How Copyright Law Stifles Your Right to Tinker with Tech

Posted by robgambrill 4 years, 6 months ago to Technology
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From the MIT article...
"Repair is not crime. No one should have to ask the Copyright Office for permission to fix their stuff. No one should be threatened with a lawsuit for looking at code inside something that belongs to them. And no one should risk jail time because they have the audacity to fix a tractor without the manufacturer’s blessing."
SOURCE URL: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602026/how-copyright-law-stifles-your-right-to-tinker-with-tech/


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  • Posted by dbhalling 4 years, 6 months ago
    This problem stems from regressives screwing up contract law (bear with me it’s a long story). Some law professors though contract law needed to be updated and so they created the UCC which applies to certain types of contractual transactions. One of the requirements is an implied warranty of merchantability (meaning the warrant was required regardless of what the contract said). Unfortunately, in the early days of standalone s/w the products could not meet this warranty. As a result, they decide to license the s/w rather than sell it. This took them outside of the UCC and the implied warrant. Because the s/w is licensed not sold then it avoids the first sale doctrine. Also because the ability to enforce and obtain patents directed to software inventions was limited, s/w companies relied on their copyrights (which were weak), and their licensing agreements. As a result, their licensing agreements stated you would not reverse engineer, modify, or even look at the source code (of course they never provided it). However, I do not believe the auto companies sell you the car and license you the software. So I don’t think they have a leg to stand on under standard copyright law. But the DMCA may apply if the s/w is encrypted.

    The UCC and weak or non-existent patent protection for s/w in the early years caused a number of other problems. Including that when you got the s/w you could not modify or integrate it into other s/w. This would be like buying a car and not being able to put different tires or a different muffler on it. This clearly frustrated many who were sophisticated in s/w which started another bad solution – radical open source (non-radical open source makes sense for many things – think of standardized interfaces). This would not have happened if there had been strong patent protection for s/w implemented inventions and the UCC did not have the implied warrant of merchantability.
    So once again we see one idiotic do good thing by regressives over 50 years ago and one anti-property move by regressives over 40 years ago compounded into numerous problems – AND the solution is more patches rather than solving the underlying problems.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 6 months ago
      Thanks for the clarification of your point. Was trying to search the gulch for info on the UCC, so your post was rather timely.

      I have major problems separating Math/Algorithms from software (always have). I think the failure to come up with good software patent law is due to the fact that software is not really patent-able. Anyone who fails to see that has no real understanding of how digital computers work. Hardware yes, software no.

      Rand was anti-union but not anti-guild. I view the open-source movement (and it's economic success) as a guild acting in my best interest. I use very little closed source software these days, and for good reason. Got a closet full of junk that is still operable but no longer supported by the manufacturer. If I had the source, I wouldn't need to bother the manufacturer at all. Closed and patented software is not in my best interest, so nowadays I choose to buy open products whenever possible.

      We are not there yet, but a link to a code repository and a "theory of operation" manual is IMHO the only way out of the problem I think we are all increasingly facing. Otherwise ownership is compromised and you only "rent" your own property. Get the lawyers out from between me and the stuff I bought!
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      • Posted by dbhalling 4 years, 6 months ago
        I am not against open-source, except when it become a religious movement. Right now I am learning Ruby on Rails with my son for instance.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 6 months ago
          I am not Anti-Halling either! :)

          I don't think it is a religious movement to say "if you don't work in our interests, we'll do something else".

          Open source is the free market at work. Defending lame product design and "secrets" with laws isn't.
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          • Posted by khalling 4 years, 6 months ago
            patents are not secret. the applications are published for all in the world to see at 18 months-before it is even examined! easy to reverse engineer, work around, etc. what is happening in software are trade secrets. completely different from patents. I hide everything. This does not disseminate technology. The opposite of the point of the Industrial Revolution.
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  • Posted by term2 4 years, 6 months ago
    I think Harry Browne is right in his book on living free. I say on things like this, rely on the hackers to get you what you need to fix whats yours. Do it quietly and get the job done.

    You really should be able to go in there and change the programming if you want to also.

    If they want to lease it to you under the condition that you are their slave, so be it. But if they sell it to you, I say its yours, period.
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  • Posted by dbhalling 4 years, 6 months ago
    I think that this can be attacked legally. I do not think that anyone buying a car/truck agreed to license to the software. This problem started with the UCC's requirement for a warrant of merchanitability. The chain of events is too long to describe here, but I have posted on this exact point on the gulch
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    • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 4 years, 6 months ago
      Have you read a purchase agreement lately? "I do not think that anyone buying a car/truck agreed to license to the software." I would not make such a claim until and unless I had the facts in front of me. My wife's 2015 Honda Accord speaks back the last text message on her phone every time she puts on the right turn signal. After repeated trips to the dealership that led nowhere, she is working on a hack... but she is cognizant that it is hacking. As a security professional, she has some legal standing there, according to the EFF. (The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been attacked here in the Gulch by the Hallings. Just to say... the issues are complicated and require a firm foundation in philosophy.)
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      • Posted by khalling 4 years, 6 months ago
        as usual, why be an ass? EFF is no friend to the inventor. Big Business-not a philosophical sound foundation as it involves cronyism. which "the Hallings" would never support. geez
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      • Posted by 4 years, 6 months ago
        I recently had occasion to need to fix a John Deere weed trimmer that had a broken feed head. Went online and found that even the exploded parts diagram was unavailable without purchasing a rather expensive repair manual. The person that asked me to repair the trimmer said no, and went out and bought a cheap foreign made weed trimmer. You can't get parts for that one either.

        It seems we are heading to a point where nothing is repairable by the owner anymore, and that the SOP is to toss it and get a new one.

        This seems wasteful to me, and I would tend to support vendors that support their customers better.

        Sadly the best example of this in the past was Sears-Roebuck. They had/have a million repair parts online as well as repair diagrams. As their products are mostly no longer manufactured by Sears, many of their parts are indexed, but "no longer available".

        Not sure how a capitalist resists this trend in the marketplace. I hate to toss stuff out to the landfill. Wish I could just buy quality and do repairs on it as we used to! Now I can't even figure out what they mean by "quality" merchandise any more? More gimmicks and easily broken features?

        In my opinion, if it can't be maintained and fixed (preferably by the owner), it's cheap junk!
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        • Posted by khalling 4 years, 6 months ago
          partly, this is due to a litigious society. JD does not want you tinkering with their product and then find itself the party in a suit. I think, one needs to look at foundational issues. not saying that MATURE industries are not trying to capitalize on these manuals. Please see Dale's post above. :(
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    • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 4 years, 6 months ago
      The Uniform Commercial Code was created as a free market alternative to archaic government courts that did not understand capitalism. The UCC itself was a specific invention, not a tradition. It worked so well that many states adopted it in part and sometimes whole as legislation. That, of course, took the UCC out of the control of its creators, which is ironic.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 4 years, 6 months ago
    Having been in the publishing biz I thought I was familiar with copyright laws. Wrong! This is not only a classic example of collateral damage, but it could spell the end of the independent mechanic. The independent mechanic is the very symbol of Americanism. Another way we have lost a part of the independent endeavor which once was the very symbol of how this country prospered.
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