverse engineering to make a superior product. UCITA may allow Microsoft to forbid that practice in the future.

    Many groups are opposed to UCITA, including librarians, consumer groups, the Attorneys General for almost half the states, and the Federal Trade Commission. Despite this the NCCUSL probably promoted UCITA because they have an interest in preserving states rights over federal. Cem Kaner hosts an excellent web page, Bad Software [badsoftware.com], which discusses these issues and summarizes the hurtful parts of UCITA.

    It is now vitally important that citizens contact their state commissioners, governers, etc. to expresse their opposition to UCITA. It's got to be done on a state-by-state basis now.

    Craig
  • by MrJ (2608) on Thursday July 29, 1999 @04:41PM (#1775558)
    Not to support script kiddiez or anything, but I'll be laughing my ass off when everyone's (including business and government) software is remotely disabled after the shutdown codes are posted all over the Internet!

    Fortunately I'll still be able to laugh at them online thanks to free(dom) software.
  • It's just court judgments, not laws, and there's even exceptions to court judgments. For example, many states may not accepet *any* judgment for a gambling debt, as it violates public policy (Nevada only began allowing judgments on casino markers about 10 years ago).

    The repo order you mention is only valid within the court's jurisdiction, which stops at the county or state line.

    Also, note that the act of removal occurs within Nevada, not Washington. If it's hunting season for dancing paperclips in Iowa, but not in Missouri, and I shoot from within Iowa to kill one in Missouri, I've committed a crime in missouri. My actions have reached into missouri, and subjected me to missouri jurisdiction.

    hawk,esq.
  • But seriously, who are they trying to fool with the "remote disabling" bit? That's ridiculously easy to break. Look out for disable-command blockers on the crack sites.

    I'd be more concerned with crackers figuring out the protocol and remotely disabling your software for you. As if they didn't have enough ways to do that without the companies building backdoors in.

  • No. But it is legal to look at how something works and make a duplicate. (As long as you aren't infringing on any patents, which is a different issue.)

    --

  • As I said, depending on what the law says, that might not matter. If they make using a reverse engineered clone legal, it won't matter if everyone in Australia is hacking on Samba. It'd be illegal to use it in the US.
  • For more information about UCITA and what it will do to the software industry, check out badsoftware.com [badsoftware.com], run by Cem Kaner, a lawyer and computer programmer. It is very bad, much worse than the press article slashdot linked to described. Imagine if you were a lobbyist for a company and you had complete and total freedom to rewrite the laws your company worked under. You'd write the laws to give you all the power and screw everyone else, right? This is what has happened with UCITA. If you have anything to do with software (and why the hell are you reading slashdot if you don't), you need to pay attention to this.

    --
    Michael Sims
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Outlaw reverse engineering? This sounds completely illegal. The right to reverse engineer has been upheld time and again. Copyrights protect only the expression of an idea, and not the idea itself.

    Reverse engineering cannot be outlawed because RE is necessary to understand how the software works i.e. the idea and principles behind behind the software. Outlawing reverse engineering constitutes protecting ideas through copyright, a right expressly denied by the Copyright Act ('in no case does copyright .. extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation,etc.'), and grants the Software industry special privileges not granted to other industries.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    how about a movement to append the GNU license or OpenSource standards to include some lines saying that complient programs cannot include such "evil features". I dunno, just a thought. It would be more of a political statement to show that people dont want such things then a needed condition.

    Flame away.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The fact is, the government and corporations have LONG been stepping and crushing people, but it's always been the poor. No one cares about the poor! Now they're invading your space. The middle and upper middle class. Crushing your rights and freedoms. Recently large numbers of people have been protesting things like the G8, and in November, the WTO in Seattle. University students protesting against sweatshop labor. Thousands and thousands of people. And they're all involved in these things DESPITE the fact the corporate media never mentions them at all. Somehow, people are fed up and have discovered ways on their own, to try to fight back. Right now the largest community run microradio station, KPFA, is protesting against Pacifica because Pacifica wants to sell KPFA because of it's large audience! People have been outraged and massive protests have been going on there.

    Our government hasn't just now decided to become corrupt, it has long been so. it is just now invading the "freedoms" of the middle/upper class of the country, where as before it was only hurting the voiceless poor and people of other countries (and still is I might add).

    From killing off native americans in the past and now, to using slave labor in the country, and now using slave labor in third world countries, raping the earth's resources for profits and to feed our addictive consumption rates, suppressing the rights of women, and long promoting right-wing Christian fundamentalism...how can it not be clear the US isn't perfect like they lie and make you believe? The US is f-cking evil...and if you don't believe me now, you will soon enough...when they limit your freedom, or put you away.

    http://www.savepacifica.net [savepacifica.net]
    http://www.infoshop.org [infoshop.org]
    http://www.protest.net [protest.net]
    http://www.commondreams.org [commondreams.org]
    http://www.zmag.org [zmag.org]
    http://www.fair.org [fair.org]
    http://www.foodnotbombs.org/ [foodnotbombs.org]
    http://jya.com/crypto.htm [jya.com]
    http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointel.htm [icdc.com]
    http://www.urban75.com [urban75.com]
    http://www.oneworld.org [oneworld.org]
    http://www.mediafilter.org [mediafilter.org]


    There you go. Arm yourself with information. Don't believe the world is perfectly all right. Now apparently the short-sighted people are beginning to see they were wrong. Don't think you're alone for thinking something is wrong, there are millions out there who know it already. From those educated on the subjects, to those experiencing the abuses caused by this horrible corporate owned world, and their servant governments.
  • by drwiii (434)
    It further allows vendors to disable software remotely as a means for repossessing products; makes shrinkwrap licensing terms more enforceable; prevents license transfers from one party to another without vendor approval; outlaws reverse engineering; and lets vendors disclaim warranties.

    And they think this will hold up in court? If a vendor remotely disables something that you pay for, that is called sabotage with malicious intent. On shrinkwrap licensing: If it doesn't have my signature, it is not a legally binding conaract. On license transfer: Big business needs to learn that I pay for a product, not a license. I have the right to sell, trade, or transfer MY software to whomever I please. On reverse engineering: Again, I own the software. What I decide to do with it on MY internal network is totally my decision, and it will not be illegal.

    What I see here are some industry hotshots trying to get something into law that they can use in court. I hate to break it to them, but this will be torn apart in court.

  • Perhaps you failed to notice the part about this being an AMERICAN law.

    There are quite a few programmers out there that AREN'T Americans, and as such, have no legal reason to follow American laws.

    I'll admit that the majority of Slashdot readers are probably American (including myself), but the rest of the world doesn't have to follow these greedy laws.

    Don't think I'm saying that as Americans, we can't fight this. I'm planning on writing my local congresswoman about this, but for the rest of the world - this news is nothing more than an annoyance.

    What's more - maybe this will push more non-US programmers to participate in the Open Source movement.

    -Jeff
  • It is refreshing to hear such an energetic argument for protection of freedoms.

    I've got a question for you: have you heard of the libertarian party? That's where all my support goes. It's the only political party in America based on PRINCIPLES.

    More precisely, the principle that the sole function of government is to protect the liberty of its people. That means national defense, a court system, police, etc, etc.

    That does NOT mean the government has a right to:
    • Dictate what we can and cannot eat and drink (FDA)
    • Jail us for consensual "crimes" like drug posession, and prostitution, and confiscate our property without a court trial (DEA, FBI)
    • Claim that we're to stupid to save for our own retirement and force us to pay into a system that is a total scam (social security)
    • Tell us what we can and cannot buy for our kids (CPSC)
    • Enact trade and immigration barriers
    • The list goes on an on...
    ALL of which our current "democracy" currently DOES DO.

    OK, pardon my rantings, I get a little excited sometimes :)

    - jonathan.


    "The system gives you just enough...
    to make you think that you see change...
    it will sing you right to sleep...
    and then they'll screw you just the same."
    - ani difranco
  • How would we even tell the difference between that, and what we've got now?

    Microsoft already shuts down our NT servers regularly, and they aren't even trying.
  • You are extremely optomistic. MS has already been taking steps aimed at causing it's Office and OS software to grab internet connections whenever they become available. I suspect that it was so that they would be prepared to take advantage of this when it became legal. Did you notice the GUID flap a few months ago? Of course MS claims to not be keeping a database of which GUID is associated with which customer, but consider it as a proof of principle test piece that was put into general circulation. When it becomes legal to use it, then they can start keeping the database. And the software already signals MS when you log on to the internet, so they can check (if they want to bother).

    I doubt they would have gone to the effort if they didn't have some use planned for it. And what about the remotely actvateable serial # that the Pentium III's all carry. It seems to me that several companies have been getting ready "just in case" for quite awhile now.

    I uninstalled Win98 and went back to Win95 in part because Win98 kept dialing the MS site (and mixing up drive letters whenever I changed ZIP drives... the install trackers kept going haywire!) But that install tracker was going to the MS site and checking in with them to see whether or not "I" had upgraded my system OS to the latest version. And since it later turned out that all of the packets had my GUID stamped on them... if they had cared to track it they could have.

    I don't think that its only, or even mainly, the large firms with fleets of lawyers that need to worry!
  • Software producers generally try to make an end run around copyright law. If you buy a book, you own the book. When you buy software, do you own it? No, says the software producer, you just have a license to use it. Most software sold today is actually a license transaction, where the producer allows you to use the software in exchange for you agreeing to certain terms. After all, this is how the GPL works. Licensing in itself isn't always evil.

    A license is essentially a contract between the user and the producer, and thus contract law may apply instead of copyright law! As long as both parties agree, almost any terms can be binding in a contract.

    Okay, so are you bound by shrinkwrap licenses? In that case, there is no explicit negotiation between merchant and purchaser. So maybe shrinkwraps are enforceable, maybe not. What if the terms aren't even on the box (as UCITA permits)? Remember the poor Toshiba owner who couldn't read the Microsoft EULA until he opened the computer box, but by doing so agreed to the EULA?! UCITA makes such practices more legimate.

    If the license forbids you from reverse engineering or talking about how the program works, I think we would all agree that this is a violation of the spirit of copyright and patent policy. UCITA does contain an exception against abuse. However, it will be up to a judge in a court to decide that matter.

    Some open source developers may not be able to afford such a court battle.

    Craig

  • Well maybe it is good news for OS maybe its not. However, I *refuse* to support a law that is downright unconstitutional even if it does support our interests. The world is too full of lobbying groups that only care about promoting stuff that will make their life easier. Be dam with everything else. The insurance companies are a prime example of this.
  • Read carefully. Uniform acts are *not* laws. The committee has *no* power to enact laws. None. Zero. Ever.

    What it does is suggest laws so that they'll be the same or nearly the same in various states. The ones that make sense tend to get accepted. The ones that don't get laughed at. This will end up in the latter category.

    The only two uniform acts that I can think of that have been adopted by all the states are article 2 of the U.C.C. (sales), and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act. Others have been adopted by a handful or most, and I believe that some have been adopted by none. I'd guess that this will end in the last group.

    States have *no* obligation to pass this, and could choose bits, pieces, or completely rewrite it if it were proposed. I can't speak for other states, but Nevada is more likely to criminalize the newly "permitted" acts than to allow them. Your states results may vary, depending upon whether you elect legislators who support liberty, or those who support big government.

    And as a passing thought, if Nevada criminalizes the remote shutoff of software, sending a termination order electronically into Nevada would lead directly to issues of federal wire fraud and racketeering . . .
  • There are quite a few programmers out there that AREN'T Americans, and as such, have no legal reason to follow American laws.


    Brother, I'm starting to wish I wasn't an American after we pull a massively boneheaded stunt like this. I say we build one of those floating islands in the equatorial Pacific. Who's with me?

  • If this passes all the state legislatures largely untouched (unlikely), and isn't gutted by the courts (also unlikely), you'd have to be completely insane to buy and/or use proprietary software under such conditions.

    I'm not rooting for this, because it's very bad law, but, if it does pass, it will likely cause a stampede to free software. As well it should.

    --

Arithmetic is being able to count up to twenty without taking off your shoes. -- Mickey Mouse

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