Can I replicate data?

Discussion in 'Computing and Networks' started by Man_in_UK, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. Man_in_UK

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    May 13, 2008
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    I have a question about copyright, if you can help?

    The situation.
    I have a machine that automatically bends coat hangers. It is controlled by a remote handheld that connects over 4 wires. I have been told that it transmits code over RS442. Simple commands such as *94* makes it stop, *95* makes it start etc.
    I want to make my own controller.
    I have got someone to identify these command numbers and program a simple circuit to transmit them, over RS442 into the machine. I can now design a better controller panel.

    So, an engineer of this bending machine tells me that the code is proprietary and I am not allowed to do this.

    My question is .... can RS442 data be copyrighted?
     
  2. THE_RB

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 11, 2008
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    Yes and no. If you were to copy their prototcols and sell something that uses their protocols you would be violating their IP.

    If you make a one-off controller to connect to your machine as a personal use accessory you are probably fine. That is basically a "modification" to the machine. Their copyrights or patents can't prosecute you for modifying a machine you own, only for copying their IP and selling it, or making their IP available for others to use (things that could be proven in court to hurt their sales).
     
  3. Man_in_UK

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    May 13, 2008
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    Thanks RB.
    Can you expand on "violating their IP", not sure I understand this phrase.

    But you say they can copyright something that is standard?

    I cant get my head round it. Like, you can buy a million after market remote controls for your TV at home. Do these people get taken to court because Samsung claim that you are not allowed to transmit a number 727 via IR to your TV?
    Or, you cannot make a gadget that connects to your computer via USB?
     
  4. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    Copyright law, particularly involving software IP, can be a real hornet's nest. Furthermore, it is going to vary depending on what country you (and/or the machine) are in, what country the manufacturer copyrighted their IP in, exactly what they copyrighted, and the nature of the treaties between the countries involved, if more than one.

    And always remember, what the politicians, lawyers, and judges declare may or may not make technical or even logical sense, but it is still the law that you have to abide by (or the law that you have to accept the penalties for violating).

    Taking your TV remote as an example, if I take one of their remotes and make something else that does the same thing that it does, then I am probably violating their patent and/or copyright just as if I had taken their microwave oven and figured out how it worked and started making ones that do the same thing that it does, even if the "thing" that it does is not itself patented. But if I instead have one team of people reverse engineer the microwave oven or the TV remote and then build a set of performance specifications that I then give to another team that has no ties of any kind to the first team and have them design and build me something that meets that spec, then I am probably not in violation of any patents or copyrights provided the things the performance specs say that the device has to accomplish aren't protected.

    It's murky as hell and the only guaranteed winners are the lawyers on both sides.

    But, like The RB says, if this is just a one-off thing to be used on a machine you own, then you are almost certainly okay, both legally and especially practically.
     
  5. Man_in_UK

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    May 13, 2008
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    Thanks for your reply.
    Unfortunately I am going forward in producing my own version of an improved controller, so it looks like I will be running into trouble. Woops.
     
  6. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 11, 2009
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    Unless the protocol is patent protected. You are free to reverse engineer the protocol.
     
  7. THE_RB

    AAC Fanatic!

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    Not really. A patent is simply ONE way of proving that something is their IP (Intellectual Property).

    It's a common mistake to think "something has to be patented to be protected". Copyrights and IP are automatically protected in the majority of countries, and even if something is not patented they can still sue you, and if any evidence exists that it was their idea, or they did it first, etc they will likely win.

    Well USB is a publically licensed and released protocol, it's not a secret proprietary protocol belonging to only one company.

    As for the remote controls, we can only guess. In your case it's not us you need to convince. If that comany believes their protocols are secret and are their IP, they may choose to sue you and you must convince the courts. Have you had any experience fighting over IP claims in court? I bet their company lawyers have. Good luck with that. :)
     
  8. Man_in_UK

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    May 13, 2008
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    Hold on, I will just check my diary ............Hmmm seems I have not :)
     
  9. MrChips

    Moderator

    Oct 2, 2009
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    If you own a bending machine and want to modify the control unit just go ahead and do it. You would not be prosecuted.
    Taking your modifications and selling it is a different story.
     
  10. BReeves

    Member

    Nov 24, 2012
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    Google us copyright law and you should find a section that addresses your question.

    (f) Reverse Engineering. — (1) 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.

    This exception is how software companies are able to sell software that is compatible to popular apps. For example, you can write and sell a word processor that will read and save MS word files and you have every right to reverse engineer the file format.

    Do what you want, they can't touch you.. Not a lawyer but have fought a couple battles over this.
     
  11. THE_RB

    AAC Fanatic!

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    Apart from you forget about the most important bit at the end;

    "...to the extent any such acts of identification and analysis do not constitute infringement under this title."

    So that clause is ONLY ok, IF it does not constitute infringement under any of the other clauses!

    That is a very long way from your premise that "you can reverse engineer what you like as long as it is to make it work with other equipment"...

    The real reading is; "you can reverse engineer what you like as long as it is to make it work with other equipment, PROVIDED you don't infringe their I.P."
     
  12. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

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    That problem has been up in court many times. As long as the protocol is not protected by a patent. Courts have found that reverse engineering for interoperability, for example, can be a fair use. And in this case we are indeed talking about interoperability. So to OP. Yes you can go ahead. You are making a new box X that is communicating with box Y. In order to do this. You do not copy any IP inside box Y.
     
  13. WBahn

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    Mar 31, 2012
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    Which courts? It's the courts in the U.K. that count, in this case.

    And I don't recall seeing anything where the OP has indicated that the protocol is not protected by a patent.

    I doubt he will run into any problems by proceeding, but I think we need to be a bit more careful about handing out legal advice.
     
    THE_RB likes this.
  14. THE_RB

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    The other thing of course, is the definition of "interoperability".

    If the product is a modem, and it's only use in life is to connect to other brands of PC equipment, then reverse engineering its comms protocol might be within reasonable behaviour. ie comms between brand-X product and brand-Y and brand-Z products.

    But if you are talking about reverse engineering the comms between two parts of the same brand-X machine (where it was never intended or marketed as "interoperable" with other brands) that would be likely to be liable for legal action.

    The question in post 1 sounds a LOT more like the second example; "reverse engineering between two parts of the same machine" and NOT; "reverse eingineering the output of a device where it was intended (and sold) to connect to other brands".
     
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