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Documentation Compliance Means MS Can Resume Collecting Protocol Royalties

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the only-took-seven-years dept.

Microsoft 139

angry tapir writes "Microsoft may begin collecting royalties again for licensing some protocols because clear technical documentation is now available, according to the US Department of Justice. The change comes after the DOJ issued its latest joint status report regarding its 2002 antitrust settlement with Microsoft. The settlement required Microsoft to make available technical documentation that would allow other vendors to make products that are interoperable with Windows."

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139 comments

Outrageous (5, Insightful)

PizzaAnalogyGuy (1684610) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411116)

This is outrageous, and I have two examples why. First, protocols are like food recipes. The pizza you sell is yours, but the ingredients to make it is not. Here the protocol is your ham, pineapple, salami and shrimps on a barbeque sauce large size pan pizza. You have not stolen the app from your competitor, you're just making yours compatible with theirs. Like the third party IM clients can connect to MSN network. Secondly, how would any of those open source apps pay for the royalties? But maybe this is Microsoft's plan. Let me tell you what is happening here. Microsoft is paying for the local BBQ Sauce factory to include a license agreement before you can use their sauce in your pizzas. The license agreement says you are only allowed to use their BBQ sauce on Microsoft approved pizzas. And before you know, these pizzas will be degraded. Forget your ham, forget your pineapples, forget you bacon and forget your cheese. THIS is the pizza we offer, and this will be the pizza you like.

Re:Outrageous (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30411138)

Damn your pizza analogies, I'm hungry now...

Re:Outrageous (2, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411426)

It could be worse. If you've had a few drinks and he used a car analogy, you could be off driving right now...

Re:Outrageous (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411166)

First, protocols are like food recipes.

Which can be copyrighted and regarded as a trade secret. Or do you think that KFC should have to post their recipe online for all to see?

Perhaps you should try a car analogy instead? ;)

Re:Outrageous (5, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411182)

You can't copyright recipes, and anything can be regarded as a trade secret.

Re:Outrageous (4, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411222)

Yes, I should have left it at trade secret. My stupid. I shall now commence pounding my head against the table to atone for my error.

I also think that we just got trolled, based on the handle of the first poster.....

Re:Outrageous (5, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411484)

You have to give him (or her) points for creating a new account that memes another troll username and getting the initial comment with a topical troll message that references the username. That's troll diligence there.

Re:Outrageous (2, Interesting)

MrMr (219533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411982)

Hah, You just wait until there's a story about jellied eels, smoked beer or lutefisk.

Re:Outrageous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30412380)

Lutefisk rocks - we need a story about lutefisk.

Dissclaimer: I was forced to eat lutefisk annually growing up.

Re:Outrageous (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411352)

Yes, in some cases you can [copyright.gov] . I simple list of ingredients cannot, but then I don't think a protocol would be considered just a list of ingredients.

Re:Outrageous (3, Informative)

bmo (77928) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411422)

A protocol is simply a statement of facts.

Facts are not copyrightable.

Sweat of the brow does not determine if something is deserving of copyright either. It must have _some_ creativity. Indeed, this is why software for years was not deserving of copyright, because it was considered a "list of instructions for a machine" instead of creative. This changed in the early 80's I believe (correct me if it was earlier).

A recipe is not copyrightable. It is a list of facts to reach a goal. The artwork, layout, etc, however, is. Thus cookbooks are copyrighted.

Software is unique in that it's now protected by both copyright, as if it's art, _and_ patent, as if it's a machine. Why one needs both is baffling to me.

--
BMO

Re:Outrageous (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411464)

I've had more than 60K recipes online for over a decade and nobody ever bothered me about it. Sadly, I can't provide a link as the site's down now two weeks while we shift hosting providers. It's a hobby and it's free so I'm not apologetic about that. I'm a fairly busy guy and I'm not going to let that get in the way of my slashdotting. We get about 250k hits a month, down from a peak of over a million.

You can't put out your protocol under anything less than an "all implementations are free" license and then pretend you're supporting interopability. It's one way or the other: it's your protocol and people have to pay you to use it, or people don't need your permission to interoperate with you. You can't have both.

Re:Outrageous (2, Informative)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412168)

You can't put out your protocol under anything less than an "all implementations are free" license and then pretend you're supporting interopability.

Of course you can. It's called "reasonable and non-discriminating", and it's when you license your protocol to anyone who asks, for the same price regardless of who asks, and that price is reasonable. See MPEG4 etc.

It can be argued whether this is open, but interoperable - sure.

Re:Outrageous (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412338)

I have nothing to add here except that your lack of "getting it" is provably deliberate. You're a lawyer, aren't you?

Re:Outrageous (3, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412418)

RAND is a cover for non-open. It used to work before the lawyers got ahold of it. Let me school you:

There is one and only one measure of openness now: You can implement it without a license, or you can't. That's it. You want to be interoperable, or you want to control who can interact with your interface. The control is the limiting factor and it's the difference between useful and not.

Re:Outrageous (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411522)

If you write your recipe as some creative prose, then sure, you can copyright that, the same as any creative prose.

But when I come along and see your prose and say "man that's pointless, here's a mere list of ingredients and some straight forward instructions" there's nothing you can do about it. Copyright doesn't prevent me from making a recipe of your prose, and copyright does not protect recipes.

Re:Outrageous (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412506)

That of course brings up another question. Should anything be legally treated as a trade secret. Does not the end user, the potential victim of malfeasance have a right to make knowledgeable choices. Should not every citizens be entitled to the truth of what they are purchasing, is the government betraying it's own citizens when it allows companies to with hold information from the public that would likely alter their choice to select a product.

The reality is, in the 21st century there is no longer any room for trade secrets. It is obscene the greed is put ahead of people's ability to make a knowledgeable choice and it is even worse the governments seek to protect that greed at the behest of a deceitful minority.

You can, kinda, from copyright.gov (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413244)

http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl122.html [copyright.gov]

Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds, or prescriptions are not subject to copyright protection. However, when a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.

Protection under the copyright law (title 17 of the U.S. Code, section 102) extends only to "original works of authorship" that are fixed in a tangible form (a copy). "Original" means merely that the author produced the work by his own intellectual effort, as distinguished from copying an existing work. Copyright protection may extend to a description, explanation, or illustration, assuming that the requirements of the copyright law are met.

For information on how to register, see the reverse side of this letter. For further information on copyright, deposit requirements, and registration procedures, see Circular 1, Copyright Basics. Deposit requirements depend on whether the work has been published at the time of registration:

        * If the work is unpublished, one complete copy
        * If the work was first published in the United States on or after January 1, 1978, two complete copies of the best edition
        * If the work was first published in the United States before January 1, 1978, two complete copies as first published If the work was first published outside the United States, one complete copy of the work as first published
        * If the work is a contribution to a collective work and was published after January 1, 1978, one complete copy of the best edition of the collective work or a photocopy of the contribution itself as it was published in the collective work

Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author's expression in literary, artistic, or musical form. Copyright protection does not extend to names, titles, short phrases, ideas, systems, or methods.

Re:You can, kinda, from copyright.gov (1)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414224)

http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl122.html [copyright.gov]

...

Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author's expression in literary, artistic, or musical form. Copyright protection does not extend to names, titles, short phrases, ideas, systems, or methods.

Given the above, can someone please explain to me why Computer Software is copyrightable?

Re:You can, kinda, from copyright.gov (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30415066)

+1 insightful? I agree with the parent based on that excerpt quoted above.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414860)

You can't copyright recipes

Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds, or prescriptions are not subject to copyright protection. However, when a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection. Recipes [copyright.gov]

Re:Outrageous (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414868)

Actually you can copyright recipes.

They are creative works just like novels and movies.

And most of them btw are longer than the notorious Happy Birthday which somehow seems to enjoy copyright even though it's 4 lines long.

Re:Outrageous (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411372)

Yeah, but a food recipe can easily be reverse engineered and used for profit or given away. If I magically figured out KFC's recipe without having prior knowledge of it and I made my own fried chicken stand that drove KFC out of business there wouldn't be a thing KFC could do. Similarly, I could reverse engineer coke and make my own soda. About the only thing that you -can't- do with a trade secret is if you know it most agreements forbid you from disclosing it or competing using it.

As for copyright, yeah, you can copyright anything, but I can still use your work, just not publish the recipe.

Re:Outrageous (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411990)

About the only thing that you -can't- do with a trade secret is if you know it most agreements forbid you from disclosing it or competing using it.

They only limit you if you signed an agreement, and you're in a country where the authorities give a damn.

Re:Outrageous (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411442)

No, but if you reverse-engineer KFC chicken and determine a recipe that makes something that tastes exactly the same, KFC can't stop you from publishing it.

Re:Outrageous (4, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411882)

Kentucky Fried Chicken Seasoning Mix Recipe
Just mix these commonly-found spices together! Great when used for skinless chicken fingers too.

2 tablespoons salt
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons pepper
4 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon mustard, ground
1 tablespoon French thyme, ground
1 tablespoon sweet basil
1 teaspoon oregano, ground
1 tablespoon jamaica ginger, ground

http://www.bubhub.com.au/community/forums/showthread.php?t=14201&page=2 [bubhub.com.au]

Re: Supposed KFC Recipe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30411932)

You're short two ingredients, and flour is not a spice.

Re: Supposed KFC Recipe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30412158)

I count ten, so he's only short one. Also, it's probable that the "missing" ingredient is "OIL".

Re: Supposed KFC Recipe (2, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412852)

You're right - I left out the MSG.

Actually, rumour has it that in the 80s, KFC switched to using just salt, pepper, MSG and flour. I do think the modern version is less tasty.

Re:Outrageous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30411956)

KFC chicken tastes like ass. Why would I want to replicate it?

Re:Outrageous (1)

fyrewulff (702920) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412544)

Recipes cannot be copyrighted, although the instructions can be.
You can also patent the machines that put together your item, which would also document exactly how to replicate it.

Basically companies that have a 'secret recipe' are taking a risk-reward gamble.
If you can keep it a secret, you don't have to patent it. Patenting would protect it, but it would "start the clock" so to speak. The patent would eventually expire and the documentation would be there plain as day.

The big companies rely on people thinking it's secret and not replicable. KFC's recipe has been known for a long time - KFC even ran ads last year show people collecting ingredients to make KFC chicken but were making a point that it would be cheaper to buy from KFC.

Coca Cola's recipe status I am not sure of but it would not be too hard to replicate. However Coca-Cola has some benefits: the only company that is a threat to them financially (Pepsi) would have no use for the Coca-Cola recipe because Pepsi has built their empire off selling Pepsi, not Coca-Cola. In fact, Pepsi and CC bottle each other's sodas in many locations to save money! In the same respect, CC has no use for the Pepsi formula.

Re:Outrageous (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414898)

If KFC really ran ads on how to make their secret recipe then they just lost trade secret status through voluntary disclosure.

Re:Outrageous (2, Insightful)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413660)

You forgot that KFCs secret recipe is protected in order to keep them competitive against their, uh, competitors. Microsoft forfeited that right when they stopped having competitors, that's why the DoJ got involved in the first place.

Re:Outrageous (1)

Entropy98 (1340659) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411412)

I think the IM clients are a bad example.

The IM clients rely on a central server that costs money.

A company using Microsoft's FAT format for its memory card isn't going to cost Microsoft anything.

Starting your own disk format is much harder than your own IM client.

Really, I've always thought that its the file formats that are keeping Microsoft in their position.

For instance if you could load windows drivers in Linux, or Mac I think Microsoft would be in serious trouble.

Re:Outrageous (3, Interesting)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411612)

yeah right how dare they not just do it all for free right? there's no reason you can't charge a license for a protocol, just like any other piece of software. there should of course be nothing preventing you writing a competing protocol or your own clean room version. that's why patent are bad, but this is not.

Re:Outrageous (1)

bit01 (644603) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412174)

there's no reason you can't charge a license for a protocol,

Bullshit. There are many reasons why charging a license for a protocol is bad. The fact that you are dishonestly pretending there are no reasons is telling.

---

Don't be fooled, slashdot is not immune, like most social networiking sites it is full of lying astroturfers dishonestly pretending to be objective third parties rather than paid company propaganda.

Re:Outrageous (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412224)

telling in what way, that i don't agree with you? judging by your sig maybe you think i'm paid or something - if you know somewhere i can get paid for pointing out the obvious like i am, sign me up!

but seriously, are you suggesting if i come up with a protocol for transfering data between x and y, i shouldn't be able to charge people to use it? i've already pointed out i don't agree with patenting a protocol, so please don't waste time retreating into that.

Re:Outrageous (2, Insightful)

bit01 (644603) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412302)

telling in what way,

You didn't respond to my main point. Dishonest.

judging by your sig maybe you think i'm paid or something - if you know somewhere i can get paid for pointing out the obvious like i am, sign me up!

Not explicitly stating you are not an astroturfer and trying to distract. Dishonest.

but seriously, are you suggesting if i come up with a protocol for transfering data between x and y, i shouldn't be able to charge people to use it?

Pretending there are no reasons why this is a bad idea. Dishonest.

---

Don't be fooled, slashdot is not immune, like most social networking sites it is full of lying astroturfers dishonestly pretending to be objective third parties rather than paid company propaganda.

Re:Outrageous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413402)

I hate posts where people are just suddenly jackasses for no reason, and it makes me turn into a jackass for that reason

And I hate the common trend of baseless accusations of astroturfing against anybody whose opinion varies from the one held by the accuser.

"You didn't respond to my main point. Dishonest."

What are you talking about? You didn't make a point. You alluded to a point by saying there are "many reasons" without stating any. That's dishonest. And leading. You're asking your opponent to make your arguments for you.

Besides which, you didn't respond to his question. Dishonest.

"Not explicitly stating you are not an astroturfer and trying to distract. Dishonest."

Jesus Christ. I guess everyone has to spell it out every time. For the record, *I am not an astroturfer*. I am a guy who is tweaking a little on the rudeness of your posts (I am not the GP either). And I guess you have no reason to believe me. Why would it matter if he failed to explicitly state he was an astroturfer anyway? Do you feel that real astroturfers cannot or will not lie about astroturfing directly, or are any more or less likely to respond in such a way?

Also, how the hell is he trying to distract? You're the one who brought the point up by saying it was "telling". Especially since you are heavily implying in this sentence that you believe he is an astroturfer by pointing out that he didn't say so explicitly. You're trying to distract without making any substantive points of your own and then accusing others of your tactics. Dishonest.

"Pretending there are no reasons why this is a bad idea. Dishonest."

Give a reason. And note that the fact that I'm asking for one doesn't mean I'm declaring there can't be any. But we can't have any sort of discussion when your entire argument is that there exist arguments. Here you are making a meta-fallacy by baiting for a strawman argument.

I'm posting this as an anonymous coward. It may very well be that this makes me an astroturfer and / or dishonest or something.

Maybe slashdot is full of liars, but telling liars from truth-tellers is a notoriously hard problem (except for twitter's sockpuppets, which were blatantly obvious). Meanwhile, astroturfer-paranoia is an excellent way to insulate your worldview. Even the truth-tellers are bound to disagree. And funny enough, if astroturfing is prevalent, then some of the people you agree with are bound to be astroturfers. You know there are plenty of companies and individuals with plenty of money with a vested interest in the same opinions you have, almost no matter what opinions you hold.

Re:Outrageous (1)

kismet666 (653742) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414554)

Good response AC. Go read Bit's other posts, a few are coherent but most lack arguements and many are full of insults like 'astroturfer.' Maybe his erratic behavior is caused some sort cyclical issue with medication or alcohol:)

Re:Outrageous (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413600)

For all your pomp about dishonesty, you are doing a pretty good job of poorly reading "there's no reason you can't charge" as if it says "there's no reason you shouldn't charge".

Your attitude is that I shouldn't charge you for my booklet about what my various smoke signals mean, you need to go further than repeating your attitude to establish that I can't charge for it.

Re:Outrageous (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414904)

Protocol licensing really isn't all that bad unless you try to be sneaky about it, i.e., with a submarine patent.

Re:Outrageous (2, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412354)

That is in fact the case here. According to the article, some of the protocols are encumbered by patents. I can't imagine what kind of patent you can get on a protocol, but that is the sorry state of the matter.

Re:Outrageous (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413154)

This isn't about software, this is about a specification, and they can charge money for anyone who implements the specification, clean room or otherwise.

Re:Outrageous (3, Insightful)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413274)

You might be able to patent a *particular* implementation of the protocol, but if you think you can patent a 'protocol', you don't understand what a protocol is.

Its like patenting a language. Can you imagine someone patenting English, or French, and then in order to speak it, you'd have to pay a license fee? I'm not talking about books on learning the language, or video courses, or whatever, I'm talking about the language itself.

Re:Outrageous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30414102)

A protocol is not a piece of software. An *implementation* of a protocol is a piece of software.

You shouldn't have to create your own protocol - in fact, you should avoid creating your own it if at all possible - because sharing a protocol means that various pieces of software can interoperate, hugely increasing the total value of the system and avoiding vendor lock-in.

Re:Outrageous (1)

Korbeau (913903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411810)

The license agreement says you are only allowed to use their BBQ sauce on Microsoft approved pizzas. And before you know, these pizzas will be degraded.

I'd say any pizza with BBQ sauce on it is already pretty much degraded!

I'd go for baconnaise instead!

protocols (3, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411120)

Since when protocols are something you can license? They're pretty much available for everyone, technical details available or not. Protocols really shouldn't be limited by licenses.

However on another case, Blizzard has [slashdot.org] been fighting such too [slashdot.org] against cheaters on their games.

But really, what law do you violate if you're using a "licensed" protocol? I haven't heard of such cases before.

Re:protocols (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411216)

Protocols aren't any more open than any other piece of code. I can develop a completely closed protocol that governs how one of my own programs interacts with one of my other programs. If you attempt to use the protocol without my permission, you would likely be guilty of unlawful reverse engineering under the terms of our old friend the DMCA, which prohibits reverse engineering except in very limited circumstances.

Re:protocols (2, Informative)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411334)

The DMCA only prohibits reverse engineering to circumvent "copy protection" mechanisms. It would be circular reasoning to assert that the copyrighted material being protected is the protocol itself.

Re:protocols (4, Informative)

Brandano (1192819) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412170)

Not only that, the DMCA explicitly allows reverse engineering of software in order to allow for interoperability with other applications:
see paragraph (f) here:
http://static.chillingeffects.org/1201.shtml [chillingeffects.org]
Microsoft has no ground to stand on from the copyright angle, so it's attempting to imlpement the same limitations from a software patent angle. Which currently has no value in most of the civilized world.

Re:protocols (4, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411536)

Protocols are not code. Protocols are methods of interaction between pieces of code, even if the code is methods of interaction embedded in hardware. That these methods could possibly be considered as something that should be protected by some sort of intellectual property agreement is a testament to how far we've fallen from the root assumption of Unix: that all things should be able to connect to all other things whenever physically possible.

This is the mindset that brought us DRM, all of Sony's stupid proprietary media formats, and an iPhone that won't tether.

I'm sick of it. I have enough stuff that doesn't connect to my other stuff. I'm not buying any more stuff that doesn't connect to the stuff that I already have. I'm not using any systems that require proprietary licensing to connect the stuff I have to the new stuff I buy. I'm done with all that stupidness.

Re:protocols (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411306)

protocol design is a difficult and important process. by designing a protocol for something that performs better than existing ones, you can gain competitive advantage. if this advantage then disappears because everybody else can just copy the results of your hard work, i'm pretty sure anybody would be pissed. IANAL, but it seems to me that a company should be allowed to make money from their own work.

Re:protocols (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411498)

It is extremely rare that a protocol becomes a competitive advantage because of their quality, mainly because designing a protocol in most cases isn't really very hard. Usually the only reason to keep a protocol secret is to keep competitors from interoperating with your software, which is why Microsoft was convicted of being a monopolist in the first place.

In fact I can't think of any protocol that was kept secret because it performed better at the time. Maybe some old networking protocol or something. I can think of a ton of protocols that were kept secret purposely to prevent interoperability. Here's a few:

SMB/CIFS
CDMA diagnostic port protocol
Blizzard online game protocols
IPodITunes protocol
Skype
AIM protocol
MSN chat protocol
Yahoo chat protocol

There are others. Fortunately reverse engineering a product for the purpose of interoperability is allowed under the DMCA. That is one of the bright spots of that legislation.

Re:protocols (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30412738)

Fortunately reverse engineering a product for the purpose of interoperability is allowed under the DMCA.

Any reliable/authoritative source and citation to prove that?

Reliable/authoritative does NOT mean Wikipedia, by the way.

Re:protocols (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413318)

Oh, I know I know the answer to this question!

The DMCA itself. There. Simple! Read it.

Re:protocols (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30413388)

That's bullshit. DMCA does not allow that. What do you say to this?

Re:protocols (1)

thejynxed (831517) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413744)

Lrn2read, plz. A poster up the chain already posted the relevant article and subsection specifically stating that reverse-engineering is allowed as long as it isn't used to circumvent copy protection mechanisms.

Examples:

Reverse-engineering Windows Genuine Advantage: Illegal period.

Reverse-engineering the protocol your cell phone uses to transfer data from your computer to the phone and vice-versa: Not illegal, caveat being if it is protected by DRM mechanisms. Encryption doesn't count as DRM (Yet. We'll see what those turds in Congress add later on if enough weasel words and money are exchanged).

Note: Reverse-engineering stuff for the iPhone/iPod is in kind of a gray area, as most things from the Apple store come with DRM of some sort, and if that DRM is in any way applied/extended to the transfer protocols, it may be illegal to reverse-engineer the protocols, even for interoperability with other online music stores. There hasn't been any court rulings on this as of yet.

Re:protocols (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414936)

Except in the case of DRM, anything done for interoperability must first circumvent copy protection because the copy protection is an integral part of being interoperable.

Even better for the companies is that you HAVE to implement the DRM. Failure to do so is a violation of the patent license you need to even use the format period.

Re:protocols (1)

LaminatorX (410794) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413812)

The prior poster is correct. If you actually read the text of the DMCA, it provides a specific exemption for interoperability efforts. That's what was such a crock in the DeCSS cases. DVD Jon was specifically writing a Linux DVD player, which should have been clearly allowed by the letter and spirit of the statute. The judge made a catastrophically bad ruling.

Re:protocols (2, Interesting)

roystgnr (4015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413780)

Blizzard online game protocols ...
Fortunately reverse engineering a product for the purpose of interoperability is allowed under the DMCA.

That's assuming, of course, that you can convince a judge that your purpose was interoperability. Last I heard, it was still illegal to make a client interoperate with Blizzard's servers [massively.com] , and illegal to make a server interoperate with Blizzard's clients [eff.org] .

Re:protocols (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411378)

Some of the protocols are covered by patents, and some of the protocols have documentation that must be licensed, it isn't all available free, unfortunately.

Ahh, shit (2, Funny)

inode_buddha (576844) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411148)

Here we go again, clumsily trying to do the interoperability dance. It reminds me of deja vu all over again...

hey now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30411232)

stop with the Borg Bill Gates avatar. It's so 90's!

Re:hey now (0, Offtopic)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411564)

The Borg Bill icon rocks, and I miss it since I turned the icons off because they were giving my Blackberry fits. I should turn them back on now that Slashdot has upgraded its interface to the point where I can no longer /. on my BB.

Or maybe this is an appeal for /. to detect my BB browser and give me a thinner home page so I can once more get my /. on while driving in heavy traffic. Hm.

Re:hey now (1)

awyeah (70462) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411664)

Speaking of government regulation... I know there are laws against talking on the phone sans hands-free... laws against texting... I wonder if there are any laws against visiting Slashdot.

Re:hey now (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411964)

I do believe more and more states are outlawing "Distracted Driving," which is a catchall that covers texting, talking without handsfree, receiving oral sex on the freeway, slashdotting, Farking, flogging the dolphin and watching TV or movies on your portable. Kids these days, once they get off our lawn, seem to be offered less fun than we had.

Naturally proper Libertarians are going to have a problem with that. I'm a Libertarian, but not a proper one, so I don't have a problem with these laws as long as I don't get caught violating them. If I do get caught of course I'll be upset about the constitutional implications of limiting my civil liberties. Actually I'm probably more of an ambivalent anarchist. I don't really believe in the anarchist philosophy, but at least it trends more toward liberty than the situation I'm in. Should we trend more toward a purer form like Somalian Anarchy, I'm sure I would become more conservative. I'm not a big fan of group antisocial atavism.

Oh, hell I've trapped myself. I'm symbolset, and I'd like to call myself a "rationalist" as defined by a system of evaluating the situation and making reasonable judgements based on the available evidence in a calm manner with the presumption that "do nothing" is usually the best course - but unfortunately the "rationalism" token is taken [wikipedia.org] some 2400 years now by Socrates. Frankly he did OK, but Kant messed the whole thing up and that's what people attach to that symbol so I need a new one.

Pending a better symbol I'll call my personal philosophy Frzygy. Fellow Frzygists, unite (unless you don't want to)!

Decision to force them to document more protocols (3, Interesting)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411250)

An interesting side effect of the DOJ's decision to force Microsoft to document more of their protocols was that internal Microsoft employees have found their job easier and the teams more efficient.
I stumbled across this tidbit while research for a final paper about software patent (good/bad/why/alternatives). You can read about it here [ssrn.com] .

Re:Decision to force them to document more protoco (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411340)

Any hope for something similar when it comes to MS Office and Exchange?

Re:Decision to force them to document more protoco (2, Informative)

Foredecker (161844) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411542)

Oh, do you mean these :)

Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Protocol Documentation [microsoft.com]

Here is the announcement from Feb 2008: Microsoft Makes Strategic Changes in Technology and Business Practices to Expand Interoperability [microsoft.com] .

Bing is your friend. [bing.com]

-Foredecker

Re:Decision to force them to document more protoco (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411628)

Given the article, don't you think your protocols link is a little rich? Especially given the similar exFAT [theregister.co.uk] licensing article from yesterday [slashdot.org] ?

You're open or you're not. There's none of this licensing the protocol nonsense in "interopability".

BTW: I'm not stalking you. It seems we're interested in the same stuff. I haven't hit your blog link yet - I've been busy selling your products and blind links from that thread merit the due caution of access from offsite hosting through a proxy or seven, which takes more time to set up than I've had.

Re:Decision to force them to document more protoco (1)

Foredecker (161844) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411972)

No worries :)

What is a 'blind link'?

-Foredecker

Re:Decision to force them to document more protoco (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412156)

A blind link is a link to a server that's not known good, or a link to an URL shortener like j.mp [slashdot.org]

Microsoft advises against clicking blind links, and that's good guidance. It's talking to a wall since Twitter almost requires those links, and it's the hot tech right now. Of course I have my own URL shortener service so I don't have to use other people's.

I'm not worried about you piercing my anonymous veil, since once you've been online as long as I have, "whois username" will almost always pierce that veil. Bing me and drop by the house one day - I live near you and wouldn't mind a visit around 7PM on a weekday. I would actually like to meet you in real life as I think I would like you in person. I prefer to keep my symbolset handle separate from my work and daily life to ensure my family and employer aren't tainted by my opinions, but I do believe what I believe and I am a person and you can find me if you want to, just as I can find you. I'm sure if you wanted to, you'd know who I was by now. It's just that that particular thread lends itself to "funny" links that hose your machine. I do that myself now and then. I don't mind the occasional funny hosing, but I've got work to do and my random hosable machines are all busy today.

When I have time and sufficient separation from client data, I'll click it and read what you had to say - and then burn the VM to be sure I didn't pick up any stray software along the way. In a more congenial context I tend to be less careful, but the Internet is what it is. I don't even know that you are who you claim to be. Though the timing of your comments against world events is persuasive evidence, persuasion is not proof.

I am a little worried about you setting the evangelists after me. I sell several $M/yr of your products at work and only point out your weaknesses in my free time, but giving me more free time and less selling time is part of the self-destructive behaviour I expect from your gang.

Re:Decision to force them to document more protoco (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412598)

By The Way: this is not a request for an interview. I would rather clean septic tanks than work for your company, and the local septic company is always hiring (FlowHawks [google.com] ).

Charge them for speaking english (1)

L0stm4n (322418) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411350)

I mean they didn't invent it. Their using of this critical interoperability protocol without payment to the inventors is ludicrous.

just my 2 cents ( paid in full to the anglo-saxons )

Re:Charge them for speaking english (1)

ewhac (5844) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411386)

They'd switch to Loglan [loglan.org] .

...Actually, they'd make trivial, incompatible changes to the language and call it Microsoft Loglan.

Re:Charge them for speaking english (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411934)

Really? Cool.. James Cooke's estate, will be collecting some massive royalties from MS for use of text written in Loglan :)

Re:Charge them for speaking english (1)

neltana (795825) | more than 4 years ago | (#30414284)

They'd switch to Loglan [loglan.org] .

...Actually, they'd make trivial, incompatible changes to the language and call it Microsoft Loglan.

Meanwhile, FSF would promote Lojban [lojban.org] , the free alternative that forked back in 1987. Many flame wars would ensue.

Congratulations! (4, Funny)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411552)

Congratulations, Microsoft, and allow me to offer this toast:

May you attempt to create a revenue stream and inhibit competition, and continue to poison your long-term success by limiting others' ability to create novel goods and services with your platforms.

May your long, slow, demise be as stealthy as a panther in the night, so that you may continue not to understand until it is too late to recover and your war chest is too depleted to purchase any particularly egregious laws during your death spasms.

And finally, may Steve Ballmer always be your public face. He is nearly as amusing as Sarah Palin.

:)

Re:Congratulations! (4, Funny)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411748)

And finally, may Steve Ballmer always be your public face. He is nearly as amusing as Sarah Palin.

You software hippies are just afraid of Steve Ballmer because of his good looks, his charm, his masculinity, his Christianity, his ability connect to the common user and his overall wonderfulness!

Re:Congratulations! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30412198)

Yes, someone who throws chairs about so handily must press a lot of benches.

Re:Congratulations! (1)

Jaxoreth (208176) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412240)

You software hippies are just afraid of Steve Ballmer because of his good looks, his charm, his masculinity, his Christianity, his ability connect to the common user and his overall wonderfulness!

Yawn. Wake me when he's the mother of five children.

Re:Congratulations! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30412970)

Yawn. Wake me when he's the mother of five children....

... who don't know how to use contraception.

Re:Congratulations! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30412484)

Your forgot his chair-throwingness!

Re:Congratulations! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30415306)

Yeah...Tales of Microsoft's demise have been greatly (and over a long period) exaggerated.

And MS is the most developer friendly company in the world, so they have plenty of others creating novel goods and services with their platforms. But nice try, rabble rouser.

Did Microsoft made yet another mistake? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30411836)

OK. So the government order Microsoft to document the protocols. Microsoft then does what the government asks. Now the government acknowledges that Microsoft has done what was asked.

Somehow, the comments here make it seem like Microsoft made yet another mistake. Wasn't this what they asked Microsoft to do?

Re:Did Microsoft made yet another mistake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30412104)

The problem is with Slashdot Assumptions(tm): First, Microsoft is assumed to be evil. Secondly, evil entities don't comply with lawful orders unless they're able to subvert them somehow.

Therefore, Microsoft must have somehow subverted the intent of their compliance to benefit them... Somehow. It's the underpants gnomes argument, but stupider:

1) Microsoft is evil!!!1!!1!eleven!!
2) Whatever they do is evil!!!
3) ...
4) M$ == EVIL!

Re:Did Microsoft made yet another mistake? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412178)

OK. So the government order Microsoft to document the protocols. Microsoft then does what the government asks. Now the government acknowledges that Microsoft has done what was asked.

Somehow, the comments here make it seem like Microsoft made yet another mistake.

This is Slashdot. Hereabouts, the ultimate Microsoft mistake is that it exists in the first place.

Well, some softer guys would settle at MS releasing all its existing code under GPL, and switching to producing a fully libre Linux distro with drivers, blackjack, and hookers.

Microsoft undocumentation :) (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413584)

"OK. So the government order Microsoft to document the protocols. Microsoft then does what the government asks. Now the government acknowledges that Microsoft has done what was asked. Somehow, the comments here make it seem like Microsoft made yet another mistake. Wasn't this what they asked Microsoft to do?

No, they were asked to open the specs not, after much delay, publish a mishmash of source code and API calls and then charge other compamies to connect their computers to their-own customers computers. What's difficult about producing an RFC [wikipedia.org] . No doubt this undocumentation [sonic.net] will be as deliveratly obscure as their previous efforts in that department ...

Trade barriers (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412236)

Nice, another trade barrier. You can't use this protocol unless you pay $x. At least, if you live in the USA. If you live in a country where interoperability is a right, you now have documentation to help you attain it. If you live in a country where the $x barrier to entry doesn't exist or isn't enforced, you can now make your product $x cheaper than your competitors in the USA.

Interoperability: brought to you by the European Union and the People's Republic of China while companies in the USA fought expensive legal battles over chump change.

Samba has a license for many of the key patents (5, Informative)

tridge (3078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412340)

Before everyone gets too worked up, please look at this:

http://samba.org/samba/PFIF/ [samba.org]

Samba and any other free software project (via the PFIF) has a royalty free license to most of the patents that are important for these protocols.

There are some patents that are excluded from this (see appendix 4 of the agreement for a list of the excluded patents), and we do indeed need to avoid infringement of those patents. That has not so far proved to be an insurmountable obstacle, although it is an inconvenience.

Cheers, Tridge

Re:Samba has a license for many of the key patents (1)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#30413518)

The Samba project and the people who work on it are truly amazing: Consider Tridge's statement that a salvo from the batteries of one the world's largest and most aggressive software corporations is a mere "inconvenience". That should tell us a lot about the power of individuals and open source! Yay! At the same time I wish that Samba was less necessary. I wish that there were good Windows drivers for the many excellent open source distributed file systems etc. that are out there, so that people weren't "forced" to use the crappy Windows protocols to achieve interoperability. Yes, I'm aware of such initiatives but none are as widespread and easy to use as Samba. Unfortunately I'm not smart enough to do anything about the situation.

mod 3o3n (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30412820)

POOR PRIORITIES, there are some not Bgoing to play in ratio of 5 to the future holds OpenBSD leader Theo empire in decline,
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