[volt-nuts] Keithley 2001 Multimeter Fault

John Ackermann N8UR jra at febo.com
Fri Mar 5 01:30:12 UTC 2010

Hi Chuck --

Yes, at least some of those examples would probably come under the DMCA 
(not sure about an unprogrammed FPGA, because DMCA can only be used to 
protect copyrightable expression and I don't know whether an 
unprogrammed device would meet that test).

To the original question about making it illegal to discover 
infringement, I haven't seen any cases on point, but I've had the 
conversation with several software/IP lawyers and there was general 
agreement that good-faith circumvention to determine infringement would 
almost certainly be considered fair use.

But your original comment was that "basically, if you take a piece of 
software, or hardware and figure out how it works, you have probably 
violated the DMCA."  And I think that way overstates the case.

Chuck Harris said the following on 03/04/2010 05:40 PM:
> Hi John,
> John Ackermann N8UR wrote:
>> That's a pretty substantial exaggeration of what the DMCA says.  The
>> anticircumvention provision applies only to "technological measures"
>> used to control access to a "work protected under this title"
> I know you are a lawyer, and I'm not, but I think DMCA applies in more ways
> than you may imagine.  I'll give you some examples:
> I was once contracted to figure out how to use non Toshiba disk drives on
> Toshiba computers.  I looked in all the logical places, and with the 
> exception
> of parts of the BIOS that were reverse engineered from IBM's, the entire 
> rest
> of the BIOS was gibberish.
> Toshiba had encrypted all of their additions to the bios to prevent them 
> from
> being read.  Their system decrypted the BIOS and loaded it into memory 
> where
> it was run... not hard to circumvent, but it did add a layer of trickiness
> to the process.
> If I did this job today, I am certain that the DMCA would consider my 
> cracking
> of the encryption routine to be circumventing a technological measure 
> intended
> to protect the work from unauthorized access.
> Once upon a time, I bought a PCB milling machine.  With the machine came
> original disks for the software that translated Gerber files to the CAM
> files needed to mill around the circuit traces and isolate them.  Somehow,
> the dongle that was used in the copy protection scheme got lost, and I 
> figured
> that I would simply circumvent it.  Only thing is, the dongle was used 
> as an
> encryption device, and substantial parts of the software on the disk were
> passed through decryption routines that converted gibberish into the code
> that ran in the machine.
> I am certain that if I cracked that code today, I would be in violation of
> the DMCA.
> Another example, several, if not all of the current crop of FPGA's use a
> hardware encryption routine in the chip to prevent unauthorized tools from
> being able to program the chip.  The manufacturers say the encryption is
> there to protect the customers IP from being stolen, and perhaps it serves
> that purpose.
> I believe that if I were to crack the encryption algorithm, and gain access
> to the customer's code, I would be in violation of the DMCA, as breaking 
> the
> encryption would be circumventing a technological measure intended to 
> protect
> the work from unauthorized access.
> What do you think?  Would these examples would be violations of the DMCA?
> Ok, how does this apply?  Suppose I held some patents, and I believed that
> it was likely that the codes in the above examples contained infringements
> of my patents.  I would have to circumvent the same protection routines in
> order to determine if the code, or logic contained my patented property.
> If I did so, and I found infringements, could I be prosecuted for violating
> the DMCA?  What if I did so, and didn't find infringements?
> This is my point.  I believe the DMCA can protect patent infringer's from
> having their infringements detected by the IP owners.
> Not providing documentation on instruments further helps hide 
> infringements.
> -Chuck Harris
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