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Why, exactly, do we hate UCITA so much?

By evro in News
Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 12:38:19 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

I got sick of reading the useless drivel in the school paper today and decided to write something about one of the many topics that has been bothering me lately: UCITA. I whipped up really quickly (almost stream of conciousness) a preliminary version of what I want to say, but I'm sort of hitting a brick wall. Basically I'm confused as to what's currently legal and illegal with regards to reverse engineering. I also am confused as to what Samba actually is. I thought it was a reverse-engineered hack that lets Linux machines talk to an NT network, but it seems to not be that at all, but rather a new protocol. Anyway, I would really appreciate it if all the knowledgable folks here could take a look at what I've done so far -- available as a PDF (it was either PDF or .doc) here -- and give me any feedback -- help with the reverse engineering, Samba, or just pointing out glaring errors that will make me look like a moron if I show this to somebody who actually knows what they're talking about...


I realize this essay deals with some pretty mundane things, like explaining EULAs and stuff, but imagine writing for your mom or grandma or something (no offense to any mothers out there), someone who wouldn't know a EULA from a hula. In all honesty, they probably won't run this story in the paper, but at least it'll be my small contribution to the sum of human knowledge. And it'll be a handy thing to mail to your state legislature when UCITA comes up in your state. If anybody helps and would like credit given in the essay, I would be happy to oblige.

Also, we have been hearing claims about the evils of UCITA, but are we reading too much into it? The full text of UCITA is quite long, and I couldn't bring myself to read it; and it seems to be written in the foreign language of legalese (IANAL, in case that isn't apparent yet). Is it possible that UCITA is not really a tool of the devil and instead just a really vague law (though the two are arguably the same thing)? I mean, I know this sounds preposterous, but maybe the software industry wasn't just trying to wipe out all our rights, and really thought this would be a good idea for everybody and just messed up on the implementation? Any thoughts would be welcome.

Thanks again to anyone and everyone.

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Why, exactly, do we hate UCITA so much? | 16 comments (16 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
ergh! evil document!... (none / 0) (#2)
by Fish on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 04:11:18 AM EST

Fish voted 1 on this story.

ergh! evil document!

Important topic. Maybe some people ... (none / 0) (#1)
by hattig on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 04:26:40 AM EST

hattig voted 1 on this story.

Important topic. Maybe some people could help with the document, and then people can be pointed to it whenever they are unsure about it.




Post powered by Netscape 6 beta. Running for 14 hours without crashing or slowing down so far. (after initial buf-fixing of defeault config). Strangely enough, I don't feel like opening up IE5 anymore!

Uh, you're not giving a long rambli... (3.00 / 3) (#6)
by marlowe on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 07:59:00 AM EST

marlowe voted 1 on this story.

Uh, you're not giving a long rambling document written by lawyers on behalf of megacorporations the benefit of the doubt, are you? That would be dumb.
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --

... (5.00 / 1) (#5)
by stimuli on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 09:55:25 AM EST

stimuli voted 1 on this story.

The part where you say that M$ or Apple could just decide to start charging you monthly seems incorrect. No doubt they could do such a thing, but only after what original licence has expired. Read on the face your statement could be inerpreted to say that they could sell you a one year licence, and then turn around and make it monthly at many times the cost. I don't think they could do that.

Anyhow, it seems a good article. Try submitting it to some business rag. It's the suits that most need this kind of information. It will hurt them also, and they, quite frankly, have more power to stop something like this. Which makes me wonder, just how is this stuff being portrayed in the business journals? Does anyone here follow that stuff close enough to know?
-- Jeffrey Straszheim

Re: ... (none / 0) (#16)
by surak on Sat Apr 01, 2000 at 05:58:12 PM EST

It's not really being portrayed in business journals at all, not from what I've seen. That doesn't seem to be coincidence, and I don't want to use the word "conspiracy", but if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck... :)

[ Parent ]
I was (am?) planning to do the same... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by Skippy on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 12:22:22 PM EST

Skippy voted 1 on this story.

I was (am?) planning to do the same. Here's an idea and I'd like some feedback to see if anyone else thinks it's a good idea. I'd like to make an easily readable collection of reasons why UCITA is a bad thing. I've done some (hardcopy) design and layout in the past so my plan is to make an attractive brochure listing the points against UCITA and use it as a lobbying tool when I call on my state senators and representatives. From past experience people respond to pretty materials much better than just the text (hence the reason for USA Today's success). When its finished I plan to post it in a .pdf format that anyone can take to their local Kinko's and have made into a quasi-professional looking brochure that THEY can use to lobby their state reps. Anyone think this is worth pursuing?
# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

Re: I was (am?) planning to do the same... (none / 0) (#12)
by ramses0 on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 09:30:39 PM EST

sounds like a great idea, i just don't have the time to help out.

good luck with it though!

--Robert

(typing on-handed and eating a burrito ;^)=
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]

I'd like to read this, but neither ... (none / 0) (#4)
by fluffy grue on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 12:38:19 PM EST

fluffy grue voted 1 on this story.

I'd like to read this, but neither PDF nor Word (.doc is such a misleading name for it) are formats suitable for plaintext essays, especially since lots of us like to browse the web using Lynx or are otherwise purists with regards to the formats used. Any chance you could utilise Word's nifty HTML exporter to keep us web purists at bay?
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Re: I'd like to read this, but neither ... (none / 0) (#8)
by evro on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 02:12:00 PM EST

I had to use either Word or PDF in order to preserve the footnotes. I would have to argue with you that PDF is not "suitable" for essays. I've found PDF to be by far and away the best format for preserving formatting and font info. Anyway, I dumped the file to HTML, you can see it here.
---
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"
[ Parent ]
Re: I'd like to read this, but neither ... (none / 0) (#10)
by fluffy grue on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 04:45:46 PM EST

Thanks for the HTML dump. By the way, footnotes are rather cumbersome on PC-type media and there are better ways to represent interstitial information, such as having the footnote below each paragraph, having it as a named anchor to an endnote section, and so forth. This is, of course, just nitpicking.

As far as formatting and font info, why do essays need either?

Again, I'm just a purist. For all my word processing I use LyX, for example. Computers are more than just glorified typewriters. :)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: I'd like to read this, but neither ... (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by ramses0 on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 10:42:09 PM EST

Thanks too, for the HTML dump...

I liked the essay- very clear, very easy reading, and if you fix it up, clean it up, and submit it to a business magazine (or one of those free computer magazines), I'd say it has a good chance of being picked up.

It's a tough choice on how to proceed when you're describing reverse engineering. On the one hand, everybody can empathize and understand your example of Word documents. On the other, Samba appears to be a much better example-

[...] Reverse engineering is essentially a fancy way of saying "figuring out how the program works." For example, a group of developers watched very closely while Windows computers accessed files across a network. By mimicking the responses they saw, they have created a program which is more efficient[*] than Windows itself at sharing files over a netork. This program is called "Samba", and allows files and printers to be shared between Windows and many variants of Unix, including Hewlitt Packard's HPUX, SCO-UnixWare, and the free operating system Linux.

Under the UCITA, this kind of reverse engineering would be illegal. [the UCITA would prevent people from using their eyes and ears to improve...etc...or something...your turn ;^)=]

[*]According to tests run by Sm@rt Reseller, Samba performance is approximately double that of Windows NT,

Whew... that's my stab at filling in that paragraph. Take it or leave it ;^)=

References for statistics: http://us3.samba.org/samba/whatsnew/ and http://www.zdnet.com/sr/stories/issue/0,4537,396321,00.html

...and you don't really even need to mention that StarOffice or Samba is free (beer or speech). Every stuffy shirt knows that competition is a good thing, but competition from something that is free can't really be beat. It kindof complicates the issue by throwing "open software" into a discussion about UCITA (or whatever that acronym is).

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Samba explanation? (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by ehovland on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 01:55:03 PM EST

Samba is an entirely free implementation of the SMB protocol providing the capability to turn any platform which Samba has been ported to into a file and print server for any client which supports SMB, ie. Windows FWG/9x/NT/2K.

But not only does it support SMB , using the right hardware (SGI Origin class servers) it is bar none the fastests server on the market. Faster then WindowsNT server. Because one of the principle developers of Samba worked at SGI for a couple of years tuning Samba specifically for SGI hardware.

The SMB protocol was not developed by Microsoft, rather it is an IBM technology that Microsoft adopted.

To make Samba possible the developers dumped high volumes of packets and reviewed them to determine how the protocol worked. A classic case of reverse engineering. Without the ability to legally reverse engineer the protocol, the job would have been impossible. Because in typical Microsoft fashion although the SMB protocol is well documented, every Microsoft designed client diverges from the standard in several undocumented and different ways. Meaning to say no client is entirely compliant with the standard and each different operating system variant of Windows diverges from the other. Windows 95 is not compliant but not exactly in the same way that Windows NT is not compliant. To tell the difference or what that divergance is, you have to see the packet flow.



On a related note (none / 0) (#9)
by fluffy grue on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 04:39:34 PM EST

CNN has a story about some scheduled DMCA-related protesting (which I'd never heard about until just now). One interesting thing is that the MPAA claims that there's authorized Linux-based DVD players, implying that there's no reason to reverse-engineer CSS, though I'd never heard about these authorized player programs, and even if they do exist, they're certainly not in source format, which means they only run on whatever platforms the companies feel like supporting, and there's likely no support for FreeBSD or other UNIXen, alternate versions of libc, or anything which isn't x86.

On the other hand, I just had a fun idea. Set up an incorporated "open company" (where everyone in the world is a contract-based employee), get it a DVD CCA license, develop an authorized player, and then either "accidentally" allow anyone to download the source or put the source distribution behind a EULA which is basically an NDA stating that the proprietary IP can only be given to other employees of the company (meaning everyone in the world). How legal would that be? I'd be willing to donate $100 to the obtaining of the CCA license in order to hack reality like that.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Re: On a related note (none / 0) (#14)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 10:51:51 PM EST

It won't work. CSS is protected by trade secret law. Trade secrets obtained through illegal means (such as this accidental leak) cannot be legally used. IANAL, but that's the consensus from the /. discussion on this topic.

[ Parent ]
Re: On a related note (none / 0) (#15)
by fluffy grue on Sat Apr 01, 2000 at 01:54:30 AM EST

That only addresses the first release mechanism (the "accidental" leak), though the point is well taken. What about the second one, the "everyone's an employee and under our NDA" one, though? Any thoughts on that?
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Why, exactly, do we hate UCITA so much? (none / 0) (#11)
by Novalis on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 07:54:04 PM EST

Actually, I would really like someone to write my paper for me too. E-mail me for more details :)
-Dave Turner
Why, exactly, do we hate UCITA so much? | 16 comments (16 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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