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Barcode Maker Responds After Forcing Drivers Offline 743

Digital Convergence demanded last week that several developers take drivers offline that work with their "CueCat" barcode reader that was distributed freely through Radio Shack and through other places. They have taken the time to respond to the flak that they've taken, and I've attached their response below, interspersed with a few comments of my own. Read on to see what they have to say for themselves.

The following was sent in by Doug Davis from Digital Convergance. Plain text is his. Bold text is mine.

Digital:Convergence understands this Linux issue and the concerns expressed by the community. Had Digital:Convergence been approached by developers we would have been (and still will be) happy to work with them in a constructive direction. Instead, our products were reversed engineered and what has occurred is a public display of what is clearly our intellectual property. It is unfortunate the supporters of the open source community have taken steps to publicize intellectually property in-order to further their own goals and desires. Unfortunately, for us all, some of the people conducting these efforts would not voluntarily remove our IP, even after being contacted.

Thank god. These folks worked hard to write code to use this piece of hardware, and it would be unfortunate if they were forced to take it down. Imagine if Linus had been forced by Intel to take down kernel versions that used their intellectual property in the early part of the last decade. A lot of companies have bullied a lot of people in the last couple of years, and it's only getting worse. Your CueCat, like DeCSS, is going to redefine what IP is. Personally, I hope that when I get a barcode reader, or a DVD-ROM drive (or a car, or phone, or any other physical thing), that I'm allowed to rip it apart and tinker with it at my discretion. I think that's my right as a consumer.

In the strictest legal terms we had no choice but to proceed protect our interests. By posting our IP to the Net the Linux Community has forced us into a position of having to legally defend our technology . Under IP law if we don't PROTECT our IP, we loose any remedies under law to PROTECT our IP. This IS NOT ABOUT stopping hackers, but trying to get the "hackers" and such to WORK WITH US AND NOT EXPOSE US and destroy over 5 years of hard work by a group of "geeks, hackers and techno-whizzes" like each of you!

IP is a weird beast. If you don't defend it, you don't have it. I imagine if Adaptec or Matrox defended the IP created by the work of their "geeks, hackers and techno-wizzes" by forcing Linux driver writers to take down code utilizing their SCSI controllers, hard drives and video cards, their IP would also be unusable under Linux. Which is too bad because I use hardware that they created every day. Oh, and 5 years of development for "base64+XOR"?

Any professional and serious developer will understand the following: .........Unfortunately the Linux Community could of inadvertently created the WINDOW for the BIG companies to come in and control and profit from this process we have created. So if M$ or some other company decides to do what you are doing *for profit" and DigitalConvergence allows the open source group to continue with out proper licenses, DigitalConvergence could loose its ability to effectively stop them. The Linux Community would of actually had a DIRECT HAND in creating what it stands most vehemently against!

You start it off by saying "Any serious Professional will understand" which is a none-too-subtle way of saying, "If you're smart, you'll understand." Fortunately you don't say that any serious developer will agree. What you're saying is that the Linux community should happily take down the code out of fear of some big company (mentioning Microsoft is poor form: it screams like a bad political commercial where they mention a bunch of scary things just to make their ideas seem more true). If big scary Microsoft came along and released their own distribution, there is nothing we could do about it (provided that they played by the common rules of the GPL). That reality constantly exists, but that doesn't slow anyone down. It's not the point. If Microsoft wants to play by the rules of the GPL, I say let 'em. But by your logic, nobody should ever write and distribute source code, for fear that Microsoft would take it. That strikes me as a bit backwards.

It is our hope the Linux community will help us in our efforts by

  1. working with us to create a product to support your needs, and;
  2. stop and remove illegal posting efforts, and;
  3. encourage others in the Linux community to work with us hand-in-hand to develop a various solutions and useful applications. You too, can be part of this valuable tool and project!"

    The weird thing about open source development is that code gets written where programmers itch. I bet you'll find support for #1, but less so for #2. See, your itches might not be the same as their itches. We all define valuable tools and projects differently, and our needs might be a bit different then yours. I don't think that folks posting this code constitutes "an illegal posting effort" any more then I think posting a driver for a scanner does.

    Digital:Convergence supports the Linux/Unix community and plans to make a version of its software available for Linux available in the near future. Also, licenses are available for any developers wishing to work with any aspect of our technology. We welcome the individuals of the community to contact us and use a more professional, orderly and productive manner in adjusting our products to better serve, in tact and based fully upon our various Patents and Intellectual Property, your community, . Professional Licenses and Development contracts are available to the Linux/Unix community and we welcome your direct and professional contact.

    If I own a Ford, do I need a Ford wrench to fiddle with my engine? If I buy a frame, do I need a nail & hammer from the same company in order to hang a picture on my wall? If your tools are the best tools, and at the right price, then by all means, I'd happily use your nail & hammer, but we live in a marketplace where competition drives everything, and you have competition. You have the advantage: you have the technical specifications and the most developed tools, wheras the open source guys are groping blindly in the dark looking for answers. Oddly enough this groping is a large part of the fun. It's a challenge.

    And, by the way, the AT HOME - PERSONAL USE DEVELOPER LICENSE is $20 USD! So please, HELP US PROTECT, what a group of talented developers, have worked so very hard on for over the last 5 years!

    J. Jovan Philyaw - Chairman & C.E.O.
    Doug Davis - President Technology Group

    I seriously wish you guys the best of luck, and hope you figure out a way to work with the developers who are writing this cool code. If you haven't alienated the developers, I bet they would be happy to work with you. My fear is that your business model is shaky: you've given away zillions of barcode readers, (no doubt at great expense) but failed to realize that they, like iOpeners and TiVos and Furbys and AIBOs and DVD-ROM drives and everything else physical, can (and will!) be ripped apart and played with by people. You're trying to use lawyers to take away people's rights to screw around with their own hardware, and that's a problem... your service strikes me as being about a lot more then a silly little barcode scanner and what people do with it. If your software serves a need, people will use it. If some hacker finds some cool other use for the hardware, maybe people will use their code too. This is very real, but this is a free country where we can tear apart our toys and rebuild them if we want.

    On a practical note, you have a website and a net service. Thats different. Thats not a physical piece of hardware that someone can hold in their hands. You should focus on that, and not waste your energy going after hackers who are just poking around with a cool piece of hardware. I'm not a business guy, so I don't know what the answers are, but I do know a dead end when I see it. And don't forget that the percentage of people who are actually gonna mess with this stuff is very tiny. You should concentrate on making your services better for the huge majority of your users who don't run Linux, and wouldn't run software other then yours even if it did exist. It's the blinking 12:00 syndrome. Most users just don't change the defaults.

    I'd also like to say something to the readers: don't get angry and attack these guys. They're just a group of guys trying to feed their dogs by coming up with ideas to make a buck. Yelling and screaming doesn't help anyone. It's easy to forget that every company is just a group of people trying to accomplish something; they aren't evil, even when they make mistakes or do things that we disagree with. But don't stop writing the code. I can think of many uses for this barcode scanner (like maybe software to index my DVDs?). It's still legal to reverse engineer, and that sure better never change.

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(Hold) Digital Convergence Responds After Forcing Drivers Offline

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  • This is a sort of half-assed, secondary argument by the Napster legal team. It carried no weight with the appeals court that has taken over the case.

    Napster's winning card is the fact that Congress legalized all non-commercial copying of music by consumers using any digital or analog recording device [] in 1992, in exchange for mandatory "royalty" payments to the music industry whenever you purchase any blank digital audio recorder or media. [] Napster's defense is not based on fair use -- it's based on a statutory exception that defines all non-commercial copying as non-infringing. Hence, if Napster's users are not infringing copyrights, then Napster cannot be contributing to said non-existant infringement.

  • Would be nice if they'd admit that they didn't write it rather than implicitly claim it as their own work.

  • Are they kidding? "You too can be part of this valuable tool and project?" How about "You too can help us invade the privacy and track the purchasing habits of millions of people; We're willing to 'work with you', in the sense of 'ignore you totally except for sending threatening letters', for a mere $20 per device! We'll tell you nothing you don't already know. What a deal!"
    3.encourage others in the Linux community to work with us hand-in-hand to develop a various solutions and useful applications. You too, can be part of this valuable tool and project!"
    And, by the way, the AT HOME - PERSONAL USE DEVELOPER LICENSE is $20 USD! So please, HELP US PROTECT, what a group of talented developers, have worked so very hard on for over the last 5 years!
    Moderate this as flamebait if you must, but I have written CueMammal software, I've gotten a Letter, and, to quote "Network," I'm Mad As Hell And I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore! Who do these corporate aristocrats think they are? Are they really expecting people to roll over and hand them $20 each to use hardware that THEY OWN? Someone get Ralph Nader on the phone.

    ---- ----
  • And when presented in this fashion, it positively begs for a line-by-line debunking. In fact, after reading it again, I found myself taking issue with almost every line of the thing. This letter is a load of BS from a company that obviously doesn't respect our rights as consumers. I'm offended by it and I don't blame Taco for being offended by it and responding to it either.

  • Not so. The DMCA protects, in the way you're thinking of, access controls. If the numbers encoded with a barcode are copyrighted and encrypted content, then the DMCA would say something about software which unencrypted them. But hardware and software which simply displayed to the user the encrypted data as read from the paper would be okay, because they'd still need the approved access control software to view it.

    But, because barcode aren't encrypted, the DMCA doesn't apply at all. The UCITA does, if you're in a location that has it, but that's it. And that only applies if you install the software.

    No laws were broken by writing this software.
  • > [ ... ] the "phone home" feature is why they are squawking.

    True. And as imp states, the phone-home is at the next level (actually, several levels up :-) in the stack. Application layer versus hardware layer.

    Frankly, I don't see how this hack can threaten their business model.

    A Linux guy writes a device driver that allows it to scan barcodes and not phone home. BFD.

    Something that might bave been a threat to their business model would have been a Linux device driver that did phone home -- to somewhere other than Digital Convergence -- and tried to build a database of customer information for future resale to some other privacy invader.

    While it's still possible that someone might code such a thing, who the hell would run it?

    (For that matter, how many of us geeks would have run their Windoze software that phoned home to DCNV? ;)

    Interesting thought - Windoze users are used to getting closed-source binary-only distributions of software, which makes this type of product (the :CueCat that phones home) feasible.

    I wonder if DCNV will release source code to the Linux version of their client.

    I wonder - if they do - who among us will compile and run it?

    Maybe we don't want our computers phoning home.

    Broader question: In a world in which there exist open sourced apps which don't phone home and which can be inspected at the source code level to verify that they can't phone home, why would anyone choose to run an app that couldn't be trusted?

    The "Give away the razor, sell the blades" model isn't in jeopardy. Despite their management team's abysmal English skills, DCNV has an interesting product and viable strategy for compiling large databases of consumer preferences.

    What might be in jeopardy, two or three years down the road, is the whole "hide functionality from the user and collect data surreptitiously" business model espoused by everyone from MSFT (think .NET) and Doublefsck on down to DCNV.

    Trying to sue every species of penguin into extinction is gonna be a much bigger different kettle of herring than a cat-shaped barcode reader and some flying butt monkeys...

  • None of the stuff you mention even applies to this case though. Even if they were claiming IP rights to the actual printed codes, nobody is copying their bar codes. The protocol was reverse engineered, something that is apparently (remains to be decided in court) upheld even by the DMCA. Even if they claim it as a trade secret, reverse engineering can make it legally public.

  • You can patent a business model and keep others from using the same model. They've mentioned no such patent, and it wouldn't apply in this case anyway since nobody is trying to duplicate their business model (probably with good reason).

  • The IP they're refering to might be this:

    US6098106: Method for controlling a computer with an audio signal []

    Though I don't get the audio signal part. The text of the patent seems pretty similar though. And the patent seems really trivial.

    Also, the patent covers the whole application, not the specific encoding scheme that the CueCat uses to talk to the computer with. So if the linux driver only allows reading of barcodes, it should be okay and not get tangled in this patent...?

  • What might be ammusing is an app that does phone home, based on an ID you choose and a list of barcodes that you choose...

    You could choose to use the serial number from your scanner or one made up, and to scan a list of barcodes from your favorite products, or to download a list of such from the net...

    Imagine if you and all of your friends started scanning the barcodes for your favorite small bands, thus tweaking the demographics "Hey look bob, thousands of our customers are fans of Band X, they've got as big a following as the Spice Girls (or whatever)."

    Then they sell these demographics and companies like the RIAA buy them, and then start promoting bands like Band X more because of their already large following.

    Use their own invasive techniques against them. Like a Neilson family taking bribes to watch certain shows.

    Even better, you wouldn't have to sign any contract, and you'd be performing this intended use of the site, to look up products by their barcodes, so they'd have no legitimate problem with this.

    Then, if they get too uppity, we simply reveal than a huge percentage of their demographics are completely false, driving them out of business when people refuse to pay for incorrect statistics.
  • Especially when many other barcode readers were out there allowing access before the CueCat came out.
  • They have no patent. As other posts have pointed out, they've not listed any patent numbers, so it's reasonable that they do not hold a patent on what was reverse engineered.

    Secondly, the "protect it or lose it" defense does not apply to patents. This only applies to trademarks. Since there are most likely no trademarks being infringed upon in the reverse engineered drivers, this does not apply either.

    I would say the fact that they are attempting insuate both of these in their letters, without providing proof of either (probably because they don't have either) is a fairly bogus thing to do. The best it will do is upset people, the worst it will do is bring legal action back against them.

    ** Martin
  • Actually the bullseye and rectangular codes were competing standards, the rectangular code you see today was sponsored by IBM. This was in the 70's when IBM was "it", so their standard won. Note: this information is from a good article in Smithsonian magazine from last year.

    Your are correct about barcodes being read from every direction, its part of the spec.
  • If a E*Trade wanted to give me a free device that would let me trade stocks from anywhere, with the agreement that I only use it with their service, they should be able to. And their doing so should be protected from abuse.

    Sure, and they can do that by having you sign an agreement up front restricting how you are allowed to use it. Unfortunately for DC, they didn't do that. Too bad.


  • Actually, according to their EULA, they claim that they're only loaning the CueCat to you, therefore, it's their property and they can control how you use it.

    The problem they have there, is that the scanner is a GIFT untill you agree to the EULA and allow that it is a loan. OTOH, if you just throw the CD away unopened, it remains a nice gift. Even if you dod click agree on the EULA, it might still be a gift since the legality of click-wrap licenses is questionable. UCITA is not in force in most states and may never be.

    It seems that by trying to maximise the hype by making what was intended as a loan look like a gift, they unintentionally made it an actual gift. Serves them right IMHO.

  • In his position, I would be pretty pissed off with all the self-righteousness and posturing in these messages, just 'cos some guy decided to reverse engineer his protocol and put his livelihood at risk, not even for serious reasons, but as an amusing hobby.

    Two things. First, I'd be a lot more pissed at myself for not forseeing this inevitable outcome, and for relying on such a weak business model as this one could end up being. Second, it remains to be seen whether his business model will succeed or fail. I think the number of people who use these readers in unintended ways will be completely insignificant next to the number of people who take one home, throw it in a drawer and never touch it again.

  • Digital Convegience and Radio Shack didn't give this away for you to have fun with! You're supposed to make them rich! Now, get it right and go back to Radio Shack and buy stuff! Geez... darn iggorant public anyways... can't trust em to do anything...

    Vote [] Naked 2000
  • Unless they keep it encrypted all the way to their web site, where they've got the mate to the key that signed it.
  • by luckykaa ( 134517 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @05:51AM (#804171)
    What Intellectual property?
  • Exactly. If you go into Radio Shack, they try to shove it into your bag, they don't try to warn you that it could be taken away later.
  • Patents can be enforced or not enforced; it's up to the holder therof to determine if they're actually being infringed.
  • by delmoi ( 26744 )
    Those Tercel's kick ass! I've got one, a 97', and my mom still drives her 85'! I wish they hadn't stoped making them :(
  • The CueCat reverse engineering is remarkably similar to this, except much more simple. The hackers merely had to figure out what the output meant, which apparently was pretty easy. They treated the CueCat as a black box, recording the output from the scanner and figuring out what it meant. No harm, no foul.

    Copyright NEVER protects against reverse engineering. Only patenting does. And patenting also protects against clean room implementations. You cannot use the invention specified in the patent to accomplish the patent's claims, and ignorance is no excuse. You can make a clean room implementation and hope that it doesn't use the same methods to accomplish the same goal. If it
    does use the same methods to accomplish the same claims, you are in violation.

    I think in this case the intellectual property is probably copyrighted, and they are screwed.
  • No big trick. barcodes are designed to be read bidirectionally. Also, the cuecat has a single light sensor, Hold it however you want; all it looks for is changes in luminosity. That's why a "quiet area" is needed before and after the barcode itself.

    ---- ----
  • This is like Bill Gates claiming that Linux destroys 5 years work in NT (assuming Linux were a threat to NT). If you spend all that effort making a driver for Windows that works with all kinds of OS configurations and sound cards, and along comes a Linux driver ... THAT is NOT a theft of any of your work (even though if Linux were a threat to it, which I highly doubt, it only means your work is wasted, not stolen).

    Just how much of that work is really stolen in this? If DC does make and release a Linux driver, then what? I can assure you that if it is not satisfactory to the Linux community, they will still tear it apart. If you make the driver in object code binary only, they will reverse engineer it to source code anyway. An army of lawyers can't stop it because it all happens and millions of copies made before a lawyer even wakes up.

    It sounds to me like MOST of what DC did was investment, and wants to even count Net Talk Live in it just to up the apparent ante.

    It also sounds to me like technology poorly done. I don't know what technology you actually used because I haven't looked at it. But I know that I could have picked technology that could not have been cracked and thus made the :CUE:CAT only useable for its intended purpose. I suspect design shortcuts were made in ignorance of the resourcefulness of the inhabitants of the people that really created the Internet so other people like Jovan could use it to market to millions.
  • by rotten_ ( 132663 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @09:54AM (#804199)
    This whole situation reminds me of X10. They come up with some pretty cool hardware that appeals to geeks. They give away a starter kit for free--give away the razors, sell the blades idea. Pretty cool, a ton of geeks fork over the $5.00 S/H. X10 sells a bunch of gear.

    Geeks come up with some cool implementations of this hardware. They write some software, that works with Linux (X10 hasn't released any that I know of). X10 sells a bunch more gear.

    The difference is that X10 is giving away the razors and selling the blades. The Digital Convergence guys are giving away the razors and trying to sell blades that can easily be made of of normal everyday household items.

    Which, isn't neccessarily a flawed business model--someone brought up the blinking 12:00 analogy.

    Also, convenience is an issue: Kool-aid sells two main types--with sugar and without. They make a much better margin on the 'with sugar' ones--but they aren't quite as popular as the 20 for $1 kind. I guess I mean that people will pay a lot for value added convenience--and Digital Convergence needs to work hard to provide it.

    Anyway, I don't understand why it is that they don't sell a SOHO multi-purpose barcode? Seems like a cool peripheral. Hopefully someone will see the demand for such a product and release one--perhaps even X10.

  • Should be a correction. There are instances in which it can be illegal to use a product in a manner inconistent with it's stated purpose. Generally because using the product improperly could harm others. This is why we have laws about what you can do with your car, guns, etc. I can't think of a single such law that would be applicable in this situation though.

  • Intellectual Property law takes on three main forms: Trade Secrecy Law, Patent Law, and Copyright Law.

    Actually there are four since trademark law should be included as a form of IP (and a particularly insidious form at that).

    It doesn't fall under Patent law unless they have a patent that hasn't yet been mentioned (this would have to be a patent on the software, because that's what's being recreated)

    It's not even the software that's being reverse-engineered. It's just the protocol that the reader uses to send data to the computer.

    It is a company's sad obligation to go after everyone who is violating one of these IP laws, lest they lose protection under the law

    This simply isn't true. At least not in the sense that they are claiming. Companies are obligated to enforce their trademarks or risk having them become diluted and therefore public domain (note that the bar for a tm being considered "diluted" is still set pretty darn high). Since trademarks don't seem to be the issue here (though it could be, they were extremely vague regarding their "IP"), this doesn't apply.

    Trade secrets must also be enforced, but in a different way. Companies must actively prosecute anyone violating an NDA or commiting espionage against the company. If the company can show that the secret was obtained illegally, they can prevent it from being used. However, if the secret is reverse-engineered, then it can be legally published. That's the trade-off of a trade secret versus a patent.

    Something that I just learned is that there is a certain requirement placed on patent holders as well. According to this [], patent holders may lose their recourse if they knew or should have known about an infringement, but take no action for 6 years or more. It should be pointed out that this does not require them to take action in all cases or risk losing control of their patent, which is what they seem to be claiming in their letter regarding their "IP." It simply means that they can't knowingly allow the infringement to occur for an unreasonable amount of time without taking action in that particular instance. Failing that, they only lose their recourse against that particular company or individual, not the rights to pursue other infringers. This seems to be designed to thwart "submarine patents." Not sure how effective it is at that, but since they don't mention any patents in their letter, it doesn't seem to apply in this situation.

    Companies can selectively prosecute copyright violations to their heart's content. There is no requirement for enforcement, so this doesn't apply either.

    Now, given that none of the forms of IP have been violated, what exactly are they claiming that these developers have done wrong? That's the real question, and one that they conveniently glossed over in their letter, instead preferring to try to intimidate, scare, and finally appeal to some imagined form of kinship. I found the letter to be quit offensive and demeaning. I'm going to write an email to them and tell them that myself.

  • Wrong. Removing a firing pin from a semi-automatic weapon, thereby converting it into a fully automatic weapon is illegal, even though you haven't harmed anyone. Same with sawing off the barrel of a shotgun if you make it too short.

  • For patents, if you wait more than six years you can lose the right to collect damages FOR THAT PARTICULAR INFRINGEMENT. This does not eliminate your right to pursue damages for other infringing applications, or otherwise affect the validity of the patent.

    Read the law: 35/ch29.html []


  • It seems to have a lot more to do with their "Convergence Cable []" than with CueCat.
  • Personally, in this case I don't mind CmdrTaco's comments with the story. Just think of it this way: it kept 100 or more people from posting them instead. The argument the corporate droid gave is obviously bogus, so best to knock it down straightaway and then we can argue how bogus it is instead of whether it is bogus. :-)

  • The guy asked the question and I answered.
    And I got +2 because after a certain amount of karma gained you automatically get + 2. You should try it instead of hiding behind A/C with your comments
  • by CrayDrygu ( 56003 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @02:02PM (#804232)
    But keep in mind, we are the ones breaking laws, not Digital Convergence.

    Actually, since reverse engineering is legal, and since all D:C did was send a nice, threatening letter...nobody on either side has broken any laws. But this is the least of the problems with your argument...

    If you buy electronics and build an FM transmiter of a moderate amount of power, the FCC will find you, and they will fine you.

    They sure will. But will they bust you for taking apart your radio? No. You have every right to take apart your radio, and even to build a transmitter with the parts. They'll just bust you for transmitting over regulated frequencies without a licence.

    If you modify your car to make it look cool by taking the bumpers off of it, again police will stop you. Its simply not legal.

    You're wrong again. I can take any part of my car off that I want to, including the bumpers. And as long as I'm driving my bumperless car on my own property, the police have no right to stop me. On the other hand, if I go onto public roads like that -- if I go onto property that isn't mine, and break the rules set by the property owners -- then yes, they certainly can stop me.


  • It is a company's sad obligation to go after everyone who is violating one of these IP laws, lest they lose protection under the law

    Wrong, this is only true if there is an infringement of a trade secret or a trademark. Copyrights and Patents do not lose their clout if undefended, they can be successfully selectively enforced.

    -- iCEBaLM
  • I believe you may be under the impression that I think reverse engineering is bad; quite the opposite. I am not opposed to things like DeCSS, the cuecat fiasco, satellite decoding, or anything else whatseover. I am very much in favor of it.

    If we use DeCSS as a rough example, we see that, once accused of doing something 'illegal', the DeCSS crowd responds with 'but we had a moral cause; we wanted a linux DVD player'. This is nothing but 'making an excuse'. The *REAL* answer should be 'we don't NEED an excuse to do what we did. It is our right'.

    I very much understand the history of software in use today.

    If you make excuses for the reverse-engineering you do, based on some high moral cause, or whatever, you simply give your opponents (the industry) ammunition to fight back with. If you flat out come out and say 'I've always had the right to do this.' what can they say? They cannot fight you other than to try to show how you do not have that right.

  • Okay, there are a few laws about of a few specific things that you're not supposed to do. (also included: can't mix certain household chemicals without having an explosive maker's license).

    But there's no law that says "if a manufacturer says that you can only do X with their product, then you must listen to them" for every X that a manufacturer could dream up.

  • I'm assuming you mean that the :C:C is protecting copyrighted data in barcodes,

    What I meant was that I was making an assumption about what the previous poster meant because I didn't understand them. Not an assumption about what the :C:C actually does.

    This is what IS protected, and the DMCA states if you try to go around this scrambling you are "circumvent[ing] a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title [DMCA]."

    What copyrighted work are you claiming to be protected by the :C:C? Some copyrighted barcodes? The DMCA [] states, in the introduction:

    • The DMCA prohibits gaining unauthorized access to a work by circumventing a technological protection measure put in place by the copyright owner where such protection measure otherwise effectively controls access to a copyrighted work

    In other words, if there are thousands of other barcode readers, then the :C:C doesn't effectively prevent copying the barcode data.

    Or are you claiming that the DMCA covers the :C:C in some other bizarre way? No other data is being copied with the Linux driver, so I don't see how it could be anything else.

  • >>Intel wasn't able to stop AMD and Cyrix from using MMX, even though intel claimed that it was something that was necessary to protect their business.

    Well, that's not really true. Intel has a broad cross licesense with National Semiconductor and IBM. Both or those companies can clone and market any intel chip. So, Cryix, AMD etc. had IBM and National make their chips. This is also how VIA gets away with making some of thier chipsets for US consumption.
  • The Bazaar is being run by Fascists.

    And populated by Chicken Littles, if you're any evidence. Do you realize that under real fascism, you would have been censored, or worse, for what you just posted?

    Do you realize how much your statement dilutes the definition of fascism?

  • Right. If you kill someone with a product, it's the illegal act of killing that's a problem, not that you did something unauthorized with the product.
  • This is not the same as trademark law. A company can still selectively enforce its patents without risking the loss of control that a trademark holder can suffer due to dilution. The link you give just explains that a company cannot take an unreasonably long amount of time to bring suit against someone allegedly infringing on their patent because it could result in material predjudice to the defendant. This bit of law could be designed to undermine "submarine patents." It does not require that the patent holder prosecute every known infringement as trademark law does, therefore their "defend it or lose it" claim is still false.

  • They should feel free to ask us not to use their hardware, but when they try to force us not to, I refuse to cooperate with their impolite request.

    Actually, according to their EULA [], they claim that they're only loaning the CueCat to you, therefore, it's their property and they can control how you use it.

    Counter-examples abound... renters can't completely control how you use their apartment... bankers can't completely control how you use their money they loan to you.

  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @11:31AM (#804269) Homepage Journal

    I agree that CmdrTaco should have kept his opinions as a sidebar or bookends to the letter in full. As I read, I skipped over the baldfac- er, boldface material and read the letter itself.

    Aside from the interspersed comments, are we sure this is actually from a lawyer or official of this company?

    There's several grammatical errors that make the letter sound like it's coming from, well, from a twenty-something hothead. "Would of"s and ranting allcap phrases are what I expect to see in the less decorous 'leet crowd, not from someone at the helm or hire of a respectable company.

    Besides, if there was intellectual property litigation involved, the company would probably best be served by holding its temper and its collective tongue.

    "Major asshole." --Dubya Bush "Big time." --Dick Cheney

  • by WNight ( 23683 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @12:57PM (#804298) Homepage
    I support this business model. Free trials are a great way to get people to use a product and maybe later, pay for it.

    What I object to are laws that say people have a right to make money on this sort of stuff.

    You mention Sony and the PS2... They sell a PS2 at a loss hoping the license fees for games make up for it. A valid business model imho.

    But, what about someone who decides they don't like the PS2? Sony is out a bit of money if the person buys the system and gets the default game, plays it once and tosses it in a box, never to buy more PS2 games. Should the law mandate purchase of at least twelve games?

    What if I buy a PS2 and play games on it, thus satisfying Sony's business model, but would also like to run Linux on it. Do they have a right to say I can't?

    If they're concerned, they should sell the system *and* twelve games, or whatever they need to break even, as a unit, or with a clearly written contract requiring the purchase of these games by a certain date. Unfortunately, few people would be willing to spend the $800 or so that this would cost on a system they may not like, so Sony would sell few units.

    Instead, they gamble. If the PS2 is good, the games will rock and people will buy them. If the PS2 sucks, nobody will buy them and they'll lose money.

    I would have been willing, had DC asked politely, without threats and lies (yes, provable lies) to makre sure any CueCat software I wrote would *by default* communicate with their servers, if used in a network mode. That is, if the user scanned something and wanted to look it up, the default server would be theirs, changeable to Amazon(etc) only if the user wished. Instead they lie and threaten, telling us any unquthorized use is against the contract (this is fraud on their part) and demand we don't use the product in any way they disagree with. This is where I stop supporting them in any way.

    Instead of them having a reasonable business which I would support, and hobby usage as well, they try for 100% of the pie instead of 99.9% and lose my support and the support of almost everyone else.

    It's not their business model, it's them. They're lying, threatening, assholes commiting fraud and I'll take any and all actions I can to see them bankrupt in a short a time as I can manage.

    Step 1: Flood their service with repetitive and automated scans and created serial numbers.

    Step 2: Reveal this to their potential customers, dropping the value of their data to zero.

    Maybe the next group of people to try this business model will realize that fraud and lies aren't going to help them, those people I will support.
  • by sethg ( 15187 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @03:48PM (#804314) Homepage
    ...and if you, Gentle Reader, picked up a CueCat in Massachusetts, please email me [mailto], and maybe we can take this issue to the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation []. Either Digital Convergence or Radio Shack is in some kind of doo-doo here, because...
    • I picked up a CueCat from a Radio Shack in Boston on Friday. My wife picked one up today. Nobody told us anything about being bound by any license agreement. If Digital Convergence really cared about protecting their IP in the hardware, they should have required Radio Shack to warn people of the licensing terms when they picked up the device -- especially after this whole thing broke on Friday. (If the EFF takes this case and wants people to give depositions, we're available.)
    • The catalog that Radio Shack gave me with the CueCat says, on the back cover, "come by a Radio Shack store and get your free :CAT scanning device", and on page 3, "You can pick up your :Cue:C.A.T. device FREE at any of over 7,000 participating RadioShack stores nationwide." (Boldface added.) Seems like Digital Convergence Legal needs to have a word with Radio Shack Marketing.
    • The sleeve with the CD-ROM does say "Opening this software constitutes acceptance of our License terms contained herein." However, I haven't opened the software, and there's nothing there about using the hardware constituting acceptance of the license.

  • by IQ ( 14453 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:39AM (#804412)
    Hey wait,

    Taco deserves the freedom to Editorialize as he wishes on his web page. I am happy he did it. I enjoyed reading it. I think it was well written and complete.

    Enough of this Politically Corect, lets not ruffle any feathers crap.

    When we have no rights left (they were sold to corporations by our duly elected reps in congress and executive offices) we will be dreaming of opportunities such as this where we can defend our rights.

    BTW: The business model of this product (I picked up one from Radio Shack on Thursday) implies that they are recording the data and selling it without the users permission (or was it hidden in the shrink wrap). I think their model is flawed. Just like I think the Grocery chains model of holding us ransome for 'preferred savings cards' panel id card is flawed.

  • by wnissen ( 59924 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:40AM (#804416)
    Perhaps some definition of the term "clean room" is in order. A clean room implementation is one in which the hardware is treated as a black box, and then software is written to imitate its behavior under ever conceivable circumstance. The classic example of this was the Compaq reverse engineering of the original IBM PC BIOS. It would have been trivial for Compaq simply to slurp the BIOS off the EEPROM and make copies onto their own chips. That would be stealing, and not OK.

    What they did instead was to give the BIOS to engineers who has not seen the assembler code on the chip and instruct them to duplicate it based on its behavior. So they sent various signals to the chip, and watched what it did as it booted up, and basically systematically looked at precisely what it was doing. They were then, with some trial and error, able to write code that duplicated all the observable behavior of the IBM BIOS. That is a cleanroom implementation, as evidenced by the fact that Compaq came out with a fine clone of the BIOS and was legally allowed to sell it. Mere use of the hardware is not enough to make it not a clean implementation

    The CueCat reverse engineering is remarkably similar to this, except much more simple. The hackers merely had to figure out what the output meant, which apparently was pretty easy. They treated the CueCat as a black box, recording the output from the scanner and figuring out what it meant. No harm, no foul.

  • by imp ( 7585 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:24AM (#804428) Homepage
    Unfortunately the Linux Community could of inadvertently created the WINDOW for the BIG companies to come in and control and profit from this process we have created.
    Excuse me? The Protocol between the cat and the keyboard port was *TRIVIAL* to reverse engineer. I figured most of it out in 10 minutes. And it took another 20-30 to get the last bit right (the xor was the kicker). 45 minutes after I started looking at bar codes, I knew the protocol.

    Even if Microsoft programmers are as incompotent as people at slashdot paint them from time to time (and I know they aren't), I doubt that it would take more than a day for them to reverse engineer the protocol.

    Current US laws allow for reverse engineering to effect interoperability. Nothing more than that was engaged in here.

    Finally, I think they are just a bunch of crybabies out to give opensource a bad name. Look how much whining they did. Look how unspecific they were about what IP was allegedly stolen. My guess is that they lost sales of some development kit or another, or fear such loss, and are using the IP argument to scare people into not blabbing.

  • by KFury ( 19522 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:26AM (#804434) Homepage
    Reading through the letter, it becomes obvious that these folks don't know what Intellectual Property is. Intellectual Property law takes on three main forms: Trade Secrecy Law, Patent Law, and Copyright Law.

    Anyone taking apart their barcode reader and creating software from what they see isn't violating Trade Secrecy law, because reverse-engineering is permitted under Trade Secrecy law. It doesn't fall under Patent law unless they have a patent that hasn't yet been mentioned (this would have to be a patent on the software, because that's what's being recreated), and it doesn't fall under Copyright law unless folks are actually using code from the barcode reader's software or ROM, or producing a work heavily derived from them.

    It is a company's sad obligation to go after everyone who is violating one of these IP laws, lest they lose protection under the law, but it's a sadder 'obligation' for a company to use FUD (even when they're apologizing at the same time), under the guise of protecting legal rights, to try to dissuade people who have every right to do what they're doing.

    The question here is whether D:C knows it has no legal footing, but is ding everything it can to get people to stop anyhow, or if they read too much slashdot and think 'that's our intellectual property! We must defend it!' without knowing the ramifications of IP law.

    Kevin Fox
  • by Knos ( 30446 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:47AM (#804439) Homepage Journal

    What most people have to realise is that this idea against reverse engineering in general is again an invention of the software developement industry.. In all the other industries, reverse engineering is common, and used by all.

    For example, if you visit a car manufacturer you will see they have groups dedicated to tear down and study in detail their competitors' cars. I know also a few persons in the microelectronics field, who had as a project to design machines for helping reverse engineering. (for a big big player in the market) (those were physical machines to permit the manufacturer in question to open the chips and study each layer of them)

  • by bfree ( 113420 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:27AM (#804443)
    I cannot disagree more!
    All that has happened here is that someone has taken their scanner, plugged it into a computer, scanned some barcodes, seen what they got, figured out how it was converting the barcode into the data it supplied and finally wrote a bit of code to turn the data from the device into something useful. They didn't go near the distributors software (it wasn't even close to being complicated enough to need that) so all they did was use the hardware the manufacturer gave away for free as it was intended with different software.
    Now ask yourself this, if Ford gave away car fresheners for their Fiesta and then asked people to remove from websites the instructions for how to fit the freshener to other models of cars would you say "the right channels have to be used when dealing with other peoples work is concerned"?
    I think this is a simple case of a company who are trying to implement a business plan with a potential flaw ("the WINDOW for the BIG companies to come in and control and profit from this process we have created"). Guess they should have made sure that door was closed BEFORE they handed the things out. Besides, do you really think that MS would need the Open Source community to help them crack this OR that MS would be deterred from rolling drivers for this into their software by claims of infringment of IP rights.
    Bottom line I think they are stupid....not mallicious just stupid.....ah well so much for another dream!
  • Oddly enough, my friend Josh Hadler did something almost exactly like this. He wanted to study electromagnetic standing waves, so he build himself a long metallic waveguide, some neon tubes (not wired for lighting -- just long glass tubes with neon in 'em) and a CHEAP MICROWAVE OVEN. He pulled the microwave apart and plugged the clystron into the waveguide, with a Nalgene water hose crossing through the waveguide to absorb most of the energy. Made beautiful standing waves.

    The best part was that the store was having a sale -- buy a microwave, get a free home microwave inspection (where a guy would come out and test your oven for RF leaks). Of course Josh had the guy come out and test the microwave AFTER he had taken it apart and used it to make his standing-wave-generator. The guy was scared shitless but tested the apparatus anyhow.

    My point is that your example is a particularly cogent one about using a product in a manner for which it's not intened.

    Ever use a car as a nutcracker? You jack up a drive wheel, put it in fourth and put a brick on the gas. Then you throw nuts into the gap between the wheel and the ground. Works VERY WELL with fresh walnuts.

    Ever use a stereo as a degausser? You short a speaker line through a long spool of wire, ram a bunch of iron things into the center of the spool, and use the volume knob to degauss.

    Ever use a Craftsman screwdriver in a way for which it wasn't intended? Did you break it?

    Using products in ways in which they weren't intended is a big part of the American ideal. If the Wright Brothers hadn't used bicycle parts in a way for which they SERIOUSLY weren't intended, it might take a lot longer to get to that ski vacation today...

  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:28AM (#804449) Homepage
    Cleanroom would only need to be used if this were done:
    • Examine software
    • Abstract to figure out how the software works
    • Write new implementation
    because the problem there is that they directly saw DC's IP (their software source code).

    But the FlyingButtMonkeys didn't reverse engineer the software, they reverse engineered the protocol and built their own software to use the protocols. So clearly they didn't copy any of DC's source code.

  • by StenD ( 34260 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:48AM (#804450)
    Whilst I can appreciate your desire to rip to shreds some of the specious arguments presented in this letter, I would humbly suggest in future that you refrain from doing so.
    I wouldn't want the Commander ot refrain entirely, but he should refrain from doing it in the body of the story, but instead do it as a reply to the story. Of course...
    The first law of public posting is that someone else always has a smarter angle on the whole thing than you do, so if you act in a restrained manner and don't rip into the offender, someone else will.
    Which means that the Commander wouldn't be able to guarantee that his inspired thoughts would be foremost in our minds if he opened them up to the hazards of moderation. I hope that he (and his compatriots) will do this in the future, and even consider modifying this story to remove his commentary.
  • by Platinum Dragon ( 34829 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:30AM (#804468) Journal
    I think what their gripe really boils down to is they're giving away hardware and attempting to build a software and service business model around that.

    And this is the flawed reasoning that will kill a lot of "free/cheap hardware, but buy our service" businesses. A lot of people, including some misguided business owners and managers, can't deal with the fact that computers are, in the end, user-programmable devices. If you develop hardware centered around a computer, someone can (and these days will) develop a free implementation of the software end, just because they can. All the legal threats and letters in the world won't stop an interested hacker from indulging his/her curiosity and reverse-engineering something, especially if that something is hardware that currently doesn't work with his/her favoured OS. As long as no secret documents or specs have been stolen directly from the company (as in, broke into their computers/offices and copied/took the docs) or leaked by an employee under an NDA, nothing legally or morally wrong has been done.

    Either some business owners need to wake up to that reality now and learn to live with it, or the future will see even more legal stupidity as frightened CEOs loose their attack dogs in futile attempts to stifle curiosity and interoperability outside of their control.
  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:51AM (#804469) Homepage
    I made an implicit assumption that I'd like to clarify...

    Thomas claimed that the protocol is IP. I think that's false. Even if it were, the actual embodiment of "the protocol" is not one specific string of bits that it spits out (no more than an image generated by a Adobe Photoshop is the IP of Adobe), but rather the set of rules for generating that string of bits, namely the logic/code stored in the CueCat and in the driver on the computer.

    Additionally, if this were the case, I think they'd have to have a patent on the rules for the protocol. Otherwise, the rules for the protocol were independantly figured out, which is a legal way to get the information under trade secrets law.

  • by jms ( 11418 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:52AM (#804472)
    More like you give away a bread machine with your own book of recipes, requiring your own brand of flour, yeast, etc, then scream bloody murder when someone else writes a book of bread machine recipes that use your free bread machines, but don't require your marked-up ingredients.

    People here don't take kindly to blustering, vague, ill-defined complaints about "Intellectual Property", especially when the company doing the complaining can't seem to make their fingers spell out just what intellectual property they are talking about in the first place! Slashdot is chock full of IP war veterans, and many of us do know our rights.

    Intellectual property consists of:

    o Copyrights
    o Patents
    o Trade secrets
    o Trademarks

    Can't be copyright infringement, because the drivers don't use their software. As a matter of fact, the safest approach at the moment appears to be to throw their software away unopened, to avoid being subject to their restrictive license.

    If there is patent infringement, what is the patent number?

    If an exclusive-or is the trade secret, then sorry, but it was reverse engineered, and is no longer a trade secret. It is now in the public domain. The DMCA doesn't help them because the bar coder doesn't control access to a copyrighted work.

    Perhaps they have trademark issues? They assert:
    By posting our IP to the Net the Linux Community has forced us into a position of having to legally defend our technology . Under IP law if we don't PROTECT our IP, we loose any remedies under law to PROTECT our IP.
    Trademarks are the only type of IP with this requirement. If they are having issues with the open source drivers saying "cuecat", then they should just SAY SO and I'm sure that we could come up with a brand new name for the drivers that imply no public association with the people who developed the Radio Shack software.

    To Digital Convergence:

    Where's the beef? What's the IP you are complaining about? Why are you so vague, or do you have no case and are just bluffing? Consider your bluff called. What the hell are you talking about? Please provide details if you want to be taken seriously.
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:30AM (#804473)
    (Argh, accidentally posted as AC... Duh!)

    OK, let's see here:

    • So many CAPITAL LETTERS whenever he's REALLY CONCERNED that you DON'T GET HIS POINT. The guy reads like Robert McElwaine []. You know, "UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT Information is ENCOURAGED."

    Well, ACTUALLY, in this CASE, this guy's DIS-couraging it, but MY BASIC POINT is the SAME!
    • Abysmal English skills. This guy's a CEO?
      • "reversed engineered"?
      • "intellectually property"?
      • "we loose any remedies"?
      • "the Linux Community could of inadvertently" Could OF?
      This in just two paragraphs. Jesus H. Christ, I've seen kids in grade school with better English skills. Call FuckedCompany [] now!
    Finally, and most seriously, a complete failure to grasp the concept of IP. Nowhere in his rambling spiel does he actually articulate to what "property" he makes claims of ownership.

    • "if we don't PROTECT our IP, we loose any remedies under law to PROTECT our IP"

      No, you dipsticks, that's trademark law. If I create something called the CueCat (without the dippy colon in front of the "C"), and it's a plastic cat-shaped barcode thingy, and he doesn't sue me, he stands to lose the right to use the word ":CueCat" to describe his plastic cat-shaped barcode thingy.

    The rest of the screed is more of the same. Incoherent rants about how a geek with a few lines of Perl is a dire threat to their entire business model and a furtherance of the Micros~1 monopoly. Yeah, and flying monkeys might come out of my butt. (Oh, wait a minute... that's what started this!)

    Netpliance (with the I-Opener and the resulting arms race of BIOS upgrades and anti-hack measures they wasted time with) missed the clue train [], but at least can claim they faced a genuine threat. And even they didn't try to sue anyone.

    But these guys, good Lord, they haven't just missed the Cluetrain, they aren't even at the friggin' station!

    In closing, I'm pretty sure think there's more than one reason the "threatening letter" was merely a vaguely-threatening letter and not a real cease-and-desist.

    1) As flamed ad infinitum on /. last week, any case against the developers of :CueCat(tm)-related hacks is likely to be extremely weak.

    2) If Digital Convergence doesn't even have proofreaders, what the fuck are they using for corporate counsel?

    3) And on that corporate counsel, if they do have corporate counsel, could one of them kindly bitchslap their management team and explain the difference between trademark law and "whatever the ring-tailed rambling fuck" (that's waht I'm calling it, because they've utterly failed to explain it - again) they're trying to use as grounds to sue an open-source developer with a funny domain name?

  • I agree, Taco has a right to critique. However, I think it should be done in the same fashion as the rest of us - as a comment to the posting.

    That stuff doesn't belong in the initial story. The story should report the NEWS, unless it's specifically an editorial piece. This was both, which is unnecessary. The COMMENTS are for opinions.

  • by Sly Mongoose ( 15286 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:54AM (#804498) Homepage
    I think what their gripe really boils down to is they're giving away hardware and attempting to build a software and service business model around that.

    Tough Titty!

    A razorblade company decides to give away millions of free razors, as a loss-leader. They intend to make their money selling blades. Unfortunately, the world discovers that these razors make idealsauce-ap handles. So millions of free razors end up being used as saucepan handles and generate no razorblade-sale revenue at all. Whose fault is this?

    The razorblade company will have to either
    • Accept that their plans are flawed and stop giving away razors
    • Change the design of the razors so they are no longer suitable for use with saucepans (and accept that the new design might turn out ideal for tuning carburetors)
    • Conclude that despite the fact that their razors are being used as saucepan handles, enough are being used as razors to make the plan essentially successful

    The company wants to make money (big surprise). They have a loopy plan, which partially backfires in their face (boo hoo!). Exactly why should I voluntarily give up my rights to help them make money despite a flawed business plan?
  • by kramer ( 19951 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:55AM (#804506) Homepage
    My father-in-law gave me his reader (which some magazine helpfully mailed him), and I was going to use it under Linux, but I've changed my mind. If I want a barcode reader, I'll go buy one that's free of this kind of crap.

    Ah, but you see yours is free of that kind of crap. According to federal law (which would supercede the "you're just borrowing our hardware, and you're forbidden from reverse engineering our hardware" provision of their license.) any unsolicited item mailed to you may be considered a GIFT. As a gift, it is 100% yours, and you don't have to worry about the provisions that claim the hardware is really theirs.

    This however wouldn't apply to the ones picked up from Radio Crack.
  • by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:33AM (#804514) Journal
    Isn't there a tradition of keeping quiet about a patent to let your "victims" build a greater dependence on the technology before springing the royalty trap?

    Indeed. Witness the huge flap when Unisys suddenly decided to enforce their patent on the GIF algorithm []. Unisys' official story on the subject was that although in theory, the GIF format should have been free, it contained a patent-protected algorithm (LZW compression), and their failing to charge license fees over it was "an oversight." It wouldn't surprise me if this was actually true (as opposed to a convenient fabrication), but it still sucked.

    On the other hand, the Unisys GIF thing at least had the effect of forcing some people towards PNG [], which is a good thing. With apologies to Princess Leia, "The harder you grip your intellectual property, the more clients will slip through your fingers."

  • As I read this article, my first thought was "Comments should've been plaintype, original letter in bold." Putting his thoughts in bold just made it seem like he was stuffing his ideas down the letterwriters throats without giving the public forum an opportunity to comment.

    In as much as Cmdr's comments are so tightly woven with the core of this story, this post represents a form of fascism, imho.

    It's such a radical departure from the way this view would have been discussed in the past, and leaves a bad taste.

    The Bazaar is being run by Fascists.
  • by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <> on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @05:56AM (#804539) Homepage
    Yes, but they don't have a legal leg to stand on. Nobody is misusing their intellectual property by using their hardware. Intellectual property would be a patent on barcoding, but they don't have one. Intellectual property would be a copyright, but I can use their hardware without breaking the shrink-wrap on their copyrighted software.

    They should feel free to ask us not to use their hardware, but when they try to force us not to, I refuse to cooperate with their impolite request.
  • by Famous ( 210304 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @05:56AM (#804542)


    Whilst I can appreciate your desire to rip to shreds some of the specious arguments presented in this letter, I would humbly suggest in future that you refrain from doing so. The first law of public posting is that someone else always has a smarter angle on the whole thing than you do, so if you act in a restrained manner and don't rip into the offender, someone else will.

    Or, to put it simply, next time just post the original letter and invite comments. This way, the Slashdot hordes (ranging from rabid to rapier-witted) can do the barking for you, whilst you can maintain a modicum of disinterested independence.

    Please consider.


  • by Derek ( 1525 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:37AM (#804551) Journal
    Their argument is that they don't think anyone should have the right to publish their IP without permission. I don't think they would care if you reverse engineered their :CuteKitty and kept it to yourself. (In fact they would probably never even find out about it.) In this context, your microwave example makes no sense to me. I personally started to reverse engineer their toy the moment I found out that it would spit out plain barcode text. Luckily I found out someone had already done it and it saved me the trouble. Now I can use the ":Cat" for all sorts of things on all sorts of platforms.

    To those who published the code: Thanks!

    To DigitalConvergence: What your beef? How does this ruin you business model? It seems to me that your little toy just became orders of magnitude more useful. Not only can I use it with your software (when I'm in Windows), but I can use it for whatever else my little geek brain dreams up. Back off and let the popularity of your device soar.

    That is all.
  • by scotpurl ( 28825 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @05:57AM (#804554)
    :can't vendors! understand; just how freaking h@rd it is to read aNything and eVerything that's written about their freaking ~products using punctuation as product name?

    Makes reading about :cue:cat, Earth First!, and Digital:Convergence painful to read.

    ouch ouch ouch.
  • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:38AM (#804561) Homepage Journal
    Their business model is one I support, and one that I could see growing quite quickly - the one where you give people some physical thing that ties them to the service that pays for it. I don't think that it's a bad business model - but it needs legal protection because it would be very easy to destroy it.

    No business has the right to anyone's money. If some company chooses to give away some widget because they think that you can't use it without paying for their service, that's a gamble.

    As we all know, not every gamble pays off. There should be no additional legal protection for those who choose a risky business model. Intel wasn't able to stop AMD and Cyrix from using MMX, even though intel claimed that it was something that was necessary to protect their business.

    It's like their renting you the device, not giving it to you - the price of the rental is that you pay them for it's use.

    No, they're giving it away. If they wanted to rent it, then fine let them rent it. The way things stand they are giving it away. It becomes YOUR scanner, if you wanted to, you could drop it off a cliff or run it over with your car, it is YOURS.

    I don't think it's your right to destroy their business.

    They don't have any RIGHT to have their business model succeed. They bet on the wrong horse, tough luck for them.

    Sure, the device isn't their business, but it's a vital (and vulnerable) part.

    A chain is only as strong as it's weakest link, so too is a business plan. If they made a bad assumption about how the devices could be used, then that is their fault and their problem. As long as nobody stole and code from them, there is nothing questionable here.

  • by jms ( 11418 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:59AM (#804572)
    I know that they will say encryption was broken under the DMCA

    The DMCA only covers systems that control access to a copyrighted work, not all encryption systems.
  • by Rocketboy ( 32971 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @07:53AM (#804578)
    I called in a favor this weekend and asked an attorney to look at the issue. For obvious reasons, they don't want to be identified (but I can go so far as to say that this particular attorney likes imported beer. Good thing I do too!)

    Anyway, the opinion is that no illegal activity has taken place. According to posted descriptions, the re-engineering activity which occured took place within permitted boundaries of US law. Furthermore, posting of the re-engineered driver to the Internet and use of the driver by persons who have NOT clicked agreement with their contract, is perfectly legal. In addition, if someone mailed you the device unsolicited or if Radio Shack gave you the device without telling you that it was on loan AND if you did not click to agree with their contract, the widget is yours for permissable use within US copyright and patent law. You can't rip it apart to find out how it works and then start cranking out clones, but that's just about the only thing you can't do with it. Specifically, using a different software driver which avoids reference to their site and/or usage tracking technology, is perfectly legal. If they wanted to bind users to a contract dictating terms of usage, they didn't do it properly and unless you click on the "Agree" button on their contract, no usage contract exists.

    Have fun!

    PS: The commenting interspersed with their reply letter disturbs me. It looks like heckling, for which I have no respect. Please, next time just present the response and comment on it afterward. Please don't abuse the forum. mjs
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:59AM (#804579) Homepage Journal
    From: Bruce Ide
    Subject: Cuecat Reverse Engineering Effort
    Date: Tue, 5 Sep 2000 10:02:33 -0600 (MDT)

    Hash: SHA1


    Reading the letter to the community
    ( 8211&mode=thread)
    regarding the reverse engineering of the Cuecat barcode reader, I
    have a few comments which I would like to convey at this point.

    First, the right to reverse engineer a product for interoperability
    purposes has legal precedent which has been upheld by the courts on
    several occasions (Sony vs. Connectix being the latest one that I am
    aware of.) Had I had anything to do with the development of the
    drivers in question, I would currently be initiating my own legal
    proceedings requesting a summary judgment stating that I am in no way
    infringing on the Digital Convergence IP. After receiving that (And I
    WOULD win, given previous legal precedents.) I would then follow up
    with a harassment lawsuit requesting damages sufficient to give any
    other company attempting this tactic pause. In this case, I had
    nothing to do with the development of the drivers in question but I
    hope my suggestion has made its way back to the original developers
    and that they take it under consideration.

    Second, the IP laws as originally designed were intended to stimulate
    innovation and protect small inventors. They are currently being used
    by large corporations to prevent innovation and intimidate small
    inventors. Had the legal landscape been similar to this a decade ago,
    Linux would never have been created because each computer would have
    shipped with a license stating that you could only use it in the way
    the hardware company intended, with the copy of Windows that came with
    it being your only choice. Undoubtedly were you to desire to upgrade
    your software, you would have had to have bought a new computer. This
    is clearly not what our founding fathers intended when they created
    the IP laws.

    Third, if we, the community, do not stand up to large corporations
    when they attempt to use these tactics to intimidate us into silence,
    we will lose what rights we have to use the hardware we bought and
    paid for in the manner of our choosing. Computing as a hobby will
    cease to be, and the best and the brightest programmers in the field
    will go elsewhere, leaving only mediocre writers of mediocre software
    in a mediocre field with none of the growth that you may have noticed
    over the past decade. That's not good for the community and it's not
    good for the companies which serve the community of which Digital
    Convergence is one.

    Fourth, given the above, I must question both the ethics and the
    intelligence of a company which does not realize the above. Truly,
    alienating a potential customer base is not a good way to do
    business. I take the same stand with any company using these tactics
    to spread fear and intimidation in the community: I will never buy
    your products. I will never recommend your products in any project I
    work on. I will never work for your company. In a managerial position,
    I will never hire as an employee anyone who worked in your company
    after these tactics came to light. I will encourage all of my friends
    to take a similar stance. You have plenty of competitors. I shall
    patronize them.

    Thank you for your time.

    - --
    Bruce Ide
    Version: GnuPG v1.0.2 (GNU/Linux)
    Comment: Processed by Mailcrypt 3.5.5 and Gnu Privacy Guard

    -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
  • by Drey ( 1420 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @05:59AM (#804582) Homepage
    Good question. I think what their gripe really boils down to is they're giving away hardware and attempting to build a software and service business model around that. If folks decode how their barcode reader works and can use it for other purposes, then people will have less incentive to use DC's software and services. When that happens, they lose their chance to recoup some of the investment they put out in freely distributing the scanner. All of this in my opinion, of course.
  • by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <> on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:00AM (#804585) Homepage
    This guy is confused. Trademarks and patents have to be defended. Copyright does not. He's talking as if they were the same thing. He needs to sit down and have a good talk (and listen!) with his lawyer.
  • by milkman1 ( 139222 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:00AM (#804588)
    As I see it is that technologicly, the CueCat could have been made secure (from use by other than DC) by encrypting the barcode using a public key built into the CueCat.
    Yes, that would have increased the price somewhat, but I would guess that thing thing costs atleast $20 anyways, waiting a couple of months before they released it, and using RSA would have saved them from having to worry about other systems using their expensive hardware.
  • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:04AM (#804612) Homepage Journal
    Why they think that some third party developing a compatible driver is a violation of their IP. Does this mean that Ford, GM and Chrysler could sue Haynes and Chilton for publishing manuals on the repair of the vehicles?

    In order to publish such a manual, one has to "reverse engineer" the car in question. Haynes even brags that every manual is "based on a complete teardown and rebuild" of the car that it's for.

  • by Kaa ( 21510 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:04AM (#804622) Homepage
    I'd also like to say something to the readers: don't get angry and attack these guys. They're just a group of guys trying to feed their dogs by coming up with ideas to make a buck.

    Their dogs are attack dogs, better known in certain circles as lawyers.

    Their explanation is pure bullshit, starting with the fact that it is only for trademarks that the principle "defend it or lose it" is valid. Besides, what exactly intellectual property they are trying to defend from hackers? They are wonderfully vague on this point and the reason is that what they'd like to defend is not legally defensible. And spare me these sob-sister stories about five years of sleepless nights. There is nothing technologically interesting in their toy. They came up with a business plan which, as usual, didn't survive contact with reality. Film at 11.

    I don't like guys whose knee-jerk reaction is to send threatening but legally meaningless letters.

  • by MaggieL ( 10193 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:04AM (#804623)
    The developers in question do come across as "just a couple of guys", and I hope they do manage to feed their dogs. But, having been to their website and read the industrial-srength legal fine print on *everything* there, the suits behind this thing smell like the very scariest sort, and I'd say the chances that they will be able to build a good relationship with the open source community are slim and none...and as we speak Slim is surfing at Travelocity. :-)

    All this whining about "intellectual property" convinces me that the folks behind CueCat have a only the foggiest notion of what intellectual property is, and I think that the "crime" that the folks that made a kernel driver for the CueCat really comitted--what really freaked out the CueCat suits out-- was that they pried loose control of the valuable marketing information that CueCat is capturing and sending back to the CueCat servers. I think we should be watching very carefully to see what kind of things start showing up in that data stream...especially since I bet the "official" client software is quite capable of silently updating itself to do whatever the suits want it to.

  • by dillon_rinker ( 17944 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @08:04AM (#804639) Homepage
    You don't need a patent to have IP rights.
    That's correct. You could also have a copyright. Or a trademark. Apart from that, you don't have a whole lot in the way of IP rights. However, the only thing that could possibly be applicable in this situation is a patent. So where's the reference to patent numbers or patents pending? lacking those, they are missing any sort of a case against the driver developers - am I right?
  • by rkent ( 73434 ) <rkent&post,harvard,edu> on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @07:28AM (#804640)
    The thing that bugs me about this letter is the way it keeps referring to the (alleged) offenders as "The Linux Community." Now, I never hacked any of those drivers; did you?

    I'll bet most of us said "no." Now, while we might very well support the writers of that code, The suits at digital convergence shouldn't feel free to lump us all together as offenders. That lends itself to more anti-Linux FUD by the mainstream press who get ahold of this letter. I mean, imagine an article quoting this letter that said "Digital Convergence is upset by the actions of the Linux community..." instead of "Digital convergence is upset by the actions of several programmers..."

    It's not that I think we should leave these guys high and dry; I think they deserve our support. But at the same time we must force Digital Convergence to say what they mean and not toss stereotypes around.

  • by SteveX ( 5640 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:05AM (#804661) Homepage
    Their business model is one I support, and one that I could see growing quite quickly - the one where you give people some physical thing that ties them to the service that pays for it. I don't think that it's a bad business model - but it needs legal protection because it would be very easy to destroy it.

    It's like their renting you the device, not giving it to you - the price of the rental is that you pay them for it's use.

    I think it would be cool if my Mom got a "free" device that would let her read Email and do basic Web stuff, even if it had a great big ad across the bottom (FreePC style). I for one don't want to see the business model that would permit that to happen, be destroyed.

    IMHO if their license says don't reverse engineer the device, then pretend it didn't exist. I don't think it's your right to destroy their business.

    Oh, and trying to say that this device isn't their business (that their business is the website and their services) is drawing attention away from the fact that, say, if someone were to write a handy Open Source app that let you take the ISBNs off your books and create a cool catalog of your home library or CD collection, suddenly they could have a million people wanting their "free" device. Oops.. now they can't give it away. Sure, the device isn't their business, but it's a vital (and vulnerable) part.

    As for the Adaptec's and DVD-ROM drives of the world, well, that's a wholly different argument because they CHARGE for the hardware. They made their money up-front.

    - Steve
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @07:08AM (#804666) Homepage Journal

    it needs legal protection because it would be very easy to destroy it

    It already has legal protection; they simply chose not to use it.

    The legal protection is contract law. Make the customer sign a contract that explicitly states what is required by the customer, states what uses are permitted, and states that using their product in conjunction with competitor's products is prohibited.

    Digital Convergance, the companies that sell DVD movies, the makers of the iOpener, and countless other businesses won't do this, of course, because they don't want the customer to be aware of the terms prior to the sale. They know that people will refuse if they know what they are getting into. Well, that's dishonest and deceptive, and I won't fucking tolerate it.

    (Another reason they won't put these contracts up front is that there are anti-trust laws against it. But I would favor the repeal of these anti-trust laws if consumers were informed up-front about their (lack of) rights. Buy a DVD, sign an agreement that you will only play it on a DVDCCA-licensed player. Take a free CueCat, sign an agreement that you will send everything that you scan to their server, along with the CueCat's serial number which was also scanned at Radio Shack and linked to your name and address. Buy Microsoft Windows, sign an agreement that you will only run Microsoft apps on it. Make these ridiculous "agreements" explicit and let the market embrace them (*snicker*) or wipe them out. And if there's no contract, then there's no restrictions beyond the "default" restrictions state by, for example, copyright law.)

  • by Ears ( 71799 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:06AM (#804667) Homepage
    ...has nothing to do with IP or any other crap like that.

    It seems pretty clear to me that this company is all about collecting personal information about you. Now, we're used to companies like Doubleclick et al. using various schemes to figure out where you browse, and generate models of your on-line behaviors automatically. But the CueCat thing is designed so that they can find out about things in the real world, too. They WANT you to scan things in your house (books, products, magazines, TV shows, etc), and when you do, their software does a quick lookup for you, and gives you the shovelware connected to whatever it is.

    But it ALSO remembers who scanned what, and they can generate a much more impressive profile of you as a consumer: what do you watch, what magazines are you reading, what books do you have, etc. And I'll bet that THAT's what their business model is all about---more invasive consumer profiling.

    And THAT's why they can't tolerate the Linux drivers which don't do the lookup through their servers---because they don't let them form that profile. They've probably calculated their (hugely expensive) giveaway scheme to give a particular rate of data generation through their servers, and if they don't get that, then their business model is shot to hell. Of COURSE they're going to try to prevent people from getting around their software: every person using the Linux driver is the same as a reader thrown away to them. So I'm sure that if a developer tried to work with them, they'd spend a lot of effort urging them to direct all connections through the Digital Convergance servers.

    My father-in-law gave me his reader (which some magazine helpfully mailed him), and I was going to use it under Linux, but I've changed my mind. If I want a barcode reader, I'll go buy one that's free of this kind of crap.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @07:33AM (#804679) Homepage Journal

    A bar code reader with obfuscated output no harder to figure out than a secret decoder ring? THAT's IP these days? Fine, I claim uuencoded rot14 encoded text to be my increadibly earth shatteringly important, gen-U-Ine rocket science type intellectual property.

    More seriously, bar code readers are NOT any sort of rocket science these days. There's really nothing worth protecting as far as reading the output goes. Knowing how to read it's output doesn't tell anyone anything about the reader that they couldn't easily guess with 100% accuracy without even looking at the thing. The less information that is available about communicating with hardware, the less valuable it is.

    As for the free source helping MS out, the fact that they have programmers capable of making Windows even get through the boot process tells me that they could SURELY have figured the simple obfuscator out with no help from the Open Source/GPL community. It's REALLY that simple. I even said to my wife a few days ago that something like that would be GREAT for a High School or edvanced elementery school math class. It's challenging enough but attainable for students at that level. (I'm not a teacher, It was just an idle morning coffee sort of thought).

    By referring to that as valuable IP, Mr. Davis is effectively wandering around at an international grand master's chess competition talking about the mind numbingly complex strategies and logic involved in Tic-Tac-Toe. The funny sound in the background is raucous laughter.

    but trying to get the "hackers" and such to WORK WITH US AND NOT EXPOSE US and destroy over 5 years of hard work by a group of "geeks, hackers and techno-whizzes" like each of you!

    Small hint: sending a nastygram from a horde of lawyers is NOT a good way to open that dialog. Some people have found that 'Can we sit down and discuss this' is a lot meor effective than 'Listen here palley or we bust your kneecaps'

    There IS SOME innovative thinking going on with the CueCat. Having a server that allows the user to scan catalog barcodes and be taken to the product page is possably a good idea. I would suggest working to protect that rather than the simply obfuscated standard hardware. The real objective is to have the consumers out there using the CueCat and Digital Convergance servers to scan catalog items. Make sure that those servers are reliable and their databases are extensive. Perhaps even add additional information that's otherwise hard to find. Make sure that when a retailer wants that feature for their catalog that they sign up with Digital Convergance for that service. So what if a few geeks use the CueCat as a general purpose barcode reader, as long as they use your server when they want to look up an item in a catalog!

    A final point, I realise that Radio Shack is not the geek haven it once was, but REALLY! Of all of the retailers to work with SURELY Radio Shack was one of the MOST LIKELY ones to have customers who could and would figure it out and further, consider doing so a moral imperitive as well as a fun way to waste an hour or two on the weekend! If you show off your cool new car at an auto mechanics convention, expect the hood to be raised!

  • by phungus ( 23049 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:07AM (#804686)
    (Yes, I worked at DCNV from day one until late last year).

    It's not just the barcode scanning that went into the development of this product. There is also an audio-cue portion to this technology which was much more difficult to come up with effectively.

    There was also the fact that we had whole racks of machines that were configured differently to test various sound cards, barcode readers, Windows versions, audio cables, etc. We did months and months of live testing from satellite feeds and on-air broadcasts using the audio technology.

    Not to mention the upper management doing the dog-and-pony in countless conference rooms across the country. It really was a 5 year process. I know I spent several months on the back-end mod_perl that would handle just the proto-type testing. The C code came after I left...

    In any company, starting from scratch takes awhile. Especially when you have a TV show to run, etc. It was a long hard road... Still is. (Just not for me anymore, although I still feel intimately acquainted with DigitalConvergence's ideals and plans. I still see the "vision").

  • by NoWhere Man ( 68627 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:08AM (#804689) Homepage
    GM better sue my friend, he is using the trunk of his car to store clothes because he has live out of his car 2-3 days a week.
    Dammit they better sue me too. I once used a GM car as a chair at a Drive-In Theater
  • by Wellspring ( 111524 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @08:11AM (#804709)

    He isn't saying that CmdrTaco is somehow obliged to editorialize in comments rather than in the story. He's just saying that it would be more effective, and better for slashdot.

    I agree w/ the editorial this time, but I still think it would be more effective. Or at least at the end rather than in between.

  • by jbrw ( 520 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @09:00AM (#804710) Homepage
    Their privacy policy does say:
    You may access your personal profile by e-mailing your request to with your proof of identification, which is the activation code given to you at the time you register your product(s).
    Anyone want to show us what one of their profiles looks like? Interesting that it appears as though they're processing these requests manually for the time being - I wonder how long that will last?


  • by Coward, Anonymous ( 55185 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:10AM (#804720)
    If you take your CueCat and scan something, you'll notice that you can scan forwards, backwards, sideways, upside-down, flipped to the right, to the left, and so forth. All of these methods work really well, and that obviously took a _lot_ of talent

    I used to work at a library, our barcode scanners could do the same thing, this was about five years ago, so this technology existed before the CueCat people even began developing the CueCat.
  • by jellicle ( 29746 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:10AM (#804728) Homepage
    I don't know if it's totally clear but what that PR rep had to say is a complete work of fiction. There's literally no truth in it. Let me count the ways:

    -- nothing done with the Cuecat was illegal

    -- there's no IP for the Cuecat people to defend - identify it! I dare you! "By posting our IP to the net" my ass!

    -- there's no such thing as "Defend it or lose it" under IP law. If 200 people rip off MS Windows and MS prosecutes 2 of them, there's no such defense as "Well, your honor, MS didn't prosecute the other 198 people..." This is a MASSIVE LIE made up by companies who want to shift responsibility. ANYTIME you see a company say "We had to ... or lose it" they're lying.

    -- That whole third paragraph about the linux community helping Microsoft is hogwash.

    -- there aren't any illegal posting efforts

    -- if it took them five years to develop a BARCODE SCANNER which MUNGES the normal output in a trivial manner before outputting it, I am a Great Horned Antelope. I'm not? Well then I guess they're lying again. I talked to a friend of mine at Symbol [], and Digital Convergance approached them to make this device earlier this year. (Symbol didn't end up making it.) Their company has been in existence less than one year. Symbol could make a run of these for you in a few months.

    And what I really hate is that the lies are so pervasive that they end up shaping the whole debate. People can only see past a certain limited number of lies at a time. So they'll catch a few, but then they'll accept the bigger lies like "We had to ... or lose it".

    Random thought to any company executives who happen to be reading this: you know, if you truly wanted [your company] to be a radical, different company, try this on for size. Fire any and all PR people. Just fire them. Don't hire any more. Ever. If there's a story where you have to talk to the press, let one of the principals do it - the guy who programmed that feature, or whatever. No matter how big the company gets, DON'T EMPLOY TRAINED LIARS TO DEFEND IT. Because that's what a PR person is - someone trained in the art of creating believable lies day in and day out. People catch on to this, believe it or not, even though it's a very slippery thing to catch on to, and they end up with (at a minimum) a vague distrust of that company, because they know they're being lied to but can't quite figure out exactly where. It's the reason Microsoft has such a bad reputation. If VA or Red Hat or anyone else truly wanted to break the mold, they would abandon the institutionalized lying. This would prevent that distrust from building, as well as keeping the company on the straight and narrow - without a wall of lying to protect them, the company execs get good feedback whenever they're doing something wrong.

    I think the first company to do this has the potential of being a very different, much more
    people-friendly company than we've seen in the past.

    Michael Sims-michael at
  • by dillon_rinker ( 17944 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @07:45AM (#804759) Homepage
    Under IP law if we don't PROTECT our IP, we loose any remedies under law to PROTECT our IP.

    I challenge any attorney out there to support this with case law. I have consulted with IP attorneys on this very matter and have been told that, except for trademarks, this is totally false. IANAL, so I could be wrong, but I doubt it. If you ARE a lawyer, and I'm wrong, please point to freely-available references justifying your opinion.

    Given that the above-quoted statement is false, we have two (and ONLY two) choices.

    1. Doug Davis is STUPID.
    a. He is NAL, and he either makes statements about legal principles without consulting AL, or he consults STUPID L and believes them.
    b. He is AL and should know better.

    2. Doug Davis is a LIAR. He knows what he says is wrong, and says it anyway.

    Again, if I'm wrong about my premise, please correct me in this forum.
  • by Ears ( 71799 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:12AM (#804761) Homepage

    Their privacy policy [] is quite funny. It says, "Digital:Convergence wants every member of its community to understand what information we collect and how we intend to use that information."

    But while the rest of the page is quite explicit about not giving out your phone number, it says nothing about the mother lode of data they (surely) collect about what you actually scan. In fact, they don't even mention the possibility!

  • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <tms AT infamous DOT net> on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:12AM (#804770) Homepage
    I'd also like to say something to the readers: don't get angry and attack these guys. They're just a group of guys trying to feed their dogs by coming up with ideas to make a buck. Yelling and screaming doesn't help anyone.
    No, they shouldn't be yelled and screamed at. They should be flayed and boiled alive in oil.

    They don't get to trample on our rights to explore technical problems and discuss our solutions, in order to feed their dogs. Their threatening legal tactics are no different than those of the MPAA in the DeCSS case. The fact that they're a small company is no excuse - indeed, it means that every person there holds more responsibility for the actions of the company, not less.

    Note the vauge references to "intellectual property". What do they mean? Was copyright violated? Was a patent broken? Was a trademark violated? Taking something apart to see how it works, and describing your findings to others, is not a violation of any legitimate law. (The DMCA is illegitmate and unconstitutional, and its architects and supporters need to be cleansed via the flaying and boiling ritual described above.) Oh, and to my knowledge (IANAL) only trademarks need to be defended with vigor to be recognized; patent and copyright holders can be more lenient and still retain their legal rights.

    So: fsck 'em if they can't take a hack.

  • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @09:21AM (#804794) Homepage
    I asked the specifically if they would support me in creating Linux software for he CueCat. They told me "not under any circumstances."

    Good Afternoon Mr. Rothwell,

    We do appreciate your interest in our software (:CRQ (TM)) and our hardware
    (:CueCat (TM) reader). Unfortunately, not under any circumstances, will we
    give out information about "how to reproduce" our products. The :CueCat
    reader and the :CRQ software is proprietary hardware and software of

    If you would like to know more about our company, please visit If you would like to learn more about our legal
    policies, please visit

    We hope we have addressed your concerns and help correct your issue,

    Changing the Way You Surf the Internet

    ---- ----
  • by DESADE ( 104626 ) <> on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @08:23AM (#804796)
    Ok, this is the reason Digital Convergence is upset. DC makes their money selling codes at about $50/each to advertisers in different media. The consumer sees an ad, swipes the code. The driver software sends the code request to a MySQL database that interprets the code into a URL, after intercepting the user's unique ID code.

    The reason DC is able to make money is not because they can move you to the site easily with the bar code scanner, it's because they can autmatically track the demographics of users who swipe codes.

    DC has set up a completely seperate company called Digital Demographics to handle this. This is where the money really is.

    Homegrown drivers that don't require the user to sign up and let their demographic pants down would obviously scare DC.

    Also, the DC codes system is proprietary. The CueCats can read normal bar codes, but only CueCats can read DC codes. Figure it out for yourself.
  • by Elvis Maximus ( 193433 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:13AM (#804798) Homepage

    Hey! That naming scheme took them five years to come up with!


  • by Paranoid Diatribe ( 68959 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:13AM (#804800)
    After the initial post, I ran out to my nearest Radio Shack and grabbed one of the gadgets (after leaving false name/address). My biggest gripes, aside from the stink they've put up about the free decoders are:

    1. Each device has a unique serial number. You can see this number spit out with the perl decoder available on the net. (I will not post link, for fear of having author harassed) This RISK needs no explanation.

    2. Their database depends on customer contributions, just like CDDB does. They clearly state that the submissions become the sole property of them. (In case you were thinking about polluting the database in protest, as I did, it appears that the submissions are queued up and reviewed by humans.)

    I'm also annoyed that the damned device has no off switch or a cover for the scanner LED. My computer desk now gives off an eerie red glow at night unless I cover up the ugly cat-shaped device.

    Still, I can't see they have any hope of defending this. AFAIK, there are no patents on the absurd encoding scheme they use. They gave away the hardware (I will not be bound by a shrink-wrap click/through license on hardware!). And now now they're bitching that someone can potentially built a better mouse trap.

    I'm not angry with this company, really. It's more like pity for dreaming up such a poor business model. I hope the employees are looking for other jobs, as these folks won't be around much longer, IMHO.

  • by Danse ( 1026 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @10:18AM (#804812)

    Sec. 1201(a)(1)(A) of the DMCA states:

    "No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title."

    The problem is that the authors of the DMCA seem to want to prohibit reverse engineering, but haven't figured out how to do it without being so blatant that it wouldn't get through Congress. So, we end up with this schizophrenic piece of legislation. Sec. 1201(f)(1) states:

    "Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a)(1)(A), a person who has lawfully obtained the right to use a copy of a computer program may circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a particular portion of that program for the sole purpose of identifying and analyzing those elements of the program that are necessary to achieve interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs, and that have not previously been readily available to the person engaging in the circumvention, to the extent any such acts of identification and analysis do not constitute infringement under this title."

    It comes down to whether or not your lawyers are good enough to get you off based on this clause or not. Hopefully the DeCSS case will eventually establish a good precedent. They haven't done very well so far, but hopefully things will go better in the appeals courts.

  • by catscan2000 ( 211521 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @06:14AM (#804824)
    The guy at said that he contacted them but got a response that he said was tantamount to "over our dead corporate body."
  • by DG ( 989 ) on Tuesday September 05, 2000 @08:34AM (#804864) Homepage Journal
    Because, you see, every major automaker, every year, goes out and purchases one of each of the competitor's products, tears it down, analyzes it, and publishes (internally) a report on what was found.

    Any good idea (that isn't patented or legally protected) will be taken note of, and may find its way into a future project. Any bad idea or poor tradeoff will be laughed at. :)

    There is a very long history of "reverse engineering" in the nuts and bolts world. The software world should expect no less.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin