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Barcode Maker Responds After Forcing Drivers Offline

CmdrTaco posted more than 14 years ago | from the this-is-gonna-be-messy dept.

Censorship 743

Digital Convergence demanded last week that several developers take drivers offline that work with their "CueCat" barcode reader that was distributed freely through Radio Shack and through other places. They have taken the time to respond to the flak that they've taken, and I've attached their response below, interspersed with a few comments of my own. Read on to see what they have to say for themselves.

The following was sent in by Doug Davis from Digital Convergance. Plain text is his. Bold text is mine.

Digital:Convergence understands this Linux issue and the concerns expressed by the community. Had Digital:Convergence been approached by developers we would have been (and still will be) happy to work with them in a constructive direction. Instead, our products were reversed engineered and what has occurred is a public display of what is clearly our intellectual property. It is unfortunate the supporters of the open source community have taken steps to publicize intellectually property in-order to further their own goals and desires. Unfortunately, for us all, some of the people conducting these efforts would not voluntarily remove our IP, even after being contacted.

Thank god. These folks worked hard to write code to use this piece of hardware, and it would be unfortunate if they were forced to take it down. Imagine if Linus had been forced by Intel to take down kernel versions that used their intellectual property in the early part of the last decade. A lot of companies have bullied a lot of people in the last couple of years, and it's only getting worse. Your CueCat, like DeCSS, is going to redefine what IP is. Personally, I hope that when I get a barcode reader, or a DVD-ROM drive (or a car, or phone, or any other physical thing), that I'm allowed to rip it apart and tinker with it at my discretion. I think that's my right as a consumer.

In the strictest legal terms we had no choice but to proceed protect our interests. By posting our IP to the Net the Linux Community has forced us into a position of having to legally defend our technology . Under IP law if we don't PROTECT our IP, we loose any remedies under law to PROTECT our IP. This IS NOT ABOUT stopping hackers, but trying to get the "hackers" and such to WORK WITH US AND NOT EXPOSE US and destroy over 5 years of hard work by a group of "geeks, hackers and techno-whizzes" like each of you!

IP is a weird beast. If you don't defend it, you don't have it. I imagine if Adaptec or Matrox defended the IP created by the work of their "geeks, hackers and techno-wizzes" by forcing Linux driver writers to take down code utilizing their SCSI controllers, hard drives and video cards, their IP would also be unusable under Linux. Which is too bad because I use hardware that they created every day. Oh, and 5 years of development for "base64+XOR"?

Any professional and serious developer will understand the following: .........Unfortunately the Linux Community could of inadvertently created the WINDOW for the BIG companies to come in and control and profit from this process we have created. So if M$ or some other company decides to do what you are doing *for profit" and DigitalConvergence allows the open source group to continue with out proper licenses, DigitalConvergence could loose its ability to effectively stop them. The Linux Community would of actually had a DIRECT HAND in creating what it stands most vehemently against!

You start it off by saying "Any serious Professional will understand" which is a none-too-subtle way of saying, "If you're smart, you'll understand." Fortunately you don't say that any serious developer will agree. What you're saying is that the Linux community should happily take down the code out of fear of some big company (mentioning Microsoft is poor form: it screams like a bad political commercial where they mention a bunch of scary things just to make their ideas seem more true). If big scary Microsoft came along and released their own distribution, there is nothing we could do about it (provided that they played by the common rules of the GPL). That reality constantly exists, but that doesn't slow anyone down. It's not the point. If Microsoft wants to play by the rules of the GPL, I say let 'em. But by your logic, nobody should ever write and distribute source code, for fear that Microsoft would take it. That strikes me as a bit backwards.

It is our hope the Linux community will help us in our efforts by

  1. working with us to create a product to support your needs, and;
  2. stop and remove illegal posting efforts, and;
  3. encourage others in the Linux community to work with us hand-in-hand to develop a various solutions and useful applications. You too, can be part of this valuable tool and project!"

    The weird thing about open source development is that code gets written where programmers itch. I bet you'll find support for #1, but less so for #2. See, your itches might not be the same as their itches. We all define valuable tools and projects differently, and our needs might be a bit different then yours. I don't think that folks posting this code constitutes "an illegal posting effort" any more then I think posting a driver for a scanner does.

    Digital:Convergence supports the Linux/Unix community and plans to make a version of its software available for Linux available in the near future. Also, licenses are available for any developers wishing to work with any aspect of our technology. We welcome the individuals of the community to contact us and use a more professional, orderly and productive manner in adjusting our products to better serve, in tact and based fully upon our various Patents and Intellectual Property, your community, . Professional Licenses and Development contracts are available to the Linux/Unix community and we welcome your direct and professional contact.

    If I own a Ford, do I need a Ford wrench to fiddle with my engine? If I buy a frame, do I need a nail & hammer from the same company in order to hang a picture on my wall? If your tools are the best tools, and at the right price, then by all means, I'd happily use your nail & hammer, but we live in a marketplace where competition drives everything, and you have competition. You have the advantage: you have the technical specifications and the most developed tools, wheras the open source guys are groping blindly in the dark looking for answers. Oddly enough this groping is a large part of the fun. It's a challenge.

    And, by the way, the AT HOME - PERSONAL USE DEVELOPER LICENSE is $20 USD! So please, HELP US PROTECT, what a group of talented developers, have worked so very hard on for over the last 5 years!

    J. Jovan Philyaw - Chairman & C.E.O. ceo@digitalconvergence.com
    Doug Davis - President Technology Group ddavis@digitalconvergence.com

    I seriously wish you guys the best of luck, and hope you figure out a way to work with the developers who are writing this cool code. If you haven't alienated the developers, I bet they would be happy to work with you. My fear is that your business model is shaky: you've given away zillions of barcode readers, (no doubt at great expense) but failed to realize that they, like iOpeners and TiVos and Furbys and AIBOs and DVD-ROM drives and everything else physical, can (and will!) be ripped apart and played with by people. You're trying to use lawyers to take away people's rights to screw around with their own hardware, and that's a problem... your service strikes me as being about a lot more then a silly little barcode scanner and what people do with it. If your software serves a need, people will use it. If some hacker finds some cool other use for the hardware, maybe people will use their code too. This is very real, but this is a free country where we can tear apart our toys and rebuild them if we want.

    On a practical note, you have a website and a net service. Thats different. Thats not a physical piece of hardware that someone can hold in their hands. You should focus on that, and not waste your energy going after hackers who are just poking around with a cool piece of hardware. I'm not a business guy, so I don't know what the answers are, but I do know a dead end when I see it. And don't forget that the percentage of people who are actually gonna mess with this stuff is very tiny. You should concentrate on making your services better for the huge majority of your users who don't run Linux, and wouldn't run software other then yours even if it did exist. It's the blinking 12:00 syndrome. Most users just don't change the defaults.

    I'd also like to say something to the readers: don't get angry and attack these guys. They're just a group of guys trying to feed their dogs by coming up with ideas to make a buck. Yelling and screaming doesn't help anyone. It's easy to forget that every company is just a group of people trying to accomplish something; they aren't evil, even when they make mistakes or do things that we disagree with. But don't stop writing the code. I can think of many uses for this barcode scanner (like maybe software to index my DVDs?). It's still legal to reverse engineer, and that sure better never change.

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Still a bit vague on one thing.... (4)

luckykaa (134517) | more than 14 years ago | (#804171)

What Intellectual property?

DeCSS? (1)

mholve (1101) | more than 14 years ago | (#804172)

Is this gonna end up like DeCSS, with source code printed on ties and hidden in GIFs? :)

What does RMS have to say about this? Surely the source to GNU/Bar_Code can't be stifled!

Don't have to defend patents (1)

Tam-Lin (17972) | more than 14 years ago | (#804173)

I'm sorry, but the arguement that was made about defending IP or loosing it is simply wrong. If you have a trademark, yes, you have to defend it or loose it (witness Kleenex and Xerox, for example). That is not true of patents or of copyright, however. I think that in some cases there can be anti-trust problems with selectively enforced patents, but I don't see that being a problem here.

And, of course, IANAL, and YMMV.

Re:defense of whose rights ? (1)

Tiny Ego (113462) | more than 14 years ago | (#804375)

In your example, the tinkerer making a liability claim against the manufacturer of the microwave. Nobody is trying to make warranty or liability claims against Digital Convergence. They're trying to figure out how the beast works, and find new uses for it. To use a microwave equivalent of what Digital Convergence is trying to do: GE would be sueing you for intellectual property violations when you put a CD in the microwave to see what it would do (don't do this with a CD or microwave you like, by the way). It appears that Digital Convergence is attempting to control how you use their product, not just protecting their intellectual property.

Re:Uh.... (1)

gehrehmee (16338) | more than 14 years ago | (#804376)

Hah! This wouldn't be paying nearly enough respect to the people who spent YEARS developing the concept of bar codes! What you should really be doing is designing your own way to universally and effectively identify a product based on a small printed region!

Oh, and on that note, did you know that you have to pay licensing fees to Uniform Code Council [uc-council.org] for permission to make and sell products with UPC codes? I'm not sure how or if this applies to private, non-commericial use of the system, but it's something to think about nonetheless.

What about other uses of the barcode scanner? (2)

tjansen (2845) | more than 14 years ago | (#804377)

I wonder how they can forbid using their data format only because it is their invention.. how about other uses.. imagine the design and the shape of the device make it usuable as a bottle opener. Do they forbid me to use the thing as a bottle opener only because its shape is their IP and they give it away for free (assuming that I use it for other purposes than opening bottles)? Can they forbid me to tell other people that it is a great bottle opener and how to use it as such?
Probably not, every judge would laugh at them if they would try to sue me because I use their free gift as a bottle opener. So what's the difference?

Re:Calling Grammer Nazi (2)

Sinistar2k (225578) | more than 14 years ago | (#804378)

"Grammer" Nazi!?

The CEO and his pal had a number of grammar errors in their official response. They should have spent the past five years increasing their communication skills.

Why are they so upset about this? (1)

Black Perl (12686) | more than 14 years ago | (#804379)

Why are they so upset about this? There's only two reasonable explanations I can think of:

  1. They were planning to make money on the Linux drivers.
  2. They wanted to build in a tracking mechanism or other privacy-threatening features to benefit the advertisers.

If they were going to give it away free and/or open source, why would they be screaming about their IP? Besides, isn't it the case that an independently-written driver uses their IP, but cannot be their IP in itself? Obviously IANAL, but how can software I write become somebody else's IP, even if it works with hardware I purchased (or otherwise legally obtained) from them?

Re:defense of whose rights ? (2)

photozz (168291) | more than 14 years ago | (#804380)

You don't pull a microwave apart and put it back together then complain when you get radiation poisoning do you ? Why should this be any different ?
'cause no one is claming to be hurt. your talking about the "falling down an open manhole cover" syndrom. IE: idiots doing something to kill themselves. Reverse engenering a product is NOT ILLEGAL. they are not taking away money from these people. they are not cutting into their profits. are the police being sued for using superglue to find fingerprints instead of sticking things together?

Radical, but worth it? (1)

ThePolack (66673) | more than 14 years ago | (#804381)

This may sound a bit strange, but do we really need IP laws at all? I personally think the idea of Intellectual Property is a little silly. Once you share an idea with others (by simply telling them about it), it's no longer yours. Ideas are not property. An idea that isn't shared is useless, and an idea that is shared is beneficial to everyone who shares it. The whole idea of protecting ideas seems counter-productive to me.

And the biggest problem with IP laws is beyond philosphical reasoning. There are definite disadvantages to removing IP laws. I'm not blind to the arguments in support of IP.

But I personally think the disadvantages of IP far outweigh the advantages. I would much rather live in a world without IP than live in a world where IP is visciously protected and heavily guarded, a world of pay-per-play textbooks and absurd copyright lawsuits, a world where I can't even think about taking my computer apart for fear of criminal prosecution.

Re:Concerns warrented.. [sic] (1)

illtud (115152) | more than 14 years ago | (#804384)

I think the company feelings about this issue are quite valid. Someone should have contacted the company directly before just going out and doing directly without permission. I am not sure what the legality on this issue is, I am sure it is copyrighted in some manner.

Wow. You really don't understand, do you? You're asking that people shouldn't do things with things they own (which contain no licencable content - this isn't an IP issue, whatever the story says) without the permission of the manufacturer? I can't connect a barcode reader to my serial port, swipe a few codes and work out how to use the little electrical signals that come down the wire?

Is that really what you're saying??

Re:Waitaminute... (1)

Yohahn (8680) | more than 14 years ago | (#804386)

Who designed it is irrelavent (they aren't copying the design and making new scanners), who marketed it is REALLY irrelavent (they aren't trying to sell something under the same name.) The distribution process is also irrelavent (they aren't trying to distribute anything) All they did is took the output of the scanner and made it into something they could use.

If somebodys bad busness model makes them loose money, it's not my problem. It's their problem and their funders problem.

If they think that they leased the things, they should have used much more maticulous methodology. A Radio Shack guy asking me "hey you want a CueCat for free" is not a lease. I find shrink wrap licenses to be crap (IANAL, but unless shirnk wrap license laws have ben passed in your state, they will have a hard time (UCITA.. look it up).

Your argument is baseless and invalid.

One should not get something for nothing (true... but these guys messed up.) One shuold not give away something and then expect everybody to use it the way they want.

Re:A good point (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 14 years ago | (#804390)

Maybe the developers should have tried to contact the company to develop the product, instead ofjumping the gun an assuming the company wouldn't agree.
Why should they? I don't have to get Toyota's permission to develop, and share plans for, a new type of tire iron for my Tercel. I don't have to get the permission of Intel or AMD when I'm writing software that runs on my servers here.

Translation (1)

AppyPappy (64817) | more than 14 years ago | (#804391)

"We were giving something away for free and were amazed to see people taking them. They even thought they OWNED them!"

What a ridiculous situation. It's like Ford selling me a car and telling me I can only put Exxon gas in it because they own a bunch of Exxon stock.

Re:What would make this argument valid? (2)

mangino (1588) | more than 14 years ago | (#804392)

Then you would need a legally binding contract signed by both parties. You can't just hand somebody something and then say that it was given under a list of terms and conditions. You have the right to be notified of the terms and conditions before you accept them.

Also, doesn't the right of first sale come in to play here? Once they give it away, they are stuck with whatever I choose to use it for.

As one final note, I know that they will say encryption was broken under the DMCA, however, when you read this you are breaking my encryption of the post. I encrypted it by converting all characters to their ascii values. Everyone who reads this posted has now broken my encryption to view copyrighted material.
Mike Mangino
Sr. Software Engineer, SubmitOrder.com

Aren't they backwards? (2)

null_session (137073) | more than 14 years ago | (#804393)

Wouldn't it make more sense to charge for the hardware and give away the idea? It seems that they are giving away the hardware and then trying to sell the ideas. This is like trying to move pudding uphill using a rake. Let's take this into a different arena: Has anyone ever used Avon Skin So Soft? (the non US /.'ers might not get this one). Have you ever seen the list of things that SSS is supposed to be good for? Everything from bug repellant to engine de-greaser, right? The comparison would be if Avon tried to sell those lists but then give away the product. Does this make any sense? Of course not, but tech companies don't seemed constrained by the laws of good sense any more, do they?

I think(hope) that this is one of the effects that we will see from the open source revolution. Companies are going to have to quit selling poorly implamented ideas as a product and instead go back to selling more tangible items. Luckily all the smartest people are on the side of the revolution. Can you imagine what would happen if these guys had developed some REAL encryption? Can you imagine what would have happened if CSS would have consisted of solid technology?

Re:Destroying the Loss Leader business model. (2)

Misch (158807) | more than 14 years ago | (#804394)

It's like their renting you the device, not giving it to you - the price of the rental is that you pay them for it's use.

It's a little scary, isn't it? We seem to be lacking the ownership of ANY property... we LEASE our car from the corporation, we LICENSE our software from the corporation, the insurance company and the bank OWN our houses, homes, and land... we don't OWN the barcode scanner, it's given to us...

I'm just getting worried about all this now...

Re:DeCSS? (2)

HughG (109668) | more than 14 years ago | (#804395)

... source code printed on ties and hidden in GIFs? :)

Surely the source code should be hidden in barcodes, no ;-?

Re:defense of whose rights ? (2)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 14 years ago | (#804396)

They are defending their right not to have their intellectual Property reverse engineered and openly distributed.
There is no such right.
You don't pull a microwave apart and put it back together then complain when you get radiation poisoning do you? Why should this be any different?
Because no one's complaining about anything? Your analogy is a complete non sequitor. You have every right to disassemble your uwave and tinker with it, and to share your blueprints with the rest of the world.

Re:Destroying the Loss Leader business model. (1)

SteveX (5640) | more than 14 years ago | (#804397)

You own stuff you pay for. If you pay for your house, you own it - until then, the bank does. If you buy a car, you own it. If you lease a car, you don't. If someone gives you a barcode scanner...

Re:Concerns warrented.. (1)

geoGIF (19699) | more than 14 years ago | (#804398)

"...I am sure it is copyrighted in some manner."

It? What's copyrighted? You can't copyright a physical device (i.e. the cue:cat barcode scanner). I'm sure they own the copyright to their source code and the executable form of their drivers/software, but noone's illegally copying that. Some Linux hackers reverse engineered the protocol emitted by the scanner and wrote their own (completely indepented) drivers to read it and do something useful with it. What copyright is violated? What IP is violated?

Re:It's not their IP (1)

dingbat_hp (98241) | more than 14 years ago | (#804399)

NONE of their IP was stolen, or reverse-engineered

The piece of IP that was reverse-engineered was that which translates the scanned string to a URL. This is non-trivial (in a legal sense) and so is defensible IP.

Of course, in Europe (a neo-communist hellhole, according to most of /.), we have laws that protect the right to reverse engineer commercial products.

Re:defense of whose rights ? (2)

redhog (15207) | more than 14 years ago | (#804400)

Because in this case, we didn't complain. If we had came to their tech-support crying "I broke my reader while hacking Cue:Cat! Please help me!", that would have been another thing. But now they want to put a lock on the microwave to inhibit me from opening it an radiation-poisoning myself!

I am sad this happened in the EU. I was blue-eyed and thought that such things "only happen in the US". OK, the court havn't approuved it yet so it is yet just a stupid company atempting to frighten people. Perheaps we should try to get a law tthat forbids companies to frighten people?

Software practices applied to hardware (2)

puppet10 (84610) | more than 14 years ago | (#804401)

This rather poor reaction on their part seems to be thinking like a software developer when giving away hardware.

Software for a long time it seems has been developing these ridiculous licenses which the developer could make the end user "legally" bound to use their product anyway they wanted to. This has slowly built up to the point where the developers have and are attempting to pass legislation to protect these ridiculously broad IP "rights" which they have developed (ie DMCA and UTICA). These changes to IP make these developers think they can control their market by writing a license restricting the use of their software rather than designing a sound buisness model.

The problem is that this sort of use license shouldn't be available for any IP, in software or hardware.

What DC has done is attempt to extend these rights to a piece of hardware, and they can't seem to understand why this doesn't make sense to people. Oddly enough, people however still seem to think hardware that they have in their hands is theirs. Hopefully this attitude will be much harder to change than the attitude to software was.

That's exactly what it is... (2)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 14 years ago | (#804402)

This whole venture looks like another variation of the "let's give away something for free and hope we capture lots of customers forever" business model, ala free ISP's and pay-for-use browsers like AllAdvantage. I wonder how far out (if at all) their business plan expects to become profitable. The idea that you can give something away, and not expect a small few to start tinkering away at it, is foolish and short-sighted.

I just can't wait until these guys show up on fuckedcompany.com. They just made my pick o' the week...

Re:Have a dog and bark yourself (1)

update() (217397) | more than 14 years ago | (#804403)

...and more generally, this kind of line-by-line rebuttal has become standard whenever "The Community" responds to an viewpoint. To me, it comes across as a disrespectful, snotty cheap shot. If you're going to reprint someone's words, reprint them and make your response afterward. The line-by-line format, which I guess is intended to create an impression of, "Not one single word of this makes sense!", disrupts the original statement's flow and development.

I would much prefer to read and consider what both sides have to say than to halt and restart my train of thought while CmdrTaco interrupts with irrelevancies like "Thank god. These folks worked hard to write code to use this piece of hardware, and it would be unfortunate if they were forced to take it down."


Re:Be reasonable! (2)

radja (58949) | more than 14 years ago | (#804404)

>I'm beginning to think that many of the reverse engineering projects these days are losing site of the fact that they are destroying a potential revenue stream for the original developers.

So just cause a commercial app exists, I would have to ask to develop an alternative? I bet Linus never asked anyone they would allow him to make his own OS. the Gnumeric guys never asked M$ whether they were allowed to make a spreadsheet. Boohoohoo.. someone may not make money on a certain product. big deal. but how ethical is this: You can use the hardware we gave you. but only with our software. How else are we going to invade your privacy?


Legal Sleaze (1)

1alpha7 (192745) | more than 14 years ago | (#804406)

Pathetic. They don't have a legal leg to stand on, so they muddy the waters with crap like this. No, they aren't just trying to make a living. They are trying to salvage a badly screwed up business model by re-inventing the laws to support their position, to the detriment of all of us who are fond of computer freedom. Their hardware rights have little bearing on their software rights and that nonsense they wrote above reads like the worst FUD M$ ever wrote. Please, sue me. My attorneys will happily crucify this joke.


defense of whose rights ? (1)

vapour (102049) | more than 14 years ago | (#804533)

"...[I should be] allowed to rip it apart and tinker with it at my discretion. I think that's my right as a consumer."

But that's not their argument is it ?

They are defending their right not to have their intellectual Property reverse engineered and openly distributed.

You don't pull a microwave apart and put it back together then complain when you get radiation poisoning do you ? Why should this be any different ?

Waitaminute... (2)

mholve (1101) | more than 14 years ago | (#804534)

They're saying it took them five years of hard work, when the Open Source hackers did it in what, a few days, weeks? Hmmm...

Sounds like they oughtta hire some Open Source people! ;>

Yes, but... (5)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 14 years ago | (#804539)

Yes, but they don't have a legal leg to stand on. Nobody is misusing their intellectual property by using their hardware. Intellectual property would be a patent on barcoding, but they don't have one. Intellectual property would be a copyright, but I can use their hardware without breaking the shrink-wrap on their copyrighted software.

They should feel free to ask us not to use their hardware, but when they try to force us not to, I refuse to cooperate with their impolite request.

Have a dog and bark yourself (4)

Famous (210304) | more than 14 years ago | (#804542)


Whilst I can appreciate your desire to rip to shreds some of the specious arguments presented in this letter, I would humbly suggest in future that you refrain from doing so. The first law of public posting is that someone else always has a smarter angle on the whole thing than you do, so if you act in a restrained manner and don't rip into the offender, someone else will.

Or, to put it simply, next time just post the original letter and invite comments. This way, the Slashdot hordes (ranging from rabid to rapier-witted) can do the barking for you, whilst you can maintain a modicum of disinterested independence.

Please consider.


Funny (1)

mrfiddlehead (129279) | more than 14 years ago | (#804545)

It allegedly took the programmers 5 years to write the drivers for this thing (I'm not even sure what it does after all of this). I wonder how long it took the hackers to write their drivers.

Fsckin' suits

What would make this argument valid? (1)

Parsec (1702) | more than 14 years ago | (#804548)

If they are given away, they're yours to rip apart. But what if the company "rented" them to the end user?

What they should really concentrate on... (2)

ezzewezza (84083) | more than 14 years ago | (#804552)

... is a better grasp of the English language.

@#!! vendors using punctuation in products (3)

scotpurl (28825) | more than 14 years ago | (#804554)

:can't vendors! understand; just how freaking h@rd it is to read aNything and eVerything that's written about their freaking ~products using punctuation as product name?

Makes reading about :cue:cat, Earth First!, and Digital:Convergence painful to read.

ouch ouch ouch.

Their IP? (1)

Tyrannosaurus (203173) | more than 14 years ago | (#804569)

Why is it their IP?

Since when is originally written code, created through reverse engineering, somebody else's Intellectual Property? They asked the open source developers to remove their IP? And just how excatly do they propose to do that, if the renegade developers did not have access to their source code? What are they supposed to remove - the part that makes the driver work?


It's not their IP (1)

johnnyb (4816) | more than 14 years ago | (#804574)

NONE of their IP was stolen, or reverse-engineered. A driver was merely written. I'm sorry, but these guys are idiots. If current law upholds their complaints, this country is in a truly sad shape indeed.

$20 developer license (1)

martin (1336) | more than 14 years ago | (#804577)

Maybe if they'd more mention of the nice cheap developer licence they wouldn't have got the 'hackers' playing quite so much.

But then if they'd have 'mentioned' the license when requesting the removal of code from websites people would have responded better. (or did I miss something in all this) - were they polite or just use strong arm tactics...alot can be mis-contrued from how you do things

Concerns warrented.. (2)

NoWhere Man (68627) | more than 14 years ago | (#804580)

I think the company feelings about this issue are quite valid. Someone should have contacted the company directly before just going out and doing directly without permission. I am not sure what the legality on this issue is, I am sure it is copyrighted in some manner.
Definately this was approached the wrong way. This is not to say that I do not support the open sourced community, quite frankly, it is one of the best systems for designing software there is. But the right channels have to be used when dealing with other peoples work is concerned.

Re:Still a bit vague on one thing.... (3)

Drey (1420) | more than 14 years ago | (#804582)

Good question. I think what their gripe really boils down to is they're giving away hardware and attempting to build a software and service business model around that. If folks decode how their barcode reader works and can use it for other purposes, then people will have less incentive to use DC's software and services. When that happens, they lose their chance to recoup some of the investment they put out in freely distributing the scanner. All of this in my opinion, of course.

Protection of IP (4)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 14 years ago | (#804585)

This guy is confused. Trademarks and patents have to be defended. Copyright does not. He's talking as if they were the same thing. He needs to sit down and have a good talk (and listen!) with his lawyer.

The really sad part... (3)

milkman1 (139222) | more than 14 years ago | (#804588)

As I see it is that technologicly, the CueCat could have been made secure (from use by other than DC) by encrypting the barcode using a public key built into the CueCat.
Yes, that would have increased the price somewhat, but I would guess that thing thing costs atleast $20 anyways, waiting a couple of months before they released it, and using RSA would have saved them from having to worry about other systems using their expensive hardware.

Uh.... (1)

TheReverand (95620) | more than 14 years ago | (#804590)

If I own a Ford, do I need a Ford wrench to fiddle with my engine? If I buy a frame, do I need a nail & hammer from the same company in order to hang a picture on my wall?

On the flip side, if I want to develop QT apps for windows I need their toolkit. Why is that ok? Why can't this company want people to use their toolkit for their hardware? Because they haven't succumb to the GPV? Give me a break, this stinks to high heaven of hypocrisy.

Couldn't agree more... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#804591)

My suggestion would be a POLITE letter to these folks explaining that, no matter how hard they try to stop it, there are going to be people who are going to take the CueCat apart, reverse-engineer it, and post their notes on what they found. Pointing out the flaws in their business model may also be appropriate.

Trying to stop reverse-engineering is like trying to shovel water around with a pitchfork. Heck, I DEPEND on it to generate usable info about hardware that's no longer made or supported. Where would I (and other old computer/hardware collectors) be if someone decided "No, you have to buy all new stuff."

Perhaps the best way to say it (with apologies to the producers of "Field of Dreams") is: "If you build it, they will hack." It comes as naturally, and as unavoidably, to us engineering types as breathing.

This so-called "intellectual property" is not. (1)

Weasel Boy (13855) | more than 14 years ago | (#804593)

I sympathize with DC, but their claims that hackers are posting DC intellectual property are out of line. The only things the hackers posted were a description of the "language" used to converse with a hardware device, and code to implement an interpreter of that language. Last I heard, the law did not permit closing off a language or an interpreter of one as IP. If this is still the case, then DC is flat out wrong in their claims. If this is no longer the case, then I weep for yet another egregious erosion of our liberty.

Re:defense of whose rights ? (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 14 years ago | (#804601)

It should be different because it is different.

To continue your (very bad) metaphor, the people ripped open the microwave because it would only cook certain brands of popcorn. They have now fiddled with it, and it can cook any brand of popcorn.

Nobody was complaining about anything other than the fact that they weren't allowed to cook their popcorn. They were only allowed to cook popcorn deemed acceptable by the seller of the microwave.

Further, someone got something and wanted to play with it. What's so wrong with that?

FWIW, there isn't a law (not even DMCA) that prevents the reverse engineering of a physical product. Patent protection prevents one from making a copy or using unique aspects of the product, but this has nothing to do with IP.

Re:Uh.... (1)

Parsec (1702) | more than 14 years ago | (#804609)

On the flip side you could write your own QT work-alike.

I don't understand something. (5)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 14 years ago | (#804612)

Why they think that some third party developing a compatible driver is a violation of their IP. Does this mean that Ford, GM and Chrysler could sue Haynes and Chilton for publishing manuals on the repair of the vehicles?

In order to publish such a manual, one has to "reverse engineer" the car in question. Haynes even brags that every manual is "based on a complete teardown and rebuild" of the car that it's for.


Re:Uh.... (1)

TheReverand (95620) | more than 14 years ago | (#804616)

You could build your own bar code scanner.

AH HA! Thrice flipped!

He doesn't get it. (2)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 14 years ago | (#804617)

Not one of his replies really addressed the issue you were trying to bring up. I don't understand how people could be so blind to the fundamental reality of what you're saying.

I also don't get what intellectual property they're trying to protect. Once a trade secret is out, it's out, and has no more protection. I think this is even true if someone under an NDA leaks it. That's how they work. The only concievable thing I think they could claim for intellectual property is if they had patented the idea of scanning a barcode encoded URL and automatically sending you to the website.

Re:$20 developer license (1)

ps (21245) | more than 14 years ago | (#804619)

I doubt it. Why should I spend $20 to become a "developer" when I can just examine it for free? I don't want their software. I want their hardware.

Dogs? Attack dogs? (5)

Kaa (21510) | more than 14 years ago | (#804622)

I'd also like to say something to the readers: don't get angry and attack these guys. They're just a group of guys trying to feed their dogs by coming up with ideas to make a buck.

Their dogs are attack dogs, better known in certain circles as lawyers.

Their explanation is pure bullshit, starting with the fact that it is only for trademarks that the principle "defend it or lose it" is valid. Besides, what exactly intellectual property they are trying to defend from hackers? They are wonderfully vague on this point and the reason is that what they'd like to defend is not legally defensible. And spare me these sob-sister stories about five years of sleepless nights. There is nothing technologically interesting in their toy. They came up with a business plan which, as usual, didn't survive contact with reality. Film at 11.

I don't like guys whose knee-jerk reaction is to send threatening but legally meaningless letters.


"Just a couple of guys"? (3)

MaggieL (10193) | more than 14 years ago | (#804623)

The developers in question do come across as "just a couple of guys", and I hope they do manage to feed their dogs. But, having been to their website and read the industrial-srength legal fine print on *everything* there, the suits behind this thing smell like the very scariest sort, and I'd say the chances that they will be able to build a good relationship with the open source community are slim and none...and as we speak Slim is surfing at Travelocity. :-)

All this whining about "intellectual property" convinces me that the folks behind CueCat have a only the foggiest notion of what intellectual property is, and I think that the "crime" that the folks that made a kernel driver for the CueCat really comitted--what really freaked out the CueCat suits out-- was that they pried loose control of the valuable marketing information that CueCat is capturing and sending back to the CueCat servers. I think we should be watching very carefully to see what kind of things start showing up in that data stream...especially since I bet the "official" client software is quite capable of silently updating itself to do whatever the suits want it to.

Re:Waitaminute... (2)

Abigail (70184) | more than 14 years ago | (#804642)

They're saying it took them five years of hard work, when the Open Source hackers did it in what, a few days, weeks?

Excuse me, but all the Open Source hackers did was copying some software. They didn't come up with the idea, they didn't develop the hardware, they didn't design the production process, they didn't design the software, they didn't do the marketing, they didn't develop the distribution process. All they did was reverse engineering someone elses work and creative ideas. Timescales cannot be compared.


What IP are they protecting and how (1)

Ernest_Miller (117710) | more than 14 years ago | (#804646)

Digital Convergence says that it wants to protect its IP. However, it has yet to make clear what IP it wants to protect and under what legal theory. Come on Digital Convergence ... say something more intelligent than just "we don't like what you are doing, so stop it".

Re:Their IP? (2)

NoWhere Man (68627) | more than 14 years ago | (#804648)

IP was reffering to Intellectual Property.
Though from what I have read, that is not exactly what happened.

Misunderstanding of what IP is at stake (2)

catscan2000 (211521) | more than 14 years ago | (#804652)

From my personal use of the CueCat with version 0.0.4 of the kernel driver (/dev/cuecat is so awesome :), I'm thinking that their "5 years" of development was in making the processor in the CueCat itself. If you take your CueCat and scan something, you'll notice that you can scan forwards, backwards, sideways, upside-down, flipped to the right, to the left, and so forth. All of these methods work really well, and that obviously took a _lot_ of talent, IMHO.

However, the only thing that the Linux community has "hacked" is the communication protocol, _not_ the CueCat's microprocessor! If someone did hack it and publish the lithograph diagrams, for instance, then that would be a different matter entirely in my opinion. The Linux driver and the source code fits just the communication protocol, which any company out there could have easily come up with (who knows, perhaps some other devices already use that same protocol!).

Just my $0.02 ;)

Re:Have a dog and bark yourself (1)

ethereal (13958) | more than 14 years ago | (#804655)

I have to agree with that sentiment - the letter from Digital Convergence, full OF whacko CAPITALIZATION as it was, really didn't need a special write-up by the Cmdr. to make it look quite silly. Any serious /. reader will agree :)

I have no respect for these folks until they can state exactly what IP has been distributed. So far I have seen no evidence that this was not an instance of completely legal reverse engineering. The letter posted above seems to be an attempt to gain sympathy and build community without describing the real reasons (or lack thereof) that caused the crackdown.

Oh come on.... (2)

sdo1 (213835) | more than 14 years ago | (#804658)

This isn't about drivers, or Linux, or IP, or any of that. Their business is collecting data on the online habits of individual users and selling that data to the highest bidder. Failure to use their proprietary Windows drivers breaks their business model. Boo hoo.

Destroying the Loss Leader business model. (3)

SteveX (5640) | more than 14 years ago | (#804661)

Their business model is one I support, and one that I could see growing quite quickly - the one where you give people some physical thing that ties them to the service that pays for it. I don't think that it's a bad business model - but it needs legal protection because it would be very easy to destroy it.

It's like their renting you the device, not giving it to you - the price of the rental is that you pay them for it's use.

I think it would be cool if my Mom got a "free" device that would let her read Email and do basic Web stuff, even if it had a great big ad across the bottom (FreePC style). I for one don't want to see the business model that would permit that to happen, be destroyed.

IMHO if their license says don't reverse engineer the device, then pretend it didn't exist. I don't think it's your right to destroy their business.

Oh, and trying to say that this device isn't their business (that their business is the website and their services) is drawing attention away from the fact that, say, if someone were to write a handy Open Source app that let you take the ISBNs off your books and create a cool catalog of your home library or CD collection, suddenly they could have a million people wanting their "free" device. Oops.. now they can't give it away. Sure, the device isn't their business, but it's a vital (and vulnerable) part.

As for the Adaptec's and DVD-ROM drives of the world, well, that's a wholly different argument because they CHARGE for the hardware. They made their money up-front.

- Steve

Revered Engineered != Stolen IP (1)

neopenguin (116239) | more than 14 years ago | (#804664)

They admit that the drivers were created by reverse engineering. How then is this their IP?

The reason they don't like it... (5)

Ears (71799) | more than 14 years ago | (#804667)

...has nothing to do with IP or any other crap like that.

It seems pretty clear to me that this company is all about collecting personal information about you. Now, we're used to companies like Doubleclick et al. using various schemes to figure out where you browse, and generate models of your on-line behaviors automatically. But the CueCat thing is designed so that they can find out about things in the real world, too. They WANT you to scan things in your house (books, products, magazines, TV shows, etc), and when you do, their software does a quick lookup for you, and gives you the shovelware connected to whatever it is.

But it ALSO remembers who scanned what, and they can generate a much more impressive profile of you as a consumer: what do you watch, what magazines are you reading, what books do you have, etc. And I'll bet that THAT's what their business model is all about---more invasive consumer profiling.

And THAT's why they can't tolerate the Linux drivers which don't do the lookup through their servers---because they don't let them form that profile. They've probably calculated their (hugely expensive) giveaway scheme to give a particular rate of data generation through their servers, and if they don't get that, then their business model is shot to hell. Of COURSE they're going to try to prevent people from getting around their software: every person using the Linux driver is the same as a reader thrown away to them. So I'm sure that if a developer tried to work with them, they'd spend a lot of effort urging them to direct all connections through the Digital Convergance servers.

My father-in-law gave me his reader (which some magazine helpfully mailed him), and I was going to use it under Linux, but I've changed my mind. If I want a barcode reader, I'll go buy one that's free of this kind of crap.

Re:Uh.... (1)

gehrehmee (16338) | more than 14 years ago | (#804668)

The only reason you need TrollTech's develpment toolkit to write QT apps for windows is that they're the only ones writing a toolkit. If you want to go out and make your own set of tools and parts for QT apps in windows, nobody's stopping you. This should be particularly obvious in the wake of QT's recent GPL'ing.
All TrollTech is saying is that they spent alot of time and money on making QT display itself properly in Windows. While they've given up _most_ of QT to the community, they want to charge money for that little part. That's just fine. If there's a significant demand for a Free version of QT for windows, the GPL'd version will find its way there.

Latest version of cuecat (1)

smartin (942) | more than 14 years ago | (#804682)

Could someone please post a link to a mirror of the lastest version(0.0.9) of this.

Re:Waitaminute... (5)

phungus (23049) | more than 14 years ago | (#804686)

(Yes, I worked at DCNV from day one until late last year).

It's not just the barcode scanning that went into the development of this product. There is also an audio-cue portion to this technology which was much more difficult to come up with effectively.

There was also the fact that we had whole racks of machines that were configured differently to test various sound cards, barcode readers, Windows versions, audio cables, etc. We did months and months of live testing from satellite feeds and on-air broadcasts using the audio technology.

Not to mention the upper management doing the dog-and-pony in countless conference rooms across the country. It really was a 5 year process. I know I spent several months on the back-end mod_perl that would handle just the proto-type testing. The C code came after I left...

In any company, starting from scratch takes awhile. Especially when you have a TV show to run, etc. It was a long hard road... Still is. (Just not for me anymore, although I still feel intimately acquainted with DigitalConvergence's ideals and plans. I still see the "vision").

Re:Yes, but... (2)

Thomas Charron (1485) | more than 14 years ago | (#804688)

Unfortionatly, it's not the usage of their hardware that's the issue. It's the posting of the specs of the protocol used by the hardware for software use. This is *NOT* a 'clean room' implementation, either. The actual hardware was used to do it.

And unfortionatly, they *HAVE* to defend it in order to continue to own the product and IP surrounding it. If the protocol IP is lost, then anyone can make identical, competing products, based on their specs.

They'd better sue me then (3)

NoWhere Man (68627) | more than 14 years ago | (#804689)

GM better sue my friend, he is using the trunk of his car to store clothes because he has live out of his car 2-3 days a week.
Dammit they better sue me too. I once used a GM car as a chair at a Drive-In Theater

Re:defense of whose rights ? (1)

Jay (1991) | more than 14 years ago | (#804692)

Wasnt there a decision in Europe a few years ago about closed interfaces between software/hardware components that allowed one to reverse engineer anything in order to build a complimantary product?

Could this fall under the same legal umbrella?

Re:Still a bit vague on one thing.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#804696)

More explicitly... Ya got patents, Ya got trademarks, and ya got copyright. Ya also got licensing agreements. I don't know if there are any of the first three involved. The last one might be (probably is) but doesn't really contitute "property" as much as contract. Trade secrets aren't IP, I'm pretty sure. Just because you hide something doesn't make it yours.

Not a legal leg to stand on... (1)

sterno (16320) | more than 14 years ago | (#804699)

To understand what was going on with these barcode scanners I decided to try going to Radio Shack and see what I could do and what restrictions were placed upon me. I went down to the store, greeted the clerk and asked for one of the barcode readers. He went in back, grabbed one and asked for my name (as they always do at radio shack). He scanned in the barcode reader, a copy of the free catalog and then handed them to me and wished me a nice day.

When I got home, I opened the plastic bag, plugged the scanner into my laptop and loaded up an editor. I then proceeded to scan an ISBN on a book nearby, and sure enough a bunch of characters spewed out onto my editor screen.

Now, what is there to reverse engineer here. All I have to do is figure out what those characters mean. I haven't signed anything that said I wouldn't try to figure that out and it's debatable whether such a contract would be legally binding anyhow. As far as I can tell, these guys do not have a legal leg to stand on because I have not in any way been obligated to keep anything a secret.


Re:Funny (1)

fizban (58094) | more than 14 years ago | (#804700)

You guys are idiots. 5 years was for the whole product - business plan, funding, hardware development, code. Get a clue.
Lyell E. Haynes

Re:Waitaminute... (1)

excesspwr (218183) | more than 14 years ago | (#804713)

Also take into account the fact that they did state they will be supporting Unix/Linux and the like in the future. If the "Open Source hackers" reverse engineered a driver for this thing how long could it take for them to put something out in support of this thing. I don't believe they had any intention of supporting their product under Unix/Linux until this occured.

Very real need. (2)

photozz (168291) | more than 14 years ago | (#804716)

I have a curent and very real need for this. a friend is setting up a bar and wants to give out "Membership cards" with a barcode on them. there are lots of barcode programs out there for database tracking, and a free scanner seemed like a good idea. it's silly to think we could be sued for trying to make this setup work. could I be sued for screwing a lightbulb into a celing fan instead of a "lightbulb manufacturer aproved socket"? Incidentaly, if anyone has some code laying around that would make the barcode database thing work.....

Re:Protection of IP (1)

sillysally (193936) | more than 14 years ago | (#804719)

Trade secrets are another form of IP, and they must be defended also, starting with, you gotta label the secrets and keep them secret from people who don't need to know.

As to patents, are you sure they need to be defended? Isn't there a tradition of keeping quiet about a patent to let your "victims" build a greater dependence on the technology before springing the royalty trap?

Re:Misunderstanding of what IP is at stake (3)

Coward, Anonymous (55185) | more than 14 years ago | (#804720)

If you take your CueCat and scan something, you'll notice that you can scan forwards, backwards, sideways, upside-down, flipped to the right, to the left, and so forth. All of these methods work really well, and that obviously took a _lot_ of talent

I used to work at a library, our barcode scanners could do the same thing, this was about five years ago, so this technology existed before the CueCat people even began developing the CueCat.

Is this an open source issue.... (1)

Lester67 (218549) | more than 14 years ago | (#804726)

or a marketing issue?

These guys have made this product available FOR FREE to perform a specific task. If new drivers for this piece of equipment completely circumvent the reason for its FREE existence... hell YES I'd be mad if I were them.

This is more similar to the iOpener, than the DeCSS case. This has little to do with IP, more to do with revenue that the product is generating.

A giant pack of lies (5)

jellicle (29746) | more than 14 years ago | (#804728)

I don't know if it's totally clear but what that PR rep had to say is a complete work of fiction. There's literally no truth in it. Let me count the ways:

-- nothing done with the Cuecat was illegal

-- there's no IP for the Cuecat people to defend - identify it! I dare you! "By posting our IP to the net" my ass!

-- there's no such thing as "Defend it or lose it" under IP law. If 200 people rip off MS Windows and MS prosecutes 2 of them, there's no such defense as "Well, your honor, MS didn't prosecute the other 198 people..." This is a MASSIVE LIE made up by companies who want to shift responsibility. ANYTIME you see a company say "We had to ... or lose it" they're lying.

-- That whole third paragraph about the linux community helping Microsoft is hogwash.

-- there aren't any illegal posting efforts

-- if it took them five years to develop a BARCODE SCANNER which MUNGES the normal output in a trivial manner before outputting it, I am a Great Horned Antelope. I'm not? Well then I guess they're lying again. I talked to a friend of mine at Symbol [symbol.com] , and Digital Convergance approached them to make this device earlier this year. (Symbol didn't end up making it.) Their company has been in existence less than one year. Symbol could make a run of these for you in a few months.

And what I really hate is that the lies are so pervasive that they end up shaping the whole debate. People can only see past a certain limited number of lies at a time. So they'll catch a few, but then they'll accept the bigger lies like "We had to ... or lose it".

Random thought to any company executives who happen to be reading this: you know, if you truly wanted [your company] to be a radical, different company, try this on for size. Fire any and all PR people. Just fire them. Don't hire any more. Ever. If there's a story where you have to talk to the press, let one of the principals do it - the guy who programmed that feature, or whatever. No matter how big the company gets, DON'T EMPLOY TRAINED LIARS TO DEFEND IT. Because that's what a PR person is - someone trained in the art of creating believable lies day in and day out. People catch on to this, believe it or not, even though it's a very slippery thing to catch on to, and they end up with (at a minimum) a vague distrust of that company, because they know they're being lied to but can't quite figure out exactly where. It's the reason Microsoft has such a bad reputation. If VA or Red Hat or anyone else truly wanted to break the mold, they would abandon the institutionalized lying. This would prevent that distrust from building, as well as keeping the company on the straight and narrow - without a wall of lying to protect them, the company execs get good feedback whenever they're doing something wrong.

I think the first company to do this has the potential of being a very different, much more
people-friendly company than we've seen in the past.

Michael Sims-michael at slashdot.org

Re:Still a bit vague on one thing.... (1)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 14 years ago | (#804731)

Yep. Yep, seems like giving out free candy made by your own design and then someone goes home and makes his own recipe that everyone can follow.

Ugh... (1)

M-G (44998) | more than 14 years ago | (#804732)

First off CmdrTaco, good comments. Second, these guys are absolutely clueless about IP...you don't have to 'defend' against reverse engineering, and in fact, you can't. Third, it took them 5 years to bring this product/business model to fruition? Fourth, the letter was signed by two high level people in the company, and they couldn't bother to review it for correct grammar and spelling?

My suspicion about their business model is this: The company is heavily pushing their device through deals with print media, such as Parade magazine. Those who are chronically unable to correctly type a URL will request the CueCat, and use it. Those who wouldn't use one won't order one. So that means most of the hardware they give away will be used as they intended, which will generate revenue for them when someone scans a URL bar code. Except now you have a bunch of geeks who have figured out the hardware and are developing other ways for it to be used. So now other geeks are going to request their free CueCats, and they're never going to use the bundled driver. So a lot more hardware is going to be given out that will never generate any scanning revenue for them.

Re:Misunderstanding of what IP is at stake (1)

j_d (26865) | more than 14 years ago | (#804757)

If you take your CueCat and scan something, you'll notice that you can scan forwards, backwards, sideways, upside-down, flipped to the right, to the left, and so forth. All of these methods work really well, and that obviously took a _lot_ of talent, IMHO.

I thought that was barcodes in general? Watch the clerk check your groceries out the next time you go to the supermarket...

Re:The reason they don't like it... (4)

Ears (71799) | more than 14 years ago | (#804761)

Their privacy policy [cuecat.com] is quite funny. It says, "Digital:Convergence wants every member of its community to understand what information we collect and how we intend to use that information."

But while the rest of the page is quite explicit about not giving out your phone number, it says nothing about the mother lode of data they (surely) collect about what you actually scan. In fact, they don't even mention the possibility!

Re:Yes, but... (1)

dingbat_hp (98241) | more than 14 years ago | (#804765)

Nobody is misusing their intellectual property by using their hardware

They're not claiming this. They're claiming that using the hardware is OK, and even that writing Linux drivers would have been OK, provided that the driver developers had discussed it first (and quite possibly signed an NDA over the specific IP-sensitive parts).

Of course, it may be impossible to open source a project that involves NDAs, but this doesn't itself mean that you can't develop a non OS-ed piece of code that made this device available to the Linux community.

Intellectual property would be a patent on barcoding

You don't need a patent to have IP rights.

They do have IP rights on specific issues of their barcoding, even if they don't have rights to barcoding in general.

Re:Have a dog and bark yourself (2)

interiot (50685) | more than 14 years ago | (#804767)

Not to mention that /. will have a harder time of baiting/luring in outside interviewees if the editors get a reputation of shreading them to bits from the getgo.

Don't yell and scream... (4)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 14 years ago | (#804770)

I'd also like to say something to the readers: don't get angry and attack these guys. They're just a group of guys trying to feed their dogs by coming up with ideas to make a buck. Yelling and screaming doesn't help anyone.
No, they shouldn't be yelled and screamed at. They should be flayed and boiled alive in oil.

They don't get to trample on our rights to explore technical problems and discuss our solutions, in order to feed their dogs. Their threatening legal tactics are no different than those of the MPAA in the DeCSS case. The fact that they're a small company is no excuse - indeed, it means that every person there holds more responsibility for the actions of the company, not less.

Note the vauge references to "intellectual property". What do they mean? Was copyright violated? Was a patent broken? Was a trademark violated? Taking something apart to see how it works, and describing your findings to others, is not a violation of any legitimate law. (The DMCA is illegitmate and unconstitutional, and its architects and supporters need to be cleansed via the flaying and boiling ritual described above.) Oh, and to my knowledge (IANAL) only trademarks need to be defended with vigor to be recognized; patent and copyright holders can be more lenient and still retain their legal rights.

So: fsck 'em if they can't take a hack.

Be reasonable! (1)

MrChris2 (151271) | more than 14 years ago | (#804772)

Unfortunately, for us all, some of the people conducting these efforts would not voluntarily remove our IP, even after being contacted.
Thank god

Now come on, when asked reasonably it's surely good manners to remove the code if only for a brief period of time whilst any legalities are dealt with. I'm beginning to think that many of the reverse engineering projects these days are losing site of the fact that they are destroying a potential revenue stream for the original developers. Have a care, if you want the product first ask the developers, if they say sure then fine, if not the badger them about it until they give in, but don't steal there technology - ETHICS people!

Re:@#!! vendors using punctuation in products (1)

Ravagin (100668) | more than 14 years ago | (#804774)

It's almost as bad as reading things like "133t h4x0rs." The gods gave us letters for words, numbers for counting, and punctuation for punctuating. Don't screw with the gods.

It isn't about IP. (2)

Wellspring (111524) | more than 14 years ago | (#804775)

I don't think the real problem is IP. If it was, then it would be a fairly clear-cut problem. As far as I can tell, all cue-cat is is a barcode reader which returns a universal ID number-- which is then sent in software to the company, which then forwards the computer's browser to a web page.

That's it.

So which pieces are genuine IP, and which are Business Model Legal Defense? The former, I think, represents hard work which they have a right to hold onto. The latter represents them using lawyers to try to force people to not take advantage of their business model.

I don't see much of a market for this scanner-- I guess that's their main problem. Trying to put one in everyone's hands might work, but more likely, people will think "great, one more piece of crap to plug into my machine". I-openers are at least great products which have obvious and well-addressed market openings. The guys at CueCat just seem like they are reaching. I haven't seen their product, but if my understanding of their system is right, then it is underwhelming no matter how well implemented it is.

Then the question becomes, what IP are they defending? The ability to read barcodes? To do so by hand-held scanners? Or to link codes to webpages? Except for the latter, all are pretty commonly in use. And the last, well, they can have that technology, as far as I am concerned.

This is a non-obvious, novel use for a scanner. So I do think they have some genuine IP here-- though none in the hardware driving department, which seems to be what they are complaining about. As for links to Amazon, etc, well, my opinion is that it is IP, but pretty pathetic, worthless IP. Good example of how even bad ideas can be IP if they meet the requirements.

Significantly underwhelemed (2)

RoadKnight (182299) | more than 14 years ago | (#804795)

I am significantly underwhelemed by Mr. Davis rant. The poor spelling,poor grammar and general tone of "you darn kids!" almost makes me laugh. Did you proof-read your statement at all or did you just expect your bar-code reader to do the work for you? I saw "Something About Mary" last week and remember the scene when the lunatic in Ben Stiller's car starts going off, "No man, it's 6! 6-minute Abs!" when Ben calmly explains than somebody else could just as easily come up with "5-minute Abs" and he comes unglued. Mr. Davis sounds a lot more like this in his letter than he does a serious businessman. But, as always, That's Just Me. RK

Re:@#!! vendors using punctuation in products (3)

Elvis Maximus (193433) | more than 14 years ago | (#804798)

Hey! That naming scheme took them five years to come up with!


Don't buy stock in these guys... (4)

Paranoid Diatribe (68959) | more than 14 years ago | (#804800)

After the initial post, I ran out to my nearest Radio Shack and grabbed one of the gadgets (after leaving false name/address). My biggest gripes, aside from the stink they've put up about the free decoders are:

1. Each device has a unique serial number. You can see this number spit out with the perl decoder available on the net. (I will not post link, for fear of having author harassed) This RISK needs no explanation.

2. Their database depends on customer contributions, just like CDDB does. They clearly state that the submissions become the sole property of them. (In case you were thinking about polluting the database in protest, as I did, it appears that the submissions are queued up and reviewed by humans.)

I'm also annoyed that the damned device has no off switch or a cover for the scanner LED. My computer desk now gives off an eerie red glow at night unless I cover up the ugly cat-shaped device.

Still, I can't see they have any hope of defending this. AFAIK, there are no patents on the absurd encoding scheme they use. They gave away the hardware (I will not be bound by a shrink-wrap click/through license on hardware!). And now now they're bitching that someone can potentially built a better mouse trap.

I'm not angry with this company, really. It's more like pity for dreaming up such a poor business model. I hope the employees are looking for other jobs, as these folks won't be around much longer, IMHO.

Re:Concerns warrented.. (2)

molog (110171) | more than 14 years ago | (#804802)

Someone should have contacted the company directly before just going out and doing directly without permission.

Do you need permission to take a car apart? No because you bought it (I hope you were not stupid enough to lease). Do you need permission to build yourself a new carburetor? They gave these things away. The people who wrote the Linux drivers merely found out how the devices worked and then wrote new devices. Yes there are copyrights on these things but the Linux developers own them.

I am not sure what the legality on this issue is...

The legality is this. Reverse engineering is totally legal. If it wasn't there would only be one brand of car, IBM would be the only PC in town plus just about anything where you have multiple brands. Why should I need some companies permission to find out how the thing I bought works?

So Linus, what are we doing tonight?

Re:Waitaminute... (2)

alhaz (11039) | more than 14 years ago | (#804803)

But he said it was five years of hard work by *geeks*. base64+xor67 is pretty freakin easy.

It's hard to even call this reverse engineering. The first software that came out was the result of people scanning many barcodes and comparing the output on the screen to the numbers printed under the code, and then doing a simple deductive analysis. It was only after that that someone realized the encoding scheme was a very simple sort of conversion.

Re:Don't have to defend patents (1)

sillysally (193936) | more than 14 years ago | (#804805)

It is true that trademarks need defending, and "xerox" and "kleen-ex" are good examples of trademarks in wide generic use, along with "bandaid", but those companies have not lost those trademarks by not defending them. Competitors still cannot use those words commercially.

Anybody have a good example of a trademark that was lost?

Re:Concerns warrented.. (3)

catscan2000 (211521) | more than 14 years ago | (#804824)

The guy at http://www.flyingbuttmonkeys.com/~rothwell/ said that he contacted them but got a response that he said was tantamount to "over our dead corporate body."

Where is the source!! anyone? (1)

l1011 (229771) | more than 14 years ago | (#804827)

I looked all over Friday and couldn't find the source... but DC says someone still hasn't taken it down? Who!! If you know where it is please post here or let me know! thx.


Re:Still a bit vague on one thing.... (2)

KnightStalker (1929) | more than 14 years ago | (#804829)

I agree, but using their hardware for purposed they didn't intend can't do anything but void the hypothetical warranty. It's certainly not theft of intellectual property.

Uh oh (1)

Icebox (153775) | more than 14 years ago | (#804832)

Now I'm going to thave to buy a CueCat source code shirt.

Really, I think these companies misunderstand the nature of the internet. Once the something gets out there really isn't any way to get it back. Cease and desist letters aren't going to do any good because they only work in the US. I have the code, you have the code, your friends all have the code.

Maybe a better stance would be "Hey, I'm glad you OSS people want a scanner that will run in Linux, we had no idea. Soon we will have a pile of delightful apps and hardware aimed at the Linux OS. Thanks for all your help."
That might be a little more well received.

What License? (2)

NetJunkie (56134) | more than 14 years ago | (#804834)

I didn't agree to any license on their device. That's the issue here. They messed up and didn't put a license on the package, you only saw it if you installed the Windows software. I never installed that software, and I'm sure many others here haven't.

Re:Oh come on.... (1)

dingbat_hp (98241) | more than 14 years ago | (#804835)

They can easily make the business model (AIUI) work under Linux

The business model relies on a web server-based lookup, based on the handle that the plastic cat reads. If they have the dawnings of a clue, then their server won't care what the client is.

Potentially, big content-scarfing scripts that then duplicated their server's function elsewhere could be seen as breaking the business model, but simply running your web browser under Linux shouldn't do it.

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