Visit ABA, Web-Linking Agreements: Contracting Strategies and Model Provisions. Should lawyers buy this book? Visit Stefan Bechtold, The End of the Internet (2001)
If there is a technological solution to the deep linking 'problem' should the law stay out of it? Or should it protect the less technologically savvy? The lazy? Your e-commerce client has been deep linked by a competitor. What do you advise? Your represent the Citizens Against Corporate Antagonists, who routinely deep link to highlight what they consider corporate abuse. They've just gotten a cease and desist letter. What do you advise?
The Copyright Act defines "copies" as:material objects, other than phonorecords, in which a work is fixed by any method now known or later developed, and from which the work can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.The Copyright Act then explains:
17 U.S.C. § 101.A work is "fixed" in a tangible medium of expression when its embodiment in a copy or phonorecord, by or under the authority of the author, is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration.The district court's grant of summary judgment on MAI's claims of copyright infringement reflects its conclusion that a "copying" for purposes of copyright law occurs when a computer program is transferred from a permanent storage device to a computer's RAM. This conclusion is consistent with its finding, in granting the preliminary injunction, that: "the loading of copyrighted computer software from a storage medium (hard disk, floppy disk, or read only memory) into the memory of a central processing unit ("CPU") causes a copy to be made. In the absence of ownership of the copyright or express permission by license, such acts constitute copyright infringement." We find that this conclusion is supported by the record and by the law.
17 U.S.C. § 101.
Peak concedes that in maintaining its customer's computers, it uses MAI operating software "to the extent that the repair and maintenance process necessarily involves turning on the computer to make sure it is functional and thereby running the operating system." It is also uncontroverted that when the computer is turned on the operating system is loaded into the computer's RAM. ...
Peak argues that this loading of copyrighted software does not constitute a copyright violation because the "copy" created in RAM is not "fixed." However, by showing that Peak loads the software into the RAM and is then able to view the system error log and diagnose the problem with the computer, MAI has adequately shown that the representation created in the RAM is "sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration." ...
The law also supports the conclusion that Peak's loading of copyrighted software into RAM creates a "copy" of that software in violation of the Copyright Act. ....
It is not disputed that Peak has several MAI computers with MAI operating software "up and running" at its headquarters. It is also not disputed that Peak only has a license to use MAI software to operate one system. As discussed above, we find that the loading of MAI's operating software into RAM, which occurs when an MAI system is turned on, constitutes a copyright violation.
Our (technically savvy) lawyer has advised my company that 'incidental resources' do not a work derive. For example: If I have a student's version of a development environment whose license does not allow me to distribute code compiled with it for commercial use, I am legally allowed to use the environment to create my ANSI C++ code, which, when I compile it with GCC, I am free to use to whatever commercial end I like. This seems fairly intuitive. (After all, you could have written the same thing in a text editor, and the debugging, etc, that you need the IDE for doesn't actually 'show up' in the final code). Here's the kicker: My company wants to translate this to an abuse of the GPL and has been advised 'full speed ahead!'"
"How, you may ask?
Integrate the highly useful GPL code we're eyeing into our only slightly more complex (but much more lucrative) project, thereby saving us at least 30% of the coding involved. The company then go all the way to production with it, but instead of finally compiling the actual project for distribution, they instead compile a bunch of incomprehensible gobbledygook that just happens to compile to the same bytecode. You know the game: globally replace every function name, variable name, and so on from our code with nonsensical names (or random characters), remove all of the comments, and any other form of obfuscation they can introduce. They will then GPL the obfuscated gobbledygook, which isn't much more useful to anyone than reverse-engineered bytecode would be (it is a complex project). 'Voila!' All the benefits of a huge GPL project and countless thousands of volunteer hours and unreadable, incomprehensible source tree.
For the record: I do not think this is right yet, I have not been able to find any precedent for why the GPL should protect against this kind of abuse.
I'm not trying to snitch on my company -- or lose my job, which is why I am posting anonymously -- but hopefully some lawyers out there could point out some iron-clad legal reason preventing this sort of thing. I've read the GPL through at least a dozen times since yesterday, and so far it looks like our lawyer is right.
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