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Hack an Oscilloscope, Get a DMCA Take-Down Notice From Tektronix 273

An anonymous reader writes with the news that Hackaday published an article on the poor security of the add-on modules that Tektronix sells as expensive add-ons to unlock features in certain of its oscilloscopes. The reader writes: "It has come to attention of Tek's legal eagles and they now want the article to be taken down. Perhaps they can ask Google to forget that page?"
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Hack an Oscilloscope, Get a DMCA Take-Down Notice From Tektronix

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @08:09AM (#47612897)

    The car analogy:
    "Owen says:
    July 28, 2014 at 8:09 am
    If you download the trial version of a piece of software you might also have to pay $500 to “de-cripple” features that are already present in the version you’ve got.

    If you download a crack for it to unlock those features because the company didn’t make it difficult enough for people to get around their protection, that still doesn’t make it right.

    I imagine Tektronix just rely on the fact that a lot of people that buy their expensive kit will be businesses and businesses generally have to do things by the book, so they won’t bother unlocking things they haven’t paid for, in the same way Adobe relies on business users to buy Photoshop and mostly overlooks all the home users not paying for it."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @08:13AM (#47612915)

    Using copyright to censor a hack which consist basically in explaining that the crippled features of the oscilloscope can be unlocked using the plain SKUs listed in the very own manufacturer page is a DCMA abuse.

  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @08:15AM (#47612923) Journal

    No need when HAD instantly back down and alter the content of the page

    Perhaps this is not intended, but a side benefit of DMCA is that the use of DMCA against a certain website will give indication of which site has backbone which site hasn't
    HAD certain hasn't

  • DMCA? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @08:31AM (#47612993)

    I'm not sure that the letter published qualifies as a DMCA takedown request, as it doesn't actually mention any part of the DMCA or any other copyright act that has been broken. I'm not sure that a short keyphrase constitutes copyright-protected matter, for one thing. And it's not like publishing the information violates the noncircumvention part of the Act, because they aren't circumventing an anticopying mechanism. They're circumventing a different mechanism entirely I suspect they're just trying their luck.

  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @08:38AM (#47613051) Journal

    Also, for it to be a DCMA, doesn't the requested takedown have to have something to do with DRM?

    The DMCA doesn't mention DRM. It mentions somethign along the lines of mechanisms that prevent access to protected works (software can be a mechanism for the purposes of the act).

    Personally I don't think this should qualify as infringement since it prevents use - which should not be a copyright violation - rather than duplication, but that's my opinion on what the law should be rather than what it would be when interpreted by the courts.

  • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @08:43AM (#47613083)

    Backbone is cheap when you've got the money to stage even a token legal defense, or your hosting provider is a known safe haven from spurious copyright requests. For most of us, it's a luxury we can't afford.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @09:59AM (#47613629) Homepage Journal

    I read the original article (thanks to the WayBack Machine), and unless the "copyrighted manual" tells you how to program an EEPROM with an SKU, then I don't see how it's a violation of DMCA.

    Boy, wouldn't that be a kick in the face? For corporations to be able to limit access to knowledge by writing it in a book and copyrighting said tome? Sounds like the premise for a dystopian novel.

  • by whistlingtony ( 691548 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @10:33AM (#47613965)

    If they had posted, verbatim, Tektronics documents showing how to do this hack.... that would be a copyright abuse. If I write up some notes on how to hack their scope, that document is MINE, and it is protected by copyright the moment I wrote it.

    I get that the DMCA makes it illegal to circumvent the protections on a copyrighted work.... How is an oscilloscope a protected work?

    Do I get to slap a DMCA notice on a burglar to my house?

  • by macs4all ( 973270 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @10:42AM (#47614039)

    My way of seeing it is that anyone who buys the oscilloscope has a legally acquired copy of the software. They just can't access it. Actually accessing legally acquired software should not be illegal. It's not like there's a business model that would be unsustainable without the protection. If they don't want people to use the software, then don't give them the software. If they pay extra then provide the software.

    Exactly this!

    I have personally used the MSO series of 'scopes. And I am certain that there wasn't a EULA that I had to click-through when the scope first powered-up. I'm sure there is one along with the Warranty and other info; but, I am pretty certain that, under the "Shrink Wrap" Licensing precedents, I would have not "signed" anything simply by using the 'scope, anymore than I agree to licensing of the applications that are embedded in my TV set, simply by turning it on.

    So long as you are not creating a "Derivative Work", nor "Reselling" that firmware, there simply is no Copyright issue here. Tek is DEFINITELY abusing the DMCA here, as well as simply trying to cover-up for a sloppy attempt at what is nothing more than a cost-saving measure.

    In fact, they would have had a much more defensible position if they took Hackaday to court for "circumventing security measures of a computing device" (or however that bit is worded in 18 USC...?). But DMCA "Takedown Notices" are hardly EVER challenged, and take only a lawyer-letter with scary language.

  • Re:Tek smeck (Score:4, Insightful)

    by harrkev ( 623093 ) <> on Wednesday August 06, 2014 @01:42PM (#47615417) Homepage

    You could say that offering all options at a discount costs them nothing. You could also argue that it does deprive them of revenues. There are arguments both ways.

    It is sort of like Windows 7 home vs Windows 7 pro vs. WIndows Server. They all pretty much share the same code base (maybe less so for the Server version). The only difference is a switch or two.

    If you argue that turning on the FFT and serial protocols costs them nothing, you are right! Once the scope is in your hands, it costs Agilent and Tek next to nothing to enable that feature. For Agilent, it is an unlock code. For Tek, it is a module that costs them only a buck or two to make.

    On the other hand, it actually DID cost something to include those features. A lot of serial decode stuff is done hardware and software. The software costs a lot of money to develop and test. The hardware part adds some cost to every single unit sold, plus the cost to develop that test that. So, imagine that all of these extra features (FFT, serial decode, etc.) were included standard with every scope. This means that the price would have to be raised to cover all of the NRE costs. So, the price of the scope rises for everybody. For those that need the extra features, they are getting a great bargain. For everybody else, they are paying more for something that they don't need.

    So, by locking features that need to be unlocked, you piss off the people who feel like the features are already there, and they are being artificially prevented from doing something that they ought to be able to do. If you unlock everything, you raise the price for the very budget-conscious customers. There is no perfect answer.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard