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The Military Piracy Technology

Pirated Software Could Bring Down Predator Drones 123

Pickens writes "Fast Company reports that Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Margaret Hinkle will soon issue a decision on an intellectual property-related lawsuit that could ground the CIA's Predator drones. Intelligent Integration Systems (IISi) alleges that their Geospatial Toolkit and Extended SQL Toolkit were pirated by Massachusetts-based Netezza for use by a government client and is seeking an injunction that would halt the use of their two toolkits by Netezza for three years. The dispute goes back to when Netezza and IISi were former partners in a contract to develop software that would be used, among other purposes, for unmanned drones. IISi's suit claims that both the software package used by the CIA and the Netezza Spatial product were built using their intellectual property and according to statements made by IISi CEO Paul Davis, a favorable ruling in the injunction would revoke the CIA's license to use Geospatial. If IISi prevails in court this would either force the CIA to ground Predator drones or to break the law in their use of the pirated software. But there's more. Testimony given by an IISi executive to the court indicates that Netezza illegally and hastily reverse-engineered IISi's code to deliver a faulty version that could cause predator drones to miss their targets by as much as 40 feet. "
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Pirated Software Could Bring Down Predator Drones

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  • Re:Eminent Domain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by slashqwerty ( 1099091 ) on Monday October 18, 2010 @08:38AM (#33931248)

    The preditors will not have to stop flying based on a ruling that the intellectual property of IISI was stolen. See the last clause of the fifth amendment to our Constitution: "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." This means the CIA doesn't need a license, it just needs to be willing to pay just compensation.

    You're going by the assumption that intellectual rights are property. If the government uses someone's software they are not 'taking' it away from the owner. The government could just as well revoke the copyright (granted for "limited times") as buy the software outright. I challenge you to use your legal skills and resources to find a precedent that takes copyright via eminent domain.

  • Hearts and Minds... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Apocryphon ( 1849660 ) * on Monday October 18, 2010 @08:40AM (#33931258)
    This may be a rare case in which a narrow ruling (e.g., on an IP scuffle) might just have the ability to affect broader policy and policy debate - on at least two important fronts, to boot. Indeed, this is likely why this particular case made it all the way to a state Supreme Court in the first place - replace "drones" with any other disruptive technology and this action likely never gets the traction to do so.

    Obviously, by "Hearts & Minds," I was attempting to evoke the cost of drone-deployment in combat zones, which are many, i.e.,10 civilians killed for each "militant" in these "targeted killings" alone (Brookings - 2009), wherein this sort of murdering of civilians has made the United States' combat efforts so much more difficult and extensive as each of those ten civilians' friends and family are each pushed marginally closer to becoming an "enemy combatant" themselves....

    But the "Hearts and Minds" of Americans are at stake too, and not only because the question, "How long until we bring UAVs home for domestic 'policing'?" might very well frighten a broad swath of the U.S. political spectrum.

    The hearts and minds of Americans, saturated by war coverage and often passionate in one way or another, may also be incidentally opened to:
    - The costs and consequences of current intellectual property law;
    - The ubiquity of unscrutinized "black box" software systems running the complicated machinery that runs our lives - runaway Toyatas, meet runaway Drones;
    - The extent of the government's ability to quickly circumvent the Codes and laws that hinder individuals and corporations alike.

    Of course, TFA says "some sort of face-saving resolution" is most likely, but, one might hope that the passion that Americans' seem to harbor about their war effort might trickle over into other issues that ./ spends much time debating to, again, even if only marginally, raise those issues' profile in Americans' consciousness.

    At least, that is, before the next news cycle.
  • Re:Eminent Domain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday October 18, 2010 @08:46AM (#33931294)
    Perhaps the courts don't mind confusing terminology? Personally, I agree, the term "intellectual property" should be abolished entirely -- it creates too much confusion between copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and real property.
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Monday October 18, 2010 @08:53AM (#33931350) Homepage

    Patents, trademarks, copyrights, contracts, trade secrets?

    I ask because the obvious interpretation, that it's a copyright claim, might not be so black and white.

    The claim appears to be that the software was reverse engineered and then modified, which would make the resultant system a derivative work with significant transformation. As anyone who's actually reverse engineered a non-trivial binary will tell you, whatever you get to compile in the end will pretty much be an "influenced by" ground up re-write.

    And since copyright only covers the particular expression of an idea, not the idea itself, this might turn into a pretty entertaining bun fight.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 18, 2010 @09:47AM (#33931938)

    The courts don't consider it confusing terminology because they are of one mind with Humpty Dumpty: [].

    I can't decide whether I consider it funny or scary that that passage has appeared in 250 judicial decisions in the U.S., including two Supreme Court decisions.

  • old story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nten ( 709128 ) on Monday October 18, 2010 @09:55AM (#33932066)

    The Reg had this a few weeks back. If the plane tells a bomb/missile the wrong coordinates it would be the plane at fault. Netazza didn't have permission to port the code, but they did tell the CIA about the potential error they had introduced by their unauthorized port from ppc to x86. The CIA said "we can accept that" probably while mumbling something about horseshoes, hand-grenades, and hellfires. The CIA later said "actually we think the discrepancy is an indication of inaccuracy in the *previous* system." Which if you think about it seems more likely in that the x86 has larger fpu registers than the ppc, but either way the customer knew about the defects of the sold software. They probably didn't know that it was violating a contract between the provider and its subcontractor.

  • Re:Eminent Domain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Monday October 18, 2010 @10:11AM (#33932328) Homepage Journal
    Promis [] me you won't make slurs like that against the Justice department again.
  • Re:At least.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Monday October 18, 2010 @10:27AM (#33932590)

    I'm curious why you think a law's intent includes a list of those against whom it may be used. Have you not heard the phrase "equal in the eyes of the law?"

  • Re:Eminent Domain (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Monday October 18, 2010 @11:22AM (#33933394) Homepage

    Too late secrets out, "The identity of the person whose cell phone signal has moved from one tower to another, according to IISi's court filings. Such techniques - quickly combining intelligence with live mobile phone surveillance from the air - are reportedly central to the CIA's targeting of missile strikes by unmanned aircraft" []. See proof positive that using a mobile phone or allowing someone to use it near could get you killed ;D.

    New terrorist weapon of choice planting a mobile phone from a dodgy account on your enemies (or one that's had naughty voices picked up via filtering and analysis). Personally I think that is really dodgy data to base mass murdering a group of people without trial or review of evidence, really dodgy, borrow someone's phone to make a call and it gets your family killed, there is some really callously indifferent decision making going on at the CIA.

  • Re:Eminent Domain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Monday October 18, 2010 @01:21PM (#33935034)

    Actually there is a bit of relevant history. Certain encryption programs have been declared "munitions" in the past. The purpose was to keep those programs from being exported. But the same laws could be used to keep drone guidance programs from being sold to anyone but the US government and perhaps even grant seizure powers such that the government gets all the existing software for free.
                              Also it would be very, very difficult to get any data about the military using that software so if the creators of that software are told the military suddenly no longer uses the software they would be forced to toddle off hat in hand.
                              Frankly with the RC hobby as active as it is I'll bet there are quite a few pretty good guidance programs almost ready to use as it is.

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