A weird loophole?

Discussion in 'Indie Related Chat' started by ggambett, Sep 3, 2005.

  1. milieu

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    OK...what does the EXE do? It allows access to copyrighted materials that would not normally be accessible to the user. If the immediate purpose of the EXE is to allow someone to play Bejewelled beyond the amount allowed by its creators, avoiding the time limits or content restrictions they dictate, then it is a copy-protection circumvention device.

    The fact that it is posted on a web site advertising "Free Bejewelled!!" and telling the user to download the demo would be evidence of this to any court. It's obvious the software has only one purpose: to allow people to play the game without paying for it. DMCA violation.
    No. Copyright controls the rights to duplicate or distribute a work. Looking at is not distribution or duplication.

    If the image is somehow protected by some tricky technology that requires $20 each time you look at it, and you create a program that gets around their protection, then yes, you are violating the DMCA. However, if you do not distribute that program, it is very unlikely that you could be charged, both from a practical sense (how would anyone know you had this program?) and because the DMCA does not make possession of copy-protection circumvention tools illegal. It is distributing such a tool or method that is illegal.
     
  2. ggambett

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Except in this case they ARE normally accessible to the user. They're graphic files in standard formats, sitting on a folder.
    I don't duplicate the files and I don't distribute them. I tell the user "obtain them legally and put them legally in a folder". Then my program lets the user look at them. Sure, they move and there are sounds and high scores, but technically it's still a program that lets you view pictures stored in a folder in a standard format with no reverse engineering whatsoever.
    It doesn't... I specifically picked an example where the images aren't technologically protected at all. Not even inside a zip file!
     
  3. milieu

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    There is only one good way to find out. You need to make this program, then report back to us on what they charge you with. ;)
     
  4. Anthony Flack

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    Is everyone finally clear on what it is that Gabriel has suggested? It's an interesting point; nothing that I'd expect to see cause a problem any time soon, but it's still interesting.
     
  5. Hiro_Antagonist

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    I believe it's been clear from the beginning what he's suggested, and it's still a violation of copyright law...

    It's certainly *technically* possible to do what he's saying. And if you did it for personal use only, nobody would ever find out (though it would be an insane waste of time, short of teaching yourself programming.) But if you were to sell or give out the ability to use copyrighted images used outside their terms of use, you could definitely be sued, and the plaintiff would have strong legal footing on several points, at least within the US.

    @Robert Cummings: Sorry you don't like it when people say IANAL (I am not a lawyer), but it is common practice, and I believe US law, to clarify whether or not something that could be construed as legal advice is coming from a lawyer. Either way, what exactly are you bringing to the table by berating people who use it? I don't want to be combatative -- I'm only trying to *stop* what seems to be pointlessly combatative behavior on your part. Peace, please. =)

    Oh yeah, IANAL. My (rather limited) knowlege comes purely from my journalism/IP law classes back in the day (which I did pay rather close attention to) and generally following copyright law as a concerned maker of IP. As always, check for yourself before believing anyone except a lawyer, who can be sued for malpractice if they give wrong legal advice.

    -Hiro_Antagonist
     
  6. soniCron

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    Again, how is this different from Windows Explorer displaying the images in the folder? It's certainly giving the ability to the user to circumvent PopCap's terms of use.
     
  7. mahlzeit

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    To add to the confusion, copyright law usually provides certain exceptions to the terms of use. So it certainly may be that you're allowed to modify these files for your own use or whatever, no matter what the license claims. But this all depends on where you live and what laws you're supposed to obey. (For example: downloading mp3's is legal in my country. Har har.)
     
  8. Ricardo C

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    Viewing a file is very different from incorporating it into a piece of software ('using').

    I'm not exactly fond of reading EULAS, but isn't there usually a bit about "the code, artwork, and music contained herein (collectively known as 'the software')..."? Using any part of 'the software' is a copyright violation.

    There's no denying that the scenario in question is possible, but it would be 1.) a lot more work than simply setting up a portal-like page in Russia or Asia and illegally selling the games, 2.) just as easy to prove illegal. There's a reason no one's doing it, you know. If you have to actually develop a game in order to pirate another, it kinda defeats the purpose of the quick and easy bootlegging operation ;)

    I'd rather worry about actual forms of piracy and not convoluted 'what if' cases.
     
  9. Anthony Flack

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    It wasn't suggested that this was a serious problem to worry about though. It was proposed as a thought experiment, a "what's wrong with this picture?" scenario.
     
  10. Ricardo C

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    Nothing's wrong with it, as it's not a real loophole ;)
     
  11. Mike Wiering

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    I was thinking about something similar: suppose I write a music score printing program, would it be okay to let it use existing fonts installed by (demos of) other music programs if detected? It would have its own font, but hint the user that they could improve print quality by also installing Finale Notepad or the demo of Sibelius for example. Many users would already have tried demos of several other music programs before and have usable fonts on their system (browsing through my fonts, I see that I have at least 9 fonts with musical symbols from programs I've tried out in the past).
     
  12. James C. Smith

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    It would be a more interesting “thought experiment†if you coded your own game from scratch (as you suggested) but also included your own art and sounds. They could be stick men pencil sketches. But then you add an option to “import†alternate “skins†for into the game and your “skin†format happens to be very similar to the art assets used in PopCap’s game. In other words, you game looks like crap, but has an option to use PopCap’s art if it happens to be installed.

    Obviously I think this is immoral and wrong and should be illegal but I am not sure how or if it is illegal. But it sounds like it probably is illegal under the DMCA. It sure seems like you would be “circumventing protection†of PopCap’s game. Even if it doesn’t modify PopCap’s game in any way, and it doesn’t disable their DRM, it does circumvent their DRM. They tried to protect their game with a one hour trial period, and you made a program that make it seem like you are playing their game (and actually are using their assets) beyond the 1 hour limit. The user may not technically be running the game PopCap wrote, but it sure seems like they are. You are circumventing their protection.

    Another more interesting thought experiment would be to not clone their game play at all. Make a breakout game or some other game that PopCap never made. But give it an option to “import†some assets from a PopCap demo that make your breakout game look better. Picture a breakout game with “bricks†that looks like the balls in Zuma. But of course you don’t distribute that artwork. You just use it if it is available on the end user’s computer.
     
  13. Rainer Deyke

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    I think the question of legality comes down to the terms of the license of the demo. If the license of the demo (explicitly or implicitly) says that you can't use the artwork that way, then (legally speaking) you can't, and any third party program that does this is aiding copyright violation.
     
  14. princec

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    I don't see anything wrong with reverse engineering and grabbing graphics out of someone's demo. So long as you don't ship the actual graphics with your home-built engine you break no laws, moral or legal, afaics.

    I mean, come on, seriously - how is it a genuine threat to your businesses?

    Cas :)
     
  15. Pyabo

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    From the Feeding Frenzy EULA:
    And then

    Now then... is the "thought experiment" over? Clearly, the graphic files are PopCap's IP, and part of the software which is limited in use.

    If you still think there is any way, shape, or form that this idea would be legal at all... you are just being stubborn.
     
  16. luggage

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Actually there's nothing in the quotes there that go against the thought experiment from what I can tell.

    The game is installed as per the license and nobody is selling the artwork. And so long as you don't run the game and therefore not run the trial license down I don't see how you break the terms of the license.

    Surely it must be illegal but I can't see how.
     
  17. mahlzeit

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    Just because it's in the license doesn't necessarily mean it's valid. Often local law grants you certain rights that can't be waived. Copyright law grants many exceptions for special uses. I'm not saying that this thought experiment falls under the same exceptions, but it might. Not that we'll ever find out from this discussion, since none of us here are lawyers. :)
     
  18. Pyabo

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    <sigh>

    This is ridiculous.

    You're like those people who stubbornly believe that the US federal government doesn't actually have the right to collect income tax.

    Maybe it's NOT the lawyers that are the problem with our legal system. :|
     
  19. Omega

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    As somebody who knows somebody who just started law school, let me add some thoughts. Don't read the law literally. Watch any of the judge shows. They all rule on common sense, not letter of the law. Their goal is to find the best answer. Remember, judges don't make the laws. Legislature does. Do you really think Judges will take every single word literally? No! They just know what they're talking about and they have seen 10,000 previous cases and they have worked as lawyers and so they know the questions to ask and how to rule in most every situation.

    Many judges have no understanding of what a computer is. (Judge Judy said she has no idea about computers.) But she simply rules with common sense.

    Having said that, I think it is very important to spread FUD about the GPL, whether it is true or not, that says "The GPL allows you to do this, this, and this." That way, it will change people's beliefs about what the GPL is, and the media should also support the definition of the GPL being okay to rip-off. What do you think?
     
  20. Pyabo

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    luggage, I will spell it out for you: The PopCap license, which must be agreed to before you install the game, includes a clause that the software is LIMITED based on time or number of plays. The art is part of the software being licensed. Hence, if you download someone else's executable and use PopCap's art, you are violating the limited use clause in the license. You might as well just download a crack for Bejeweled, or whatever. It's the same thing, both legally and morally.

    And Omega is correct... it's a judge's job to interpret the law. Any sane judge is going to uphold copyright law, despite you thinking there is some sort of loophole here. You are using someone else's copyrighted material in a way it was not intended. Period.

    Incidentally, anyone still thinking this "loophole" might be legal should also check out this web site:
    http://www.taxfreedomnow.com/
     

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