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From: lau...@rand-unix.ARPA
Newsgroups: net.unix-wizards
Subject: definitions (trade secret, copyright, etc.) and the courts
Message-ID: <9056@brl-tgr.ARPA>
Date: Thu, 7-Mar-85 19:07:41 EST
Article-I.D.: brl-tgr.9056
Posted: Thu Mar  7 19:07:41 1985
Date-Received: Sun, 10-Mar-85 07:21:09 EST
Sender: n...@brl-tgr.ARPA
Lines: 37

Actually, the definitions of all those terms, including trade
secrets, copyrights, patents, etc. are tied to whatever court
decisions are currently in force.  For example, there have been
recent decisions specifically relating to object code that have
declared that object code has the same protection as source code
via trade secret.  The case involved someone who had
"disassembled" some object code to turn it back into source,
then started distributing software based on that new source
without appropriate licenses.  The particular case held that both
the distribution of the software generated from the "new" source, and
the dissemination of the information gained from analyzing the object
code, were violations.  I might also add that there have been
cases upholding "trade secret" protection even when the "secret"
is fairly widely known.  It all depends on specifics. 

Now, obviously, court decisions on such matters as copyright
and trade secret are pinging around fast enough to make your
head spin.  And the fabric of the law, and the exact interpretations
of the law that may be made in any particular case, are changing
on a case by case basis.  However, the general trend is now appearing
to include both object and source code under the same protections.

Given this state of affairs, the only prudent course would seem
to be NOT to look at source and also to not disassemble object code 
if you're trying to create an independent "workalike" (or whatever
you want to call it) of some software entity.  This is the course
that I chose to take in my own efforts, even though it makes for
a lot of work.  

I agree with the person that suggested lobbying for changes in the
laws if you don't like the way things are now.  But note that you'd
better have something else that is reasonable and practical
in mind if you intend for anyone to listen to you!  I hope there will
be discussion of some such things in the ethics list if/when it
gets going.

--Lauren--

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Posting-Version: version B 2.10.1 6/24/83; site hcradm.UUCP
Path: utzoo!hcrvax!hcradm!mike
From: m...@hcradm.UUCP (Mike Tilson)
Newsgroups: net.unix-wizards
Subject: Re: definitions (trade secret, copyright, etc.) and the courts
Message-ID: <1763@hcradm.UUCP>
Date: Tue, 12-Mar-85 19:49:57 EST
Article-I.D.: hcradm.1763
Posted: Tue Mar 12 19:49:57 1985
Date-Received: Wed, 13-Mar-85 05:12:48 EST
References: <9056@brl-tgr.ARPA>
Organization: Human Computing Resources, Toronto
Lines: 14

There has been some considerable discussion of intellectual property
issues and ethics in this group recently.  As many of you will be
attending the June Usenix meeting in Portland, I thought I would let
you know that there will be an opportunity to take a course on the law
as it applies to software and intellectual property.  I took the course
myself in Salt Lake.  It's quite good, and easily understandable by
technical people.  It approaches the subject with a very balanced
and pragmatic viewpoint.

I'll post further details later to this group and to net.usenix.  As there
seems to be a great deal of opinion on the subject, I hope people will
welcome the opportunity to become more educated.

/Mike Tilson, Human Computing Resources Corp.(and Usenix Tutorial Coordinator)