[sane-devel] Legal Aspects

Lauri Pirttiaho lauri.pirttiaho at luukku.com
Tue Mar 28 18:51:54 UTC 2006


The reverse engineering is in a way a confusing issue
because there are two things that presumably affect
it. On the one hand there are the click-by licenses
and then there is the copyright law.

Now, in general, if privately made agreement is in 
contradiction with the law, then the law overrides the
agreement. There are examples of that in consumer
protection cases with warranties shorter than those
mandated by the laws being shown invalid.

The same seems to apply to the uses of computer
programs allowed by the copyright legislation.

If you are legal licensee of a computer program, you
are allowed to study it in order to figure out its
operation if you need to make an interoperable
program and the interface information has not been
made available for you. This is in line with the
similar allowances of studying hardware to make
interoperable products.

For legal links see:
Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991 on the legal
protection of computer programs
Article 6 Decompilation

1. The authorization of the rightholder shall not be 
required where reproduction of the code and translation 
of its form within the meaning of Article 4 (a) and (b) 
are indispensable to obtain the information necessary 
to achieve the interoperability of an independently 
created computer program with other programs, provided 
that the following conditions are met:

(a) these acts are performed by the licensee or by 
another person having a right to use a copy of a 
program, or on their behalf by a person authorized 
to to so;

(b) the information necessary to achieve interoperability 
has not previously been readily available to the persons 
referred to in subparagraph (a); and (c) these acts are 
confined to the parts of the original program which are 
necessary to achieve interoperability.

2. The provisions of paragraph 1 shall not permit the 
information obtained through its application:

(a) to be used for goals other than to achieve 
the interoperability of the independently created 
computer program;

(b) to be given to others, except when necessary for 
the interoperability of the independently created 
computer program; or (c) to be used for the 
development, production or marketing of a computer 
program substantially similar in its expression, or 
for any other act which infringes copyright.

3. In accordance with the provisions of the Berne 
Convention for the protection of Literary and Artistic 
Works, the provisions of this Article may not be 
interpreted in such a way as to allow its application 
to be used in a manner which unreasonably prejudices 
the right holder's legitimate interests or conflicts 
with a normal exploitation of the computer program.

There is similar statement in  Copyright, Designs and 
Patents Act 1988 in UK, Section 50B and US Copyright
Law (Title 17 Chapter 12 §1201(f)), and also in
Finnish copyright law 8.7.1961/404, 25 j § (24.3.1995/446).

So, basically, if a scanner vendor does not provide
a driver for Linux, you are allowed to make one yourself
and in that process use all means you need to figure
out the interface, even decompilation. However, you
are not allowed to publish (private communication
does not constitute publication so in the course of
the necessary research you can consult others)
the results other than the specifications thus 
discovered to make it possible to make the 
interoperable driver.

Discalimer: This posting shall not be taken as legal
advice but is provided for information only and accuracy
of the information is in no way guaranteed.

With best regards,

Lauri Pirttiaho

Luukku Plus paketilla pääset eroon tila- ja turvallisuusongelmista.
Hanki Luukku Plus ja helpotat elämääsi. http://www.mtv3.fi/luukku

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