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PlayStation Reverse Engineering Stands Up In Court

timothy posted about 14 years ago | from the chalk-one-up dept.

Games 138

hobbs writes: "The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Sony, suing Connectix (Bleem) for reverse engineering their PlayStation BIOS. This wasn't about copyright, just reverse engineering, which the courts say fell under "fair use". CNET Article
I find this interesting in the States since reverse engineering here is not usually well accepted/protected legally."
This seems like a small clearing in the creeping intellectual property tangle. Of course, that law suit probably wasn't any help to Bleem, despite the outcome. [Updated 3rd Oct 0:13 GMT by timothy] Thanks to the several readers who have pointed out by e-mail or in comments, as Kufat does, that "Bleem is not made by connectix. Connectix makes Virtual Game Station; Bleem is a competitor to VGS."

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PS2 (1)

FortKnox (169099) | about 14 years ago | (#738473)

Playstation 2 is due out shortly. Why would they still care?
PS2 is supposed to allow you to play PS games, also. They should have nothing to worry about...

-- "Microsoft can never die! They make the best damn joysticks around!"

Re:$150,000 (1)

Darth (29071) | about 14 years ago | (#738474)

i dont work there or anything, but on a guess i'd say equipment costs, rent for their business' offices, paychecks for the guys who reverse engineered it, etc.

personally, i expect the total cost is more than $150,000 in that respect.
(which is to say that, to me, that number does look little.)

Darth -- Nil Mortifi, Sine Lucre

Re:Logic - no land for the courts (1)

Nastard (124180) | about 14 years ago | (#738483)

If its okay to emulate a Playstation, and the Playstation 2 can play DVD's...

I don't really get how this falls under fair use (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 14 years ago | (#738484)

Last time I checked, fair use covered criticism and classroom use, not reverse engineering, which is what this is. But I guess times have changed. I'm not familiar with the "fair use doctrine" cited in the article. I mean, I look at the statutes I'm familiar with and I don't see the word doctrine anywhere :)

Mind you, they're not now using the Sony bios, right? So they should not be sued for using it today, which is the only thing fair use COULD cover - And it wouldn't. Or at least shouldn't. If Sony is going to sue them for anything, they should sue them for the arguably illegal (though stupidly so) reverse engineering.

I own a playstation. I do not own Bleem!. I don't own a mac, so VGS would do me no good regardless. I play my playstation games (all of which I've paid for, so far) on a real playstation because the experience is complete; Sure, Bleem! and VGS might have better graphics (Bleem! certainly does) but you just have to spend more money to use a dual shock controller, and my television (25") is bigger than my monitor (19").

So, I wasn't following the saga from day one, but if Connectix was distributing Sony BIOS with their systems at any point, they should be punished. If the only thing they ever used it for was reverse engineering, that's more or less protected and they didn't do anything wrong.

That's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Re:$150,000 (2)

ichimunki (194887) | about 14 years ago | (#738485)

First, Connectix VGS and Bleem are separate, but similar products.

Second, Sony is probably correct that it didn't cost much more than $150,000 to develop VGS. Even if it cost $1 million, this is 1/500th the cost that Sony had to develop the machine, which at the time was a very advanced machine.

Third, the reason Sony sued Connectix was that they purported that VGS was only developed because Connectix literally copied the BIOS from a Playstation (a little like copying ROMs for MAME). I do not know that factuality of that statement. It appears that Connectix went through some serious hurdles to make sure they had a comletely from scratch replacement, but that they may not have been as rigid in doing so as to avoid a lawsuit.

Sony brings up the financial issue partly to distract from the real issue, but partly to demonstrate how easily this supposed copyright infringement (as opposed to outright reverse engineering) assisted Connectix in becoming a Playstation competitor.

We should all be very grateful to the 9th District court and the Supremes on this one, since it looks like this will ultimately cause the MPAA a lot of trouble as they continue to litigate against DeCSS, DivX, and any other DVD players, decoders, etc, which are not sanctioned by their lackeys, er, members.

Re:This is a beautiful thing. (2)

interiot (50685) | about 14 years ago | (#738486)

Bleem! doesn't allow people to copy Playstation CD's, it only allows them to play them.

DeCSS allows people to both view/play and copy DVDs to different format.

I believe this is the crucial difference.

Hmmmm... (1)

cluening (6626) | about 14 years ago | (#738487)

If we can reverse engineer stuff legally (take that, cuecat!), then can we reverse engineer One Click Shopping too? It seems like a pretty simple idea, and coming up with a clean room implementation wouldn't be that hard...

Only Denial of Preliminary Injunction Upheld (4)

Cy Guy (56083) | about 14 years ago | (#738488)

The cnet story is very poorly written, so I understand how it was interpretted by the original submittor, but Supreme Court ruling only confirmed the 9th Circuits ruling [] that SONY was not entitled to injunctive relief, therefor allowing the release of the Mac version of Virtual Game Station.

Here is today's ruling as report by the wire services. AP [] .

"The court, without comment Monday, let Connectix continue selling its Virtual Game Station until a lower court rules on Sony's claim of unfair competition."

Re:This is a beautiful thing. (1)

betaray (1268) | about 14 years ago | (#738489)

I wish companies would depend upon trade secrets. Then all they'd have to do is keep their employees under NDA and that'd be the end of the IP war zone. Companies realize however that their "secrets" are extremely obvious once they show their implementation and that's why patents and the DMCA exist.

As I tell the president of my company (and anyone else who'll listen) I'm all about protecting implementation, but trying to protect a process is just plain wrong!

PC-DOS (1)

Vermifax (3687) | about 14 years ago | (#738490)

They didn't distribute Sony's BIOS, they distrubuted their own bios. It just so happens that both Sony's bios and Connetix's are capabable of running Playstation video games. Reverse-engineering has been upheld as fair use for at least as long as we have had PC's


connectix vgs != bleem (3)

bran880 (84112) | about 14 years ago | (#738493)

Connectix's VGS emulator is not Bleem (made by Bleem Inc.). IIRC, Bleem didn't use the bios at all and Sony couldn't sue them over that.

Decompilation (1)

tuxrules (227341) | about 14 years ago | (#738494)

It's a good thing that we are allowed to decompile things. It's such a good way to learn how things work. This right should never be taken away.

Bleem rocks (1)

JurriAlt137n (236883) | about 14 years ago | (#738496)

If they actually get out of this without a major lawsuit on their ass then I'll be the first to cheer. Don't expect so, though...

$150,000 (1)

clinko (232501) | about 14 years ago | (#738499)

I'm not an accountant or anything, but how does bleem cost $150,000 to produce? Here's the claim: "Sony says it spent three years and $500 million to develop PlayStation and now faces direct competition from a company that spent only $150,000 in development costs. The Connectix Virtual Game System lets personal computers run games designed for PlayStation" I would assume that sony would want to lie and make this number look little, not as big as it is.

This is a beautiful thing. (4)

sulli (195030) | about 14 years ago | (#738501)

The impact on other cases such as DeCSS may be quite substantial and positive. After all, what are LiVid and related tools but a VGS-like implementation to play DVDs? And if so, is not css-descramble just a component of such a solution? If this sort of reverse engineering is protected under fair use, then so also DVDs, methinks.

Thank heavens for the Ninth Circuit.

Re:Good news (1)

(-)erd of (ats (218158) | about 14 years ago | (#738502)

Anonymous Cowards, take note: Telling a moderator what to do is always the fastest way to (-1, Flamebait).

Re:Of course (1)

GReaToaK_2000 (217386) | about 14 years ago | (#738503)

A_friggin_MEN!!!!!!! I am glad to see that I am not the only one who IMMEDIATELY saw the DeCSS implications. That was a complete mistrial IMHO. (DeCSS fiasco)

Lets see... It is OK to reverse engineer Sony's P2, BUT BAD!!! Norwegian hacker for reverse enigneering the completely corrupt, monopolistic bastards of the MPAA's CSS. Just shows you that the Judge truely was biased.


Don't need overbroad IP protection (2)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | about 14 years ago | (#738504)

Umm you don't need copyright protection to protect your trade secrets! That is a whole different type of intellectual property! Also, you don't need the DMCA and prohibitions on reverse-engineering to have either a workable copyright system or a system where companies find it worth while to be involved in "information-based" business (Information Technology, Content providers, etc).

Unless you are going to try to argue there was no innovation or content developed before the DMCA was passed. In which case I'd ask whether you worked for the MPAA, the RIAA, Microsoft, or just forgot to take your medication. :)

Re:Implications for DeCSS, CueCat, etc. (2)

interiot (50685) | about 14 years ago | (#738505)

Methods can't be copyrighted, they can only be patented. DeCSS isn't patented * [] .

DMCA covers devices that control access to copyrighted works (eg CSS). AFAIK, changing the delivery method is all good, as long as the new method also prevents copying.


Adam Wiggins (349) | about 14 years ago | (#738506)

Sheesh, I should hope that this trick isn't illegal. Otherwise one could argue that 20 years of IBM PC-combatible hegemony was all based on an illegal technology.

Re:Implications for DeCSS, CueCat, etc. (1)

Dust Puppy (63916) | about 14 years ago | (#738507)

You can't copyright a method (algorithm), only an implementation of it. You can patent an algorithm (at least in the USA) but I don't think that algorithm is patented. You can also just keep it secret (as they tried to do) but that offers no protection if the secret leaks out (as the MPAA have discovered).

Re:Sony doesn't make money on the actual console (2)

bonzoesc (155812) | about 14 years ago | (#738508)

&ltsarcasm&gtThe hardware prices drop off even faster for consoles, because the hardware is more outdated than PC hardware.&lt/sarcasm&gt

You're correct with that assumption that consoles don't drop off sharply in price because their vendors realize that they have a guaranteed customer (the PlayStation, after release, didn't get any less popular) and they can keep the prices high on their outdated components for longer than they ordinarily would.

Tell me what makes you so afraid
Of all those people you say you hate

Sorry Signal 11... (1)

Tairan (167707) | about 14 years ago | (#738509)

It looks like what you did ould be considered reverse engineering. I doubt you will be seeing your seize and desist [] letter as you wanted. I suppose this is a good thing!

Re:Hmmmm... (1)

sqlrob (173498) | about 14 years ago | (#738510)

That's a patent. Reverse Engineering a patented thing still falls under the patent.

Re:Implications for DeCSS, CueCat, etc. (1)

jayfoo2 (170671) | about 14 years ago | (#738519)


True or false?

A version of DeCSS with encryption would be legal

This isn't necessarily good... (2)

MeowMeow Jones (233640) | about 14 years ago | (#738520)

Since the Supreme Court is refusing to hear the case, they're not doing the one important thing the Supreme Court does:

Setting a precident

Without a precident there's no reason a company won't do this again in another case with the same circumstances.

Re:$150,000 (1)

Codejack (236355) | about 14 years ago | (#738521)

whatever the amount of money, sony will want to make the number appear reasonable (I.E. large enough to be believable by your average american). If bleem cost so little, then we have 2 major points to consider
1. why would they lie?
We can easily imagine some enterprising young computer geek coming up with 10 grand to start a company, but $150000? then it looks like a battle of large companies, and who cares. just don't pick on the little guy
2. why did Sony have to spend $500 million to develop something that took $10000 to steal?
how irresponsible were the executives at sony to be so careless? what will the stockholders think? better make that number look big so as not to get the entire board of directors fired.

My take (1)

interiot (50685) | about 14 years ago | (#738522)

Here's my take on it... reverse engineering is perfectly legal, if done right. Releasing public documents that completely describe the protocol is fine. Using the knowledge of the protocol to write a program that circumvents copy protection: bad. Even if it's trivial to go from {description of protocol} to {program that copy unprotects}, it's still illegal to do.

Re:Sony doesn't make money on the actual console (1)

apathyruiner (222745) | about 14 years ago | (#738523)

AFAIK Sony and other console companies do indeed make money off the actual console, and the retailers don't. While working at a retailer I checked the mark-ups on Playstations and their games and it seems that sony'd make more money off the part they sold us for $150-ish and we marked up 1% than for the part they sold us for $25 and we marked up 50%. Naturally more cash does come through game sales, but I'm sure they don't lose money on the actual console.

Totally meaningless. (5)

rjh (40933) | about 14 years ago | (#738524)

This is something which arises so frequently that it's become a major annoyance to the Court. The Court will deny cert ("deny cert" == "refuse to hear arguments") on a case, and presto, the popular press and most of America thinks that means anything.

It means nothing.

Denying cert only means the Court won't hear arguments. It doesn't mean the Court thinks the legal reasoning is correct; it doesn't mean the Court is approving the lower court's decision; it doesn't mean anything .

Many cases are denied cert because their legal issues are not as clear as the Court would like ("bad cases make for bad law", as the axiom goes), or the Court wants to give it a few years to let legal scholarship tackle the issues, or the Court thinks this is an issue which Congress will soon issue "direction" (read: legislation) on, or... any of dozens of reasons.

It is tremendously unwise to think that the Court's denial of cert means anything, no matter what the Court says in their response.

Don't get happy; the Court hasn't done anything for us.

Re:This is a beautiful thing. (2)

lameland (23851) | about 14 years ago | (#738525)

Actually, one of Bleem!'s selling points is that you can play "back-ups" of any playstation game, because Sony's copy protection scheme was not implemented.

That is why Sony is trying to get rid of it...remember, they lose money on every console they sell, they only make money through licensing. If everyone used Bleem! to play copied discs, they would be hurt.

Re:Implications for DeCSS, CueCat, etc. (2)

interiot (50685) | about 14 years ago | (#738526)

AFAIK, a program that read in a DVD and produced an MPEG that had SCMS (serial copy management system) on it, such that it couldn't be recopied... that would be legal.

reverse engineering is a time honored practice (3)

cluge (114877) | about 14 years ago | (#738533)

This wasn't about copyright, just reverse engineering, which the courts say fell under "fair use". CNET Article I find this interesting in the States since reverse engineering here is not usually well accepted/protected legally."

I find the last statement odd, reverse engineering is a time honored tradition that goes back a long way. Remember all the early "non-ibm" BIOSes were reverse engineered. The hoops that manufacturers went through to insure the integrity of the reverse engineering were pretty intense. For a long time reverse engineering for the BIOS was done as follows.

  • team 1 of engineers inspects pokes and generally fiddles with a known BIOS, and then writes a report on what a BIOS should do based on what they discovered the BIOS that they were fooling with did.
  • team 2 of engineers who have 0 contact with team 1 then use said report to design a new bios without ever seeing the source code or the other bios in action.
I think in most states laws were passed or clarified in Court so that the procedure became greatly streamlined. This allowed a lot of smaller players to get into business and do some reverse engineering WITHOUT needing to pay 2 separate teams of engineers. The problem had been some recent bad legislation that seems to contradict time honored reverse engineering/fair use laws.

The other problem is our patent system. I think this is a small victory, the real challenge lays ahead. That challenge is deciding what can and cannot be patented.

Too bad that it had to drag on for so long before a decision was rendered. If your pockets are deep enough you can sue, even if your wrong. The technological window time wise is so small that any chance your competition had is gone before the litigation is finished.

I wonder what this means for Cue cat?

The Illuminati (2)

FortKnox (169099) | about 14 years ago | (#738534)

Here's the "real" story :
They got the code, not by reverse engineering, but through the illuminati (they know everything, ya know)...
The courts jumped in, but since the illuminati move everything with their 'invisible hand', and have such immense power, they forced the courts to concede. And the courts did.
To further prove my theory, this post should get moderated down to -1 soon after I post it, so those that actually see if will know the truth!

-- "Microsoft can never die! They make the best damn joysticks around!"

It seems (2)

jjr (6873) | about 14 years ago | (#738535)

To be only legal when big companies do it. But not when individuals do it. Well I hope that the cue:cat hackers get thier day in court and win.

Re:Good news (2)

interiot (50685) | about 14 years ago | (#738536)

Connectix reverse engineered the Playstation for the purpose of allowing Playstation games to interoperate with an IBM-PC. This is fully covered under the DMCA. Nothing has changed.

Re:Implications for DeCSS, CueCat, etc. (2)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | about 14 years ago | (#738537)

Wrong on both, unfortunately.

The DMCA is not about circumventing a copyrighted protection method. The copyright status of the method is irrelevant to the DMCA. THe DMCA is about circumventing a protection method that protects a copyrighted work. The relevant copyright is on the protected work, not the protection method. This is an important distinction. Also, you can violate the DMCA without infringing copyright, as they are two seperate charges. "Fair use" will get you off on a infringement charge, but not on a DMCA charge. Judge Kaplan's ruling set that precedent, unfortunately. (Just ask the DeCSS defendants who have been ordered to not deal in DeCSS, and to pay the court for the procedings against them.)

The DMCA states: "No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title".

Check out the relevant section of the DMCA for yourself: 17 USC 1201 []

Re:Implications for DeCSS, CueCat, etc. (2)

dillon_rinker (17944) | about 14 years ago | (#738538) you patent an unspecified device that implements the algorithm. This patents the algorith for all practical purposes, as it prevents anyone else from creating a device that implements the algorithm without your permission. This would also preclude writing software which causes a computer to implement the algorithm.

Re:It seems DVD (2)

josepha48 (13953) | about 14 years ago | (#738539)

This decision seems to NOT make any sense what so ever. Weren't there areticles a few months ago if not weeks on how the Linux DVD hackers were getting flack about this? Didn't they get sease and decist orders or something? They took the device and reverse engineered it and came up with drivers and now where are Linux DVD drivers?

I think it is a political / money issue. Where is Sony and the Connectix? sony is based out of japan, is Connectix us based? hmm.

I also wonder who is shelling out more money here?

I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
Flame away, I have a hose!

Re:PC-DOS (1)

um... Lucas (13147) | about 14 years ago | (#738540)

So then whatever became of the companies that tried reverse engineering Apple II's (anyone remember the Laser 128?) and Macintoshes?

go here (2)

josepha48 (13953) | about 14 years ago | (#738541)

For the product.

I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
Flame away, I have a hose!

Reverse Engineering vs. Patent Infringement (1)

nicknow (239258) | about 14 years ago | (#738542)

Okay...Isn't there a clear difference between patent infringement and reverse engineering. To revers engineer all parties involved have to be CLEAN...meaning they have never seen any of the patent protected code. This is the part that the DeCSS people have to show as a defense. That they in no way used the patents or code they covered to break the DSS encryption. If everything is clean then the court is going to give you 1st Amendment protection. What you cannot do is use the patent protected products to learn how they work and break the encryption they use. Example... In my new SuperCool Widget Program you know that if the CD data contains: MHBJ GQ ALLI and this is displayed as: NICK IS COOL Then if you can figure out the coding scheme all is OKAY. But, if you have any access to the code then you are in violation of any patent I have. In other words, as long as the DeCSS guys NEVER EVER looked at inside of the DVD players then all should be COOL! Remember that unless you are using an IBM you are probably using a reverse engineered BIOS (never looked but I presume this ThinkPad probably has a RE'd BIOS). IBM tried to prevent this by publishing the source code to their BIOS...thereby reducing the number of available CLEAN engineers. Luckily some were found who were smart and had NEVER seen the code. If any of this is wrong then feel free to correct me...I'm just an idiot who likes to type. oh, yeah...the Supreme Court didn't rule on anything. They just declined to decide the case until all issues relating to unfair competition were decided by lower courts. They prefer to rule on complete cases, rather then bits and pieces.

Re:This Goes back to the IBM days (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 14 years ago | (#738543)

Remember way back when there were no IBM clones?

If i am not mistaken, Phoenix was the one that
reverse engineered IBM's bios and made their own,
thus allowing us to use IBM clones.

Also remember the court case that followed, it
was even back then turned over. One of the very
first cases involving intellectual property, of
this nature.

Re:PS2 (1)

Tremul (190113) | about 14 years ago | (#738544)

I believe that there fear is that they will contineu their tactic of reverse engineering and do the same with PS2. The signifigance of doing it with PS1 is that they can preemptively stop them from repeating with PS2.

Re:Fair Use (2)

cot (87677) | about 14 years ago | (#738545)

There is a difference between interacting with a program to understand how it works (or writing a second program to interface with it) and just dumping the binary to look at the machine code.

Almost certainly the latter is illegal, which I believe is what you are talking about.

If you can look at the machine code and make use of it in your own program, just look at ALL the machine code and you can copy ALL of their software! That can't be right.

Hmmmmm... (1)

Phokus (192971) | about 14 years ago | (#738546)

I think this was supposed to be marked (+2, Funny), but whatever :-P

not so fast (2)

troyboy (9890) | about 14 years ago | (#738554)

The district court in the DeCSS said that it does not matter if the anti-circumvention provisions prevent fair use. The judge claimed that that must have been the way Congress intended it to be. Of course, this nonsense should be reversed, but that won't directly follow from the Connectix case.

Re:Implications for DeCSS, CueCat, etc. (1)

Codejack (236355) | about 14 years ago | (#738555)

this is what the courts are trying to determine, and why sony is very happy with this outcome. Bleem and vgs probably do not cost sony much at all. i have a very fast computer, but play games on a playstation just for the controllers. sorry, microsoft, but the sidewinder xxiii3v just doesn't do it for me. also, how many people are going to spend $150 on new computer equipment plus several hours to avoid buying a playstation?
anyway, this is the best outcome for sony, and by extension, the entire entertainment industry. basically, one of the two ideas expressed in jayfoo2's post should be correct, and evetually, one of them will be. but for now, sony wants to keep it as ambiguous as possible, so they can have their cake and eat it too. as long as the laws aren't clear, they can sue anyone even remotely involved and be able to twist the laws to suit what they try to say. when the laws get cleared up, sony will be stuck with one or the other.

Re:Implications for DeCSS, CueCat, etc. (1)

jayfoo2 (170671) | about 14 years ago | (#738556)


but considering how poor the security method was for CSS, can it really be called 'effectively' controling access.

(yes I do know that it's the other meaning of effectively, just being a wiseass)

Re:This isn't necessarily good... (2)

molog (110171) | about 14 years ago | (#738557)

But the precedent was set. They refused to hear the case, thus validating the lower courts decision. This precedent is now nation wide unless I don't understand something. If I am wrong please correct me, as I would rather know the truth then be right.

So Linus, what are we doing tonight?

Re:This is a beautiful thing. (1)

Milinar (176767) | about 14 years ago | (#738558)

Perhaps I'm mistaking what LiVid is (the commercial Linux DVD player, right?)

If I'm not, then the people that make it are paying massive licensing fees to the MPAA for the privlege of using DVD technology.

I'm kinda doubting that Connetix payed Sony licensing fees.


Re:Logic - no land for the courts (3)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | about 14 years ago | (#738559)

See, the "encoding" of the programs into a form executable by a Play Station is intended to let them run on a Play Station. It was not specifically intented to "effectively control access to a [copyrighted] work.". So the DMCA doesn't apply. Now if Sony releases a new Play Station, deliberately encrypts their games' code (even with a trivial 1 bit encryption) and makes the new Play Station decrypt the code to run it, and intends the encryption to "effectively control access to a [copyrighted] work." (specifically their games), then they could win a DMCA suit.

So all the need to do is say it contains some encryption routine, implement their XOR 0xFF encryption or something similar, use it in their new games and consoles, and presto, reverse-engineering it is now illegal in at least one jurisdiction. Law is strange, isn't it?

Thank goodness I'm not a lawyer, I couldn't force myself to deal with such illogical laws on a day to day basis, I'd go nuts.

Re:Fair Use (2)

rlk (1089) | about 14 years ago | (#738560)

A better analogy would be disassembling your own copy of Photoshop. But ask a lawyer first.

Re:Decompilation (1)

sqlrob (173498) | about 14 years ago | (#738561)

No, DMCA does not take that right away. It is allowed for purposes of interoperability. Running PS disks on a PC sounds like interop to me.

Re:Implications for DeCSS, CueCat, etc. (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about 14 years ago | (#738562)

If true, then how about a completely legal DeCSS that converts the DVD into a format encrypted by something truly difficult to crack, such as rot13?

Re:Totally meaningless. (2)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | about 14 years ago | (#738563)

Doing nothing is, by definition, doing something. By not even listening to the case, and by extention, not challenging the lower court's ruiling, they are giving their tacit agreement. The ruiling stands through the action of the higher court, even if the action in question is refusing to take action.

Re:Of course (1)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | about 14 years ago | (#738564)

Still wouldn't work. Some for profit company needs to release an unauthorized DVD player for Windows (a "respectable *cough*, corporate" OS) which uses reverse-engineered CSS decryption, but which respects region codes, disallows copying, and enforces al the other restrictions of an MPAA/DVDCCA approved player. And charge $39.95 or more for it. THEY might have a better chance at winning. The MPAA/DVDCCA then, and only then, couldn't play the "hacker" angle. And the company might have a chance with a "restraint of trade" lawsuit. Since they could say they were trying to be a "legitamate" business doing "legitimate" things, and not "hackers" "breaking" people's systems. They'd probably still lose, since the MPAA/DVDCCA not only has more money but more legal clout with the judicial branch. Ugh, I can't stand the legal hypocracy.

Re:Implications for DeCSS, CueCat, etc. (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about 14 years ago | (#738565)

If you patent it, it is no longer unspecified.

Re:Logic - no land for the courts (1)

Another MacHack (32639) | about 14 years ago | (#738566)

The difference is the DMCA. It does not apply in the PlayStation case, it does apply in the DeCSS case. The MPAA case against DeCSS has nothing to do with reverse-engineering, and everything to do with DMCA anti-circumvention provisions. You may be thinking of the DVD-CCA case against DeCSS which was trade-secret related, and at least marginally relevant here.

innocent question (2)

pohl (872) | about 14 years ago | (#738567)

But doesn't a denial of cert mean that the decision of the lower court stands?

YES! (2)

Millennium (2451) | about 14 years ago | (#738568)

While not quite the ideal outcome, we can definitely chalk one up for The Good Guys here.

The ideal outcome for this would have been for the SC to hear the case and explicitly rule in Connectix's favor; that would make things a lot less ambiguous. But this is certainly much better than nothing at all (or worse, a ruling in Sony's favor).

Now, the inevitable question: how can this best be applied to DeCSS and the DMCA?

Sue for Damages (1)

bstadil (7110) | about 14 years ago | (#738569)

"Of course, that law suit probably wasn't any help to Bleem, despite the outcome". That is not totally true. Connectix/ Bleem can probably sue for damages caused by the suit, and most likely get their attorneys fee back. Second this is excellent news for the upcoming Bleem for DreamCast allowing us to play PS1 games andwith better graphics to boot. The DC Bleem keeps on slipping though. I think latest is early Nov.

looking for safe ground (2)

grovertime (237798) | about 14 years ago | (#738570)

i'm curious. in the blurb you mention that, in the States..... reverse engineering here is not usually well accepted/protected legally" - is it well protected elsewhere?


Capitalism +1 (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 14 years ago | (#738571)

This is a good thing. Does anyone else realize that this is one more precendent being set for the impending :CueCat case? Ha! I'd like to see them try! :-P

Implications for DeCSS, CueCat, etc. (4)

jayfoo2 (170671) | about 14 years ago | (#738572)

Now I'm not a lawyer, or even all that bright, but doesn't this ruling have serious implications for other 'products' that are created as a result of reverse engineering.

So my small brain spits out two theorys, anyone know which is (more) correct.

Theory 1.

It's the content that is copyrighted, not the delivery method, thus copying the content would be illegal, but changing the delivery method (i.e. DeCSS) is all good.

Theory 2

Hold on there sparky, this has nothing to do with DeCSS or anything else because the motion picture industry has declared the method itself copyrighted. Sony just missed that trick.


Logic - no land for the courts (3)

bonzoesc (155812) | about 14 years ago | (#738573)

Logically, if you can reverse engineer a complex computing device like a PlayStation, then it ought to be legal to at least link to the results of reverse engineering a simple encryption methond, right? Well, the courts seem to be unable to relate their results to each other for some sort of consistency. With this ruling (which is better than Judge Kaplan's against 2600), it can be reasoned that emulating a simple DVD player is as legal as emulating a PlayStation.

Tell me what makes you so afraid
Of all those people you say you hate

Connectix does NOT make Bleem (1)

Pzykotic (72530) | about 14 years ago | (#738574)

Connectix makes Virtual Game Station, and Bleem is made by, well, Bleem! Check your facts, guys :)

Re::CueCat reverse engineering covered by this? (1)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | about 14 years ago | (#738575)

Perhaps yes. Reverse engineering outside of the DMCA is now likely legal. Would the DMCA apply? Depends. Could what is being set out the CueCat, before the encryption be considered a copyrighted work? Quite likely not due to unoriginality,, since it is just a digital representation of the bar codes. DMCA prohibits circumvention of anything that "effectively controls access to a [protected] work." If it is not a protected work, DMCA wouldn't apply.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

Fair Use (1)

MyopicProwls (122482) | about 14 years ago | (#738576)

I didn't know this:

The 9th Circuit said Connectix's activities were protected under the ''fair use doctrine,'' which permits copying of software when necessary to understand the way a program works.

So, if I'm a assembler programmer and I just can't at all figure out how Photoshop is performing matrix multiplication on the pixels of an image, I can copy Photoshop legally from my buddy with the install disks and peek at the bytecode to figure out the algorithms? Is that right?

I mean, that would make sense to you and me and the rest of Slashdot's readers, but that makes sense to the lawyers that wrote the fair use laws?


Re:YES! (1)

studerby (160802) | about 14 years ago | (#738577)

Reverse engineering was legal before and is legal now. What's ambiguous about that?

Despite Sony's squeals of anguish, this was settled law since 1993 and the Sega vs. Accolades decision. It's no suprise, and is based on the fundamental distinction between copyright law and patent law. Functionality can only be protected by patent, and only if it's novel, and for a much shorter time. Only the creative expression in a program is protectable by copyright, and only so far as to not interfere with the recreation of function. Sony was basically trying to extend copyright to protect function, and was quite properly kicked in the teeth by the courts.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision from February that explains this reasoning is here [] .

Re:I have some stinky information here: (1)

Kalabajoui (232671) | about 14 years ago | (#738578)

Well, that takes degeneracy to a whole new level. Thats right up there with goatsex. I had my clean monitor to view it through, and still found it utterly sickening. I shudder to imagine what it would be like to happen upon a situation like that in person.

Capitolists Always Win - Opensource Always Looses (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 14 years ago | (#738579)

One thing I don't think people are realizing is the formula behind thiese, seemingly-unsimilar judgements. It's quite simple really: If you are company [Bleem! / AMD / Microsoft / etc.] who is making money off of reverse engineering another product everything is okay. If you don't make money off of it, cances are you will loose the case [DeCSS / Napster / etc] But if you take something that was free, and turn it into something profitable, you get pats on the back [Microsoft J++ / Linux Real-Time OS / etc] If you take a look at the trials on the subjet, you will see it almost always holds true, not just in the examples cited here. I don't think I need to tell you the sad / sick nature of this double standard.

Re:This is a beautiful thing. (1)

Aqualung (29956) | about 14 years ago | (#738580)

Ahh, but the counterpoint to that argument is that for every player who buys a Bleem system to play legit bought disks, they're getting free licensing fees without losing money on the hardware. Food for thought...

MicrosoftME®? No, Microsoft YOU, buddy! - my boss

Re:PC Clones (1)

iCable (225467) | about 14 years ago | (#738581)

I agree, without reverse engineering there would not have been PC Clones, or a WINE for Linux.

You have two teams, a dirty one that reverse engineers the BIOS, and a clean one that never saw the BIOS code, but programs a new BIOS to the same APIs that are listed by the dirty team. The result is a Playstation Clone BIOS.

BTW why isn't Sony suing those Mod/Stealth chip makers instead of the PSX Emulator companies? The Mod/Stealth chip makers allow a PSX to run pirated (copy protection broken, or a CDR copy) or games from Japan, etc.

BTW has Sony even tried to sue that group that made the freeware PSXEMU emulator? Or just the commercial ones?

Re:PC-DOS (1)

josecanuc (91) | about 14 years ago | (#738582)

I believe that Laser did not reverse-engineer Apple II's. They just took the ROMs out of trashed/old Apple II's and put them in their own system, which had a very similar architecture to Apple II's.

They didn't copy Apple's ROM, nor did they come up with their own, they just used Apple's in a non-apple machine.

Re:This isn't necessarily good... (2)

underwhelm (53409) | about 14 years ago | (#738583)

When the supreme court refuses to hear a case without comment, the lower courts decision is binding in its jurisdiction, but there is no nationwide precedent set.

So in another federal district, a similar case could be heard and decided differently, and there would be discord that the supreme court would be more likely to resolve.

Of course, as has been mentioned, this is just the appeal of the Preliminary Injunction, so the trial hasn't even taken place yet. It's not surprising that the SC didn't rule on it since it was a reasonable decision.

Re:Capitalism +1 (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about 14 years ago | (#738584)

Sorry, but I just can't seriously believe that there is an impending :CueCat case. Even a lawyer has to have some starting point or legal justification for a case; they have to at least point to some law. In the :CueCat incident, there isn't any.


Still no PSX emulator for WIn2000 (2)

AFCArchvile (221494) | about 14 years ago | (#738585)

...though it's entirely possible. It would involve the software developers at Bleem! or Connectix to get off their duffs and convert the executable to Win32; as they stand right now, they will only execute in Windows 9x. I didn't filch the Volume 10 Sony demo disk for nothing!

Re:Logic - no land for the courts (5)

kaphka (50736) | about 14 years ago | (#738586)

Well, the courts seem to be unable to relate their results to each other for some sort of consistency. With this ruling (which is better than Judge Kaplan's against 2600), it can be reasoned that emulating a simple DVD player is as legal as emulating a PlayStation.
Fortunately, the courts are still smarter than most Slashdot posters. (Congress is another story...) They actually read the laws... and they know that the DMCA [] prohibits reverse engineering of copyright protection technologies. VGS is not designed to "circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title." DeCSS is. (I know, it's a little more complicated than that. I've been through all the arguments.)

So, to answer all those wise asses who ask, "Am I violating the DMCA when I use an emulator? Am I violating the DMCA when I view the source of a web page? Am I violating the DMCA when I wash my socks?": No.

I highly recommend that everyone read the text of the DMCA, as linked above. It's an important issue which will only become more important in the coming years, so it would help if everyone knows what they're arguing about.

Re:innocent question (2)

underwhelm (53409) | about 14 years ago | (#738587)

Yes, but it is not a bining precedent nationwide, just in the lower court's jurisdiction.

Nothing to do with DeCSS (3)

kaphka (50736) | about 14 years ago | (#738588)

I've posted this in reply to another comment here, but that's just going to get buried, and everyone else here seems to be making the same mistake. IANAL.

The Connectix case was about traditional copyright law. Sony said, "Reverse engineering is illegal!" Various judges said, "No, reverse engineering is not illegal."

The DeCSS case is about the DMCA [] . The MPAA is saying, "Reverse engineering a copyright protection mechanism is illegal!" It remains to be seen what the judges will say to that, but the DMCA seems to be on the MPAA's side.*

Let's try some basic logic here.

"It is not always illegal to reverse engineer."
"It is illegal to reverse engineer a copyright protection system."

Those two statements do not contradict eachother. Consider:

"It is not always illegal to swing a baseball bat."
"It is illegal to swing a baseball bat at someone's head."

Does that help? I'm sorry if this is not the most articulate explanation, but people constantly misunderstand legal issues due to a poor grasp of simple logic. I can't think of a better way to explain it, so I have to settle for speaking slowly and using small words.

* I know, there's a lot of room for argument here, but it's still a very different situation.

Re:PC-DOS (1)

DickBreath (207180) | about 14 years ago | (#738589)

The cost to reverse engineer the Macintosh (even the original one back in 1984) was so high as to effectively prevent it. This was done on purpose by Apple to prevent clones.

The Macintosh ROM's were not some simple "BIOS" that is easily reverse engineered.

This gave Apple several benefits. ROM is difficult to clone. All the good stuff in ROM saves lots of (at the time) RAM and disk space. Consistency in the applications because of the incentive to use the large library in ROM.

I believe that Executor is the first semi-successful reverse engineered Apple ROM. That is, it doesn't use any Apple ROM or system software, but is compatible. Other Mac emulators require a ROM image file. Hardware solutions (such as for Amigas) required a physical ROM from an old Mac. Other projects, such as MOL [Mac on Linux running on a PPC box] take advantage of the ROM already in the machine.

There were even goodies in the ROM to help Apple if they ever had to prosecute a rip-off ROM. In 1987, I saw an article showing how to drop into the debugger, enter a jump instruction to a fixed ROM address. A teeny tiny graphic appeared in one of the upper corners of the screen, with a barely legible "Stolen from Apple Computer" in pixels. I'm sure after this was revealed, future ROM's had similar measures. Some of them no doubt, quite elaborate. Some of their newer machines years later were discovered to contain huge full-screen graphics of the designers, or of an animated movie of a waving flag.

Re:Fair Use (2)

FigWig (10981) | about 14 years ago | (#738590)

So it's illegal to look at in a hex editor? I think not. It would be illegal to copy significant portions of the code for my own product, but looking and understanding is ok. I could then write a report about it, give the report to another engineer, and he could implement a replacement. This is called clean room reverse engineerng and is how Compaq first produced a PC-BIOS clone.

Re:Totally meaningless. (2)

Fervent (178271) | about 14 years ago | (#738591)

There's a more important reason why it's meaningless. The Playstation is no longer a viable system to drive profit share.

Granted, it still has a few games coming out for it (amazing considering the console's age), but I've never actually seen a court go after a emulator for something that wasn't currently profitable.

Keep in mind the PSX's age, the introduction of the PS2 and the N64/Ultra HLE case. The Ultra HLE N64 emulator was almost immediately taken down, because Nintendo was going to sue the makers for lost profits. The PSX is old and by the time this particular case came around the courts no longer wanted to hear it.

I'm hedging my bet that if someone creates a PS2 emulator within the next year (a much more impressive task, given its highly customized chips) that Sony will go after them immediately, and the courts will cite the emulator as a much more viable case of profit loss.

Good news (2)

imp (7585) | about 14 years ago | (#738592)

This certainly is good news for people working to interoperate with other people's software. It also goes a long way towards pulling the fangs of the DMCA, which tries to limit reverse engineering of circumvention devices. This should be a boost to people who are doing the CUE Cat stuff since they aren't even copying the software, and even if they used the decompiled binaries to get an understanding of the protocol (which isn't strictly needed, given how easy it was to figure out), they would be safe.

I wonder what affect, if any, it will have on the DeCSS case?

PC Clones (2)

wmoyes (215662) | about 14 years ago | (#738593)

Keep in mind, if it wasn't for reverse engineering, we would not have PC clones. No Dell, no Compaq, no AST.

What we really need is a free (beer and speech) development environment for the newer console systems.

I just can't wait... (1)

AntiPasto (168263) | about 14 years ago | (#738594)

to do combo's on a reverse-engineered playstation emulator just by swiping barcodes of combo's with my :CueCat ;p


Re:Sony doesn't make money on the actual console (1)

Dalroth (85450) | about 14 years ago | (#738595)

I'm sure Sony makes plenty of money now. They won't make any money on the first few shipments of the Playstation 2, but don't forget, Console systems get cheaper with time just like PCs do (economies of scale). It's just, the prices don't drop off as sharply with the consoles as they do with PCs. The PC manufacturers have to sell their equipment just above cost, otherwise they won't survive long in the market. That's competition, and that's good. Console systems are mini-monopolies in a lot of ways and can price gouge all they want.

Of course (2)

Auckerman (223266) | about 14 years ago | (#738596)

Reverse engineering is EXACTLY how the WinTel PC industry began. As long as one does a clean room reverse engineering and doesn't violate patents, there really isn't much anyone can do about it other than spend a lot of money loosing in court.

It is only a recent trend where reverse engineering has been given a bad name (DeCSS). More specifically, when someone over at Connectix makes a playstation 2 BIOS, its okay. Yet, when someone over in Norway figures out who DVD players work it's piracy. The distinction between the two is Connectix is a for profit company, while distributers of DeCSS are Hackers. As well all know, what is good for a company is good for America and Hackers (like those evil 2600 kids) are out to destroy the nation.

So logically, what needs to be done is some "Hackers" need to start a for profit company to sell DVD players for Linux (at .$50 a download) and see what happens.

Re:looking for safe ground (1)

kalislashdot (229144) | about 14 years ago | (#738597)

Reverse engineering is well protected in Russia.

Re:This is a beautiful thing. (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 14 years ago | (#738598)

Actually, you are wrong. There are laws reguarding trade secrets. One such law states that if someone just flat out broke in and stole the recipe for Coca-Cola and published it, Coca-Cola could sue that individial and order the recipe off the web (or whatever). Anyone that saw it will have to pretend like they didn't and may not use the formula.

Re:connectix vgs != bleem (1)

hobbs (82453) | about 14 years ago | (#738599)

Right, my mistake. Someone else noted Bleem functions in a slightly different manner. However, that is actually irrelevant to the actual implications of the loss to Sony.

Re:This is a beautiful thing. (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 14 years ago | (#738600)

A VCR allows me to play and copy a VHS tape. One could argue that i could just buy a brand new VHS with no ware, and play it once into my computer recording it as an MPEG. Yet VCRs are perfectly acceptable, even though i've copied it to another format.

You don't need Bleem to copy PSX (1)

Gandalf_007 (116109) | about 14 years ago | (#738601)

PSX cd's are normal ISO9660, so all you need to copy them is Your Favorite CD-Writing Program (TM).

As a matter of fact, I remeber seeing some online store that had black cd-r's and advertised them as "good for copying playstation games." So there.

Re:This is a beautiful thing. (1)

DrStrange (72008) | about 14 years ago | (#738605)

It also could be a scary thing. Love or hate copyrights many of us who read /. regularly depend on our employer's "trade secrets" to keep our employers competitive and checks in our bank accounts. If this goes too far no product will be safe.

Copyright regulations exist for other purposes than preventing you from listing to MP3's and decoding DVD's ya know.

:CueCat reverse engineering covered by this? (1)

kacp (188529) | about 14 years ago | (#738606)

Since the high court threw out this decision, saying reverse engineering is covered by fair use, does this give any value to those playing with their :CueCats? I know some people have gotten flak from DC for reverse engineering, I'm just curious

Do you think....nah (1)

Highlordexecutioner (203297) | about 14 years ago | (#738607)

Does this mean I could reverse engineer DVD encoding and get away with it. More than likely not, but it would piss off the MPAA so it might be worth it.

Re:Decompilation (1)

Liquor (189040) | about 14 years ago | (#738608)

Reverse engineering is often the ONLY way to make things work. I thought the DCSS case was showing that the DMCA IS taking that right away.

(Yeah, the BIOS was encrypted - it had been converted from source code to harder-for-humans-to-read object code - I'm surprised that Sony didn't claim that Bleem/Connectix were circumventing an encryption method.)


Quote from the article for the DeCSS lawyers (2)

Masem (1171) | about 14 years ago | (#738609)

The 9th Circuit said Connectix's activities were protected under the ''fair use doctrine,'' which permits copying of software when necessary to understand the way a program works.

I think that this, plus the Betamax case, should be strong enough to make the DeCSS case go the right way on appeals. Heck, the PS case was under the shadow of the DMCA as well.

While ambious, I really hope that the DeCSS is the one that is pushed all the way to the SC to kill the DMCA bill, or at least provisions that trend on fair use. The 'success' of this case shows that the legal background is there.

bleem (1)

Dalroth (85450) | about 14 years ago | (#738610)

Thank God, now if only the MPAA and DeCSS suffer a similar fate.

And FYI, Conntectix does NOT make Bleem. VGS was originally created as a Playstation emulator for Macintosh machines. Bleem was made by, well, Bleem, Inc. for PCs, although they did port it to Dreamcast.

I purchased a copy of Bleem a few months back. I have to say, it is a nice product, for some games. It has been ages since they updated it, and I've still got one game I specifically bought Bleem for that doesn't quite run right in it. The Dreamcast port is nice, but I wish it wasn't at the expensive of supporting the PC version.
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