Intellectual Property Rights

Fair Use &
Software Reverse Engineering
Prof. Marie-Christine Janssens
Centre for Intellectual Property Rights
Catholic University Leuven - Belgium
WIPO-UNIDO National Seminar on Managing Intellectual Property of SMEs
Minsk, 23-25 January 2007
Copying Software
1980s >
Overview regulatory framework
 1980s Us adopts copyright
 1991 EU software directive
 + Implementation by Member States
 International norms
 1994 TRIPS (art. 10.1)
 1996 WCT (art. 4)
Fair use
subject matter
External boundaries of system
 Expiration of term of protection
 Belarus Copyright Act art. 22  50 years
practical significance ????
 Ideas and concepts
may be freely copied
Art. 8.2 Belarus Copyrigh Act
 Статья 8. Произведения, не являющиеся
объектами авторского права
(1. …)
2. Авторское право не распространяется
на идеи, процессы, системы, методы
функционирования, концепции, принципы,
открытия или просто информацию как
таковые, даже если они выражены,
отображены, объяснены или воплощены в
Computer program
as expressed
Sample : Delphi Source Code
 copyright
Computer program
‘as such’
(source code)
 copyright
Underlying technical solution
for technical problem  patent law
External boundaries of system
 Expiration of term of protection
 Ideas and concepts may be copied
 two programs may have similar features, comparable
functions, be based on the same concept
 their implementation may not be copied
 e.g. copying (even a few) lines of the code
 Non-original features may be copied
 features dictated by technical needs & efficiency norms
 features taken from public domain (basic techniques, trivial
Internal boundaries of system
 By contract (license)
 written agreement ? Shrink Wrap ? Clickwrap
 cf. article 27 Belarus Copyright Act
 “If conditions of using the program are set out in a suitable
manner on the copy of the program”
 Статья 27. Форма авторского договора
1. Авторский договор должен быть заключен в
письменной форме (…)
2. При продаже экземпляров компьютерных программ
и баз данных договор считается заключенным в
письменной форме, если его условия (условия
использования программы и базы данных) изложены
соответствующим образом на экземплярах
программы или базы данных
Internal boundaries of system
 By contract (license)
 Software code is released as open source
 license conditions
Free to use in organization
Free to use in products
Free to distribute and sell
Free to modify and extend
 Software is released under a Creative
Commons license
Fair use
Internal boundaries
 exception to exclusive
Public interest
Exclusive R.
use of program
in any way & in any form
 Literal copying
 Non-literal copying
 translation, adaptation
 Whole or part of program
No permission is
 national legislation
(subject to 9.2 Berne)
 ‘Lawful user’
Exceptions to economic rights
 Acts necessary for the use
 e.g. reproduction while loading the program
 includes error correction
 The making of a back-up copy
 a single copy (if no back-up is provided)
 Belarus  article 21  ‘intended solely for archiving or
for the replacement in the event the copy was lost or
 Лицо, правомерно владеющее экземпляром компьютерной
программы, вправе изготовить копию компьютерной
программы при условии, что эта копия предназначена только
для архивных целей или для замены правомерно
приобретенного экземпляра в случаях, когда оригинал
компьютерной программы утерян, уничтожен или стал
непригодным для использования
Exceptions to economic rights
 Acts necessary for the use
 The making of a back-up copy
 Observation, study, testing to determine
underlying ideas and principles if …
 The so-called ‘decompilation right’
right to reverse engineer
 to convert object code into source code
(= copying)
Uses of decompilation
 To develop a competitive product
 To develop a complementary or attaching
program or device (e.g. printer)
 Other uses than developing a product
to maintain a program
to recover lost code
to fix bugs
to find viruses
to examine a competitor’s program (infringement?)
Maintaining balance in IP law
Exclusive rights
Public Interest
Decompilation right (EU)
 It is lawful to decompile a program
 to create a new independent program
 that is interoperable with it
 e.g. to run a program on an operating system the source code of
which is kept secret
 Under stringent conditions
 information is not readily available
 information obtained may
 only be used for ensuring interoperability
 Not be given to third parties (unless necessary for this purpose)
 Not be used for development of substantially similar CP or any
other act which infringes copyright
 use exception with extreme caution !
Decompilation right (Belarus)
 Article 21 (2)
Лицо, правомерно владеющее
экземпляром компьютерной программы,
вправе адаптировать компьютерную
программу для обеспечения совместной
работы с другими программами при
условии, что полученная при адаптации
информация не будет использоваться для
создания других компьютерных программ,
аналогичных адаптируемой, или для
осуществления любого действия,
нарушающего авторское право
Apply ‘clean room’ restrictions
 Room where computers are not connected to
 Only specially assigned personnel is allowed to
 No data (in electronic form or on paper) is
allowed to leave room
 End report will only detail information
necessary for interoperability
 Shred all paper documents related to the
decompilation / wipe disks and computer
Famous cases
 Sega Enterprises
v. Accolade (9th Cir 1993)
 Atari v. Nintendo (Fed Cir 1992)
 Sony v. Connectix (9th Cir 2000)
 “The intermediate copies made and used by
Connectix during the course of its reverse
engineering of the Sony BIOS were protected fair
use, necessary to permit Connectix to make its
non-infringing Virtual Game Station function with
PlayStation games”.
The decompilation exception in
Difficult …
but not impossible
+ take legal advice in advance