OK - how does your position differ from, say, downloading Adobe's Multi Thousand Dollar Suite of programs for a free 30 day trial - then, after 30 days pass, you do something to the software to make it run forever?
It doesn't, really -- but then, copyright law doesn't forbid it either. Adobe is basically giving you a copy of their $1000-retail doohickey free and asking you to stop using it, but copyright law only says you can't make and distribute more copies, not that you can't use a copy you got legitimately or that the author gets to yank copies back just by saying so.
Is that not Stealing Thousands of Dollars?
No, because it doesn't cost Adobe thousands of dollars, nor was Adobe even guaranteed that you'd otherwise have paid thousands of dollars. If you use the download for 30 days, then delete it and use the GIMP instead, Adobe is still not making that sale, and Adobe is still out whatever minuscule cost it incurred in the download; nothing is different from Adobe's perspective
, which means it's hard for me to make a moral case that it's wrong, and the lack of any clause in Title 17 letting copyright holders unilaterally recall copyrighted works post-sale means it's hard for me to make a legal case for Adobe here either. Instead I'd argue that Adobe's business model has problems, though they seem to be successful enough that it seems it's working well enough for them for now. But it's predicated on setting a very inflated price on goods that don't actually cost
all that much, and that's a sure-fire recipe for eventually having low price competition, whether from their own stuff that's been "pirated" or from alternatives like the GIMP.
A related question: should
the law explicitly support that sort of business model?
I'd say no. Three reasons. One, such a law treads on the property rights of end users. Real
property rights. It means giving every vendor in the marketplace some kind of continuing threads of ownership of their goods post-sale, rendering the whole concept of a sale meaningless and destroying the very concept of private property. No longer would we own our cars, our computers, or even the clothes on our backs. In other words, welcome to North Korea.
Second, companies like Adobe don't need it. If Adobe wants to provide a computing service without giving end users the means to do it on their own without further help from (and thus payments to) Adobe, they can provide it as a web service and charge money after the first thirty days. (That's how World of Warcraft makes money.) If they do that, then there's no ownership issue. Breaking into Adobe's servers is hacking and using fake logon credentials or whatever to access a pay service you didn't pay for would be fraud. And Adobe's business model would not be affected by people doing anything they damned well pleased, privately, on their own client computers.
And third, there's a supposition here that business models like that deserve some kind of special protection from competition. Why? I don't see the logic behind that. Adobe can rent a computing service over the network or get the government to pass a law outlawing disarming software timebombs on your own computer, and let's say they perfectly protect
against anyone pirating or otherwise using Photoshop without paying them. And then the GIMP gains a few more features and a better user interface and an easy to use Windows installer and begins to eat Photoshop's market share at a ferocious rate, and Adobe's business model falls to pieces anyway. What are you going to do now, outlaw the GIMP? There are some that would try, claiming you can patent "editing a photo using layers" and similar concepts however
implemented and using that to outlaw all competing software that does remotely the same thing. And there are experts all over the software world that will tell you that that would be a disaster and would kill innovation in the tech sector.
In that example, you agreed to use the program suite for 30 days when installing it
You did? Agreed with who? The last time I checked, you checked a box and clicked a button to make some annoying dialog go away during the installation. That doesn't seem to me to be the same as sitting across a negotiating table from an Adobe rep, with your lawyer at your right hand and his at his, and hashing out an agreement, then signing some documents and Xeroxing them and the lawyers on each side slipping their respective copies into their briefcases. Or anything close.
You seem to think you can agree to something and sign a contract with a dialog box in a piece of software running on your own computer. You own
that computer. If you'll pardon the colorful metaphor, it's the contract-formation equivalent of mast
What then stops you from decompiling it, and using knowledge gleaned from their source code to writ your own version of Photoshop and Friends?
Why, nothing, of course.
Or even selling those programs after you write them?That
, however, would be copyright infringement.
There have to be limits on what you can do with such software.
Where do you see those limits as existing?
Morally? Where your actions would actually harm someone -- much as your right to free expression stops when your fist hits someone else's nose.
I don't, however, consider "not buying from Adobe" to be harming Adobe. Lots of people don't buy from Adobe. I also don't consider "doing something Adobe doesn't want" to be harming Adobe, in a wrongdoing sense. If I signed an agreement with Adobe representatives not to do it, and then did it, that'd be breach of contract; if I'd verbally promised people at Adobe one thing and then did another that would be non-illegal but dishonest, but clicking some button on some software running on my own computer does not, in my mind, create any kind of obligation to anyone else, whether legal or moral.
And to see why, just read this next sentence:
By reading this sentence and then at any future time clicking your Windows Start button, you agree to pay me one million dollars ($1,000,000) on or before June 17, 2011.
Where do you draw the line and call an action illegal?
Where it actually breaks the law. In the specific case of copyright infringement, if you make copies available to others without permission. In the specific case of contract breach, if you make an agreement with a person or, via a human representative, with an organization, (including especially signing and submitting a written agreement), for an exchange of something from each side that the other values, and subsequently break your side of the bargain.
Note that altering downloaded software fits neither. No copies are being passed on and interacting with the GUI of some locally-running software is not submitting a signed agreement to any remote organization.
Please correct me if I am wrong, but that is how your argument appears to me.
And you had it more or less right.
As far as I know, the legal situation in most of the western hemisphere actually allows you to do as you see fit. You are legally entitled to crack any copy protection, and to work around expiration dates and other artificial limitations.
But you have to do it yourself, even make some of the tools yourself, because what's prohibited is the distribution of copies (both cracked payware and tools specifically for cracking). Technically, your homebrew cracked version is already an illegal copy. But since you don't distribute it, no one will ever be able to prove the accusation, and consequently no one will ever legally judge you.
Your homebrew cracked version is not illegal as I understand it. The DMCA prohibits trafficking in tools for cracking copy protection
. If someone sells me a disk that's rigged to be hard to copy and has copyrighted content on it, and I make a tool for copying that sort of disk and distribute the tool, that's trafficking. On the other hand, if the tool does not break copy protection
it doesn't seem it should qualify. Say it's a tool that locates Harry Potter ebooks (copyrighted works) on a computer's hard drive and scribbles a margin note saying "Harry Potter is kid stuff! Read something more grown up!" onto each one, this is altering a copyrighted work but it's not breaking copy protection. If I distribute a tool that alters a piece of copyrighted software, such as to patch a bug or remove a limitation, likewise that tool is not breaking copy protection (given that the limitation in question wasn't a limitation on making copies of the software, of course, i.e. was copy protection).
And if I merely tell
someone how to do something, that's speech. The last time I checked, speech is protected. Even telling someone how to make explosives or how a particular bank branch has weak security is free speech, although acting on that speech may violate laws against unlicensed handling of explosives and break-and-enter and robbery. Telling someone how to break a copy protection scheme likewise seems equivalent: acting on it may be copyright infringement but the speech should be allowed.
Certainly the speech should be allowed if it's allowed when it tells people how to do something much more serious. If I can tell someone that you can kill with a specific poison (if they do it, it's murder) but I can't tell someone that you can break some bit of copy protection with some particular action (if they do it, it's copyright infringement) then there's a huge imbalance in the law, since murder is by far the more serious offense of the two!
I am not a lawyer. My explanation may be a mess, but that is largely caused by the whole thing being a mess.
You're right that the whole thing is a mess.
Immaterial wares just don't behave like the tangible stuff that most of our laws were made for. Before the internet, data was always tied to a tangible medium; and methods and processes could not easily be detached from the artisans who applied them. These days, copying bits is so cheap as to be effectively free. And methods/processes can be encoded into programs, effectively turning them into data as well.
That's why ultimately copyright enforcement is going to be useless. Even if applied perfectly. Adobe might make Photoshop hack-proof and force everyone to pay through the nose to use it -- and the GIMP will eventually eat their market share, or something else will. The natural price in the marketplace for photo-editing software is zero, because the marginal cost of photo-editing software is zero, and trying to artificially prop it up is doomed to eventual failure.
But it's not the end of the world. The GIMP proves that you don't need to be able to charge hefty margins on photo editing software for the marketplace to produce photo-editing software, at the same time as it threatens Adobe's business model. It may be the end of certain business models and even of certain actual businesses, but it's not the end of the world; the automobile ended the era of horse-drawn carriages and reduced the buggy-whip industry to just a sliver of what once was, but it wasn't the end of the world, and we're pretty sure it's actually better because of the transition.
(Before someone jumps up and shouts "global warming!", I invite them to compute how much methane would outgas from a population of horses large enough to support modern road transportation needs, and then multiply by 29 for that is how much more potent methane is than CO2
as a greenhouse gas, and then compare to current vehicular emissions of the latter gas.)
In the old days, the act of making a copy was involved and difficult enough to act as a physical barrier. These times are gone. But the law, and society in general, and even technology itself (think of all the privacy issues and security breaches that you keep hearing of every single week), have big trouble keeping up.
They'll fail. We have laws on the books now that are unenforced and irrelevant; copyright will probably join them fairly soon. I doubt the political will exists to actually repeal it but it will become antiquated and disused at some point simply because it will have become useless to assert it instead of conducting your business differently so that it didn't matter.
Is it just me or is any hack on privately owned software illegal to discuss openly on a public forum such as this?
Are you kidding? Let me quote something to you.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
There's a few exceptions for obscenity, hate speech, yelling "fire" in a crowded theater, and inciting violence, and that's it. Discussing the means to perform an act (even a criminal one) is legal.
There are criminal conspiracy laws, but they require two things: 1. An agreement to a criminal scheme, and 2. An act in furtherance of the scheme. If we decide to rob a bank and then one of us goes and buys the ski masks, that one might be charged with conspiracy to commit robbery at that point; probably not without further, more serious steps such as an actual attempted robbery would the charges stick. And note that it has to be a crime; copyright infringement is a civil matter. Conspiring to break into a remote server might be an offense if
there was a specific plan to actually perpetrate the hack and if
some step was taken to carry out that plan.
Conspiracy law requires an act in furtherance precisely so it isn't an unconstitutional ban on speech; merely discussing a plan cannot be illegal in and of itself.
I should remember a time when there were some great game makers out there in Japanese only, and even translating them is illegal.
Shortsighted thinking on the part of the copyright holders. Translating them makes them accessible to a broader market. If the copyright holder wasn't selling to that market anyway they lose nothing; and if they were, they should have done the translation themselves, so why didn't they? Better is to exploit the network effects of having more users to make it more valuable for the subset that are paying users; they can then sell more (or charge more, or even both) in the market they do sell to.
Certainly what you do privately is up to you but that must stay private or you risk the chance off being sued. It's like buying a Rembrandt and then painting over it. Just because you own it does not give you the right to change it.
Huh? Of course it does. It might be silly, and even a travesty, but under property rights law it's not a crime to buy something, even something one-of-a-kind, and then deface it. It being copyrighted wouldn't change that, either -- I mentioned before your right to buy a book and scribble notes in it, or rip pages out, or whatever.
If you own it you
Are you saying cracking tools themselves are illegal? John http://www.openwall.com/john/
springs to mind, but that's a password cracker so slightly different. This is supposed to go to show the tools may not be illegal - they can also be presented as security enhancing rather than cracking tools. A sysadmin would use this to detect which of the users on a system use weak passwords and advise them accordingly. Try also a google search for wireless+cracking+ubuntu.
Yes. This goes to show why it is foolish and dangerous to ban tools (or worse, speech) rather than ban specific bad uses
of those tools (e.g. breaking into someone else's computer to snoop and trash their files). And we already have laws against the bad uses: laws against hacking, laws against vandalism, privacy laws, laws against burglary, and so forth.
If I understand the law on these matters, it's only illegal to discuss specific ways to hack specific software.
Not even that; see above. Now if we discussed how to hack fbi.gov in specific details and then one of us took a further action, such as port-scanning fbi.gov, that might be enough to put us afoul of conspiracy law. And (unfortunately; see above about banning tools) if we made a script to crack a copy prevention scheme and distributed the script we'd run afoul of the execrable DMCA.
Problems arise on sites that do things like post working serial numbers, or post patches, or even posting actual cracked software (or even posting links to such things hosted elsewhere). All of the above is illegal.
Posting numbers can't really be illegal in any sane legal system. Posting actual cracked software is obviously copyright infringement and posting patches may violate the DMCA.
My request that a member refrain from endorsing illegal hacking was just that. A request.
The only hacking I endorsed was hacking that is, or should be, perfectly legal: hacking your own stuff to make it work better for you.