OFF TOPIC: Inquiry from a reporter re reverse engineering

David Collier-Brown davecb at
Tue Apr 25 12:36:38 GMT 2000

You wrote:
> I am writing a news article about the rulings in the cphack and DVD cases
> and how they could impact reverse engineering in the United States.
> It appears that new interpretations of fair use provisions in copyright law
> could force reverse engineering offshore.

	[We can discuss this in detail in private email, which you
	may quote freely, but here's an overview for the Samba 
	community, which isn't necessarily publishable --dave
	(905) 415-2849, davecb at] 

	If the "interoperability" defense is not a protection
	for U.S. citizens, then it is not a protection for a
	citizen of another country who does business with the
	United States: the US is perfectly free to arrest
	the foreign citizen if he or she ever visits the 'States,
	take legal action against imports from the foreign 
	company, or even ask the foreign government to arrest and
	extradite the foreign citizen to the United States for trial.

	This, you understand, is a new and invidious form of
	non-tarriff barrier.

	To give you a concrete example, I'm a Canadian who writes
	books about computer protocols.  If I were to write a book
	about undocumented features of the protocol, as a colleague
	has done[1], and the authors of the protocol objected[2],
	they could act against my publisher, close the border
	to me personally, by threat of arrest, and attempt to convince
	the Canadian government the breach of copyright was
	both punishable in Canada[3] and sufficiently serious to
	warrant extradition.

	This is an immediate risk in Sweden, where the government
	seems very willing to arrest on the basis of U.S. government
	representations, even though the offense alleged is not a 
	crime in that country.

	In Canada, we have a tradition of cooperating with the U.S.
	in criminal matters, but not perhaps to the extent of arresting
	someone for a non-crime...  However, it does mean that
	I, and my publisher, would not be able to write about
	undocumented protocols without written permission from the 
	authors, and would not be able to use my Canadian citizenship
	as a protection.

--dave (speaking as a private person) c-b
1. Luke Leighton's "DCE/RPC over SMB", published by MacMillan
2. They haven't to date: Microsoft is really nice about this,
3. It isn't this year: stay tuned for further developments.
David Collier-Brown,  | Always do right. This will gratify some people
185 Ellerslie Ave.,   | and astonish the rest.        -- Mark Twain
Willowdale, Ontario   | //
Work: (905) 415-2849 Home: (416) 223-8968 Email: davecb at

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