Make Some Software Better, Get Arrested For Copyright Infringement

from the the-spirit-of-innovation dept

If you look into the history of innovation, you realize that it's all built on the works of those who came before. The single biggest key to innovation is to try to do something better than what's already been done. There's a great book by Robert Friedel that highlights this called A Culture of Improvement. This is seen quite a lot in the software world, certainly. In fact, it's quite common for people to try to improve someone else's software, just to make it better. Take, for example, the massive success of Greasemonkey scripts to allow people to improve on others' websites. However, in this age of pervasive misunderstandings about the purpose of intellectual property laws, many people take offense to the idea that someone wants to improve their work, as we've seen in cases where people have tried to build better front-ends for confusingly designed websites. It gets even trickier when it comes to "improvements" that conflict with business models. There are still some people who think that Firefox's AdBlock extension is "stealing," for example. And, remember, that the folks behind Kazaa flipped out about Kazaa Lite, a version of their software, which stripped out all the spyware included with Kazaa. These all seem to fall under the heading of "felony interference with a business model" which is the concept formerly called "competition."

Now a similar case has appeared in China, but with more dire results. There's apparently a very popular instant messaging client called QQ, from a company named Tencent, that has a few annoying characteristics. A computer scientist in China created a modified version called Coral QQ that got rid of some of those problems, including adding some features that Tencent charges for. For doing so, the guy was recently arrested for intellectual property violations. The company has been fighting with him for years, previously having filed and won a copyright infringement case against him (for which he paid the fine). However, as his software kept getting more and more popular, rather than taking it as a message that perhaps the company should improve QQ and get rid of annoying features, Tencent instead filed charges with the police, who arrested the programmer. As the folks at Against Monopoly point out, this is yet another situation where the concept of intellectual property is being used to hold back innovation (and put someone in jail for improving a product).


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 10:13am

    IM mod

    Is that like Trillian or Pidgin who take AOL, MSN, ICQ, IRC and a few others and put them into one convenient program without all the annoying features?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Nicko, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 10:36am

    Re: IM mod

    Yes but this is China after all. Last time I checked China pretty much arrested anyone who pissed off the wrong people no matter if they were legal or illegal.

    So basically its fine to clone GM cars, cell phones, TVs, NEC (cloned an entire branch office in every detail), IBM Batteries, etc. But mess with someones IM software and your in trouble.

    I think someone forgot to send in the standard kickbacks...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    NovaScotian (profile), Nov 30th, 2007 @ 10:45am

    "Felony interference with a business model"

    This is not new at all -- When Watt improved Newcome's steam engine and eventually conceived of making it double-acting (pressure driven in both directions), he needed to convert the motion of the rocking beam into straight-line motion. Unfortunately, in order to avoid patent rights already claimed by another party, on the use of the crank and cross-head, he adopted an epicyclic sun and planet gear system, only later reverting once the patent rights had expired to the more familiar crank seen on most engines today.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Jason Colbert, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 10:52am

    Writing CODE is no different than writing a BOOK?

    Writing CODE is no different than writing a BOOK?

    What makes this so much more different than lets say, An author publishes a book or a long new article.

    Then Independent Writer "A" comes along and summarizes that news by re-wording it and placing it into a smaller and quicker to read format.

    (now here comes the rub) Writer "B" comes along and does the same thing as writer "A" had done, but in writer "B"'s own format... except all the content is the same and obviously, many of the words are the same since its regarding the same topic.

    Does the original author get to sue both writer "A" and writer "B" for infringing upon his content by making it "better"? or does Writer "A" get to sue Writer "B" because "A" did it first?

    "Anything you can do, I can do better... unless of course you patent it first and I wont be able to do it at all"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    zcat, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 12:03pm

    Was it Open Source to begin with?

    If I went ahead and made 'improvements' to Windows Vista (a program sorely in need of improvements!) and removed that annoying registration feature, and then gave the program out to lots of people even if most of them were already Windows users, I really do expect that Microsoft would not look favorably on the situation.

    There's no 'fair use' if you take someone else's existing software, make changes, and then distribute it without permission. It's copyright violation, plain and simple. Whoever posted this article is just being a 'tard.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Nov 30th, 2007 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Was it Open Source to begin with?

    If I went ahead and made 'improvements' to Windows Vista (a program sorely in need of improvements!) and removed that annoying registration feature, and then gave the program out to lots of people even if most of them were already Windows users, I really do expect that Microsoft would not look favorably on the situation.

    Read the article. His software was not a replacement, but an add on. You still needed the original software running alongside his software.

    There's no 'fair use' if you take someone else's existing software, make changes, and then distribute it without permission. It's copyright violation, plain and simple. Whoever posted this article is just being a 'tard.

    Again, he was not distributing their software.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 12:57pm

    Mikey strikes out again

    Hey, Mike

    Get a real job, dude

    You are obviously going insane in your current occupation as a shitty blog writer

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Mikey strikes out again

    You constantly choose to do things you do not like doing?... such as read this website? You are the one who enjoys self-punishment, which in many cases is referred to as having a mental problem.

    HINT: Don't like something? don't do it (or do it better - as this article is relating to)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Re: Mikey strikes out again

    Hey, Mike

    Who told you that I don't enjoy reading your shitty website, especially the comment part of it ?

    Where else can an angry dude vent out about techidiocy of the masses ?

    Slashbot ? Naa

    Keep up the shitty work, dude

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Tim Sewell, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 1:34pm

    Oh the irony...

    ... of an IP infringement case in China...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Writing CODE is no different than writing a BO

    Horrible analogy if only because code is at one and the same time the blueprint and materials of the end product, while a book is something completely different.

    It'd be more like saying Carpenter A designed Hammer X or Architect Gamma designed Building Theta. Someone else comes along, say Architect Zeta, and sees some features in Building Theta he likes. When he designs Building Epsilon he incorporates those features.

    Better still, the proper analogy would be Architect Zeta sees some flaws in Building Theta and improves them when he builds Building Epsilon.

    Patents make perfect sense, so long as they are limited. I can see the value in someone not ripping something apart IMMEDIATELY (in some cases anyways) and producing a new version right away, but trying to make it so stuff like software that runs on DOS1 is still protected is downright stupid. NO ONE uses DOS1 anymore, and few use DOS (even then only in virtual machines) outside the financial industry.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Nov 30th, 2007 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Oh the irony...

    they have IP in china? i thought the chinese just sat around on mountains of forged american dollars dreaming up ways to steal american jobs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Carme, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 1:44pm

    This is clear copyright infringement

    The software's license has without a doubt a section forbidding changes to the program, so once the "add-on" is applied the license is void and the copy is infringing whether it came from the original site or from someone else.

    Using this case as an example of copyright abuse is absurd. This case is at the dead center of what copyright was meant to avoid: the guy is distributing a patch that shows his own advertisements and blocks the ones that sponsor the product. It's hard to think of a more clear-cut example of why copyright is necessary.

    This is as far away from "fair use" as it gets: it is done for commercial purposes (the patch is showing its own ads), and it clearly harms the product's commercial potential by supplying features that users would pay for (*). If stopping this is an abuse of copyright, what is a proper use of copyright?


    (*) This is one of tests for fair use. You are of course allowed to supply any feature you want in your own product.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 2:09pm

    What's wrong with it?

    I agree with Carme: if you disagree with this, you must be for the abolition of copyright laws entirely. We may all be a little upset about the misuse of IP in this country at the moment, but you can't let those fleeting passions blind your judgment of copyright laws in general. They do have a purpose, misused or not, and it may be worthwhile to set your emotions aside for a second and re-examine the situation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Tim Lee, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 2:15pm

    Re: This is clear copyright infringement

    That sounds like a violation of a shrink-wrap license. I agree with EFF that such violations are issues of contract, not copyright, law. And in any event, the license is a contract between QQ and its users. If Chen's customers break their licenses, that's an issue between the customer and QQ. I don't see how it justifies throwing Chen in jail.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Nov 30th, 2007 @ 2:31pm

    Re: This is clear copyright infringement

    Using this case as an example of copyright abuse is absurd. This case is at the dead center of what copyright was meant to avoid: the guy is distributing a patch that shows his own advertisements and blocks the ones that sponsor the product. It's hard to think of a more clear-cut example of why copyright is necessary.

    As Tim notes, it's hard to see what that has to do with copyright. The guy wrote his own add-on. He did not violate the copyright of the other application. He did not take their code, redistribute or anything.

    This is as far away from "fair use" as it gets: it is done for commercial purposes (the patch is showing its own ads), and it clearly harms the product's commercial potential by supplying features that users would pay for

    Again, all you're pointing to is that idea of "felony interference of a business model." It's not illegal to take away someone else's business model.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Nov 30th, 2007 @ 2:35pm

    Re: What's wrong with it?

    I agree with Carme: if you disagree with this, you must be for the abolition of copyright laws entirely.

    Again, it's unclear what this actually has to do with copyright.

    As for the question of abolishing copyrights altogether, there are a number of good arguments in favor of that position. I'm not there yet, but I tend to think that enforcing copyrights tends to be a damaging position for any content creator to take, and eventually the concept of copyright won't even be needed, as content producers realize there's more benefit to ignoring the idea altogether. So I'm not in favor of "abolishing" copyrights. I'm in favor of people actually understanding how copyrights limit their markets.

    They do have a purpose, misused or not, and it may be worthwhile to set your emotions aside for a second and re-examine the situation.

    If you've read this site, you'll know that I am not making an emotional argument. I have pointed to plenty of research, data and examples over the years to back up this position. And the more I "re-examine" this situation, the more ridiculous it seems.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Carme, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 4:37pm

    Re: Re: This is clear copyright infringement

    As Tim notes, it's hard to see what that has to do with copyright. The guy wrote his own add-on. He did not violate the copyright of the other application. He did not take their code, redistribute or anything.

    Breaching the license agreement is copyright infringement, and therefor so is making a software whose sole purpose is to help users breach the license agreement. This has everything to do with copyright - without copyright there would be no license agreement at all because the user would have no reason to accept it.

    Again, all you're pointing to is that idea of "felony interference of a business model." It's not illegal to take away someone else's business model.

    You are conveniently ignoring the comment I presciently added stating clearly that you are of course allowed to implement any feature you want in your own product, regardless of whether it interferes with anyone's business model. I'll correct you, as I have in a comment on the original "felony interference" post, that the problem is that a law is being broken, in this case copyright law. The fact that the implemented feature devalues an offering from some company was only brought up in the very narrow context of the fair use exceptions to copyright law. Devaluing someone's product is not illegal in any way, but when it is incidentally done along with copyright infringement then it is much harder to claim fair use. I know you enjoy laughing at the notion that interfering with someone's business model can be illegal, but in the specific case of a copyright issue it can actually mean the difference between breaking the law (if the use is not fair use) or not (if it is). See Section 107 of the U.S. copyright law for context.

    Reading further I see you're not sure whether copyright is needed. I'm not saying here whether it is or not. I am saying that if we accept copyright as needed, then this is the exact scenario where copyright should protect the software creator. Because when there is no legal way to prevent users from removing the advertising component from the software, there is much less incentive to create it in the first place and it might not be created at all. Whether we actually want to create this incentive is exactly the question of whether we want to have copyright law, which is subject for another debate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 4:39pm

    Re: Re: What's wrong with it?

    Give away your copyrighted stuff for free

    Sell T-shirts.... LOOOOTs of T-shirts instead.....

    Mike Masnick, President and CEO of Techdirt

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Nov 30th, 2007 @ 6:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: This is clear copyright infringement

    Breaching the license agreement is copyright infringement,

    How? Copyright infringement is about copying copyrighted content without authorization. Breaching a license agreement is breaching an agreement. The two are entirely different.

    How is breach of agreement copyright infringement? What copyright has been infringed?

    This has everything to do with copyright - without copyright there would be no license agreement at all because the user would have no reason to accept it.

    I think you're confused as to what copyright is. You can have a license agreement without copyright. A license is an agreement between two parties. It's merely a contract. Lots of contracts have nothing to do with copyright, as is the case here.

    Devaluing someone's product is not illegal in any way, but when it is incidentally done along with copyright infringement then it is much harder to claim fair use.

    Sure, but again, you've yet to show what copyright has actually been infringed.

    I am saying that if we accept copyright as needed, then this is the exact scenario where copyright should protect the software creator.

    But it's not. If it's a breach of contract, then it's a civil suit between the two entities (which was already settled). It's not an issue of copyright.

    Because when there is no legal way to prevent users from removing the advertising component from the software, there is much less incentive to create it in the first place and it might not be created at all.

    That's a total red herring. That's a protectionist's argument. Let me rephrase it for you: "Because if there's no legal way to prevent competition from forcing me to charge market rates, there is much less incentive to create in the first place and it might not be created at all."

    Again, there is no right to a business model, even if it means that you think it will mean the content doesn't get created. If there's demand, people will come up with business models that work. They always have.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Carme, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 3:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This is clear copyright infringeme

    I think you're confused as to what copyright is. You can have a license agreement without copyright.

    You seem confused about license agreements. You can have any contract without copyright, but a license agreement is a contract where the user must abide by any number of rules and gets the sole right of using a copyrighted work. Copyright is the single legal right that enables a publisher to enforce any license agreement.

    How is breach of agreement copyright infringement?

    Say I download a program from the web. When presented with the EULA I click "I do not agree", and then go on to use the software. I got the software from its publisher's public site. I have not agreed to any contract. What law have I broken? Answer this and you'll see why copyright is a crucial element here.

    That's a protectionist's argument.

    Of course it is. Copyright is a government-granted monopoly that can last more than 100 years. It's the purest form of protectionism. You can't seriously say you believe that copyright can be useful when you abhor any form of protectionism. Vice versa, accepting copyright is accepting that some forms of protectionism are good for society.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Dec 1st, 2007 @ 11:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is clear copyright infrin

    You seem confused about license agreements. You can have any contract without copyright, but a license agreement is a contract where the user must abide by any number of rules and gets the sole right of using a copyrighted work. Copyright is the single legal right that enables a publisher to enforce any license agreement.

    Not so at all. The license is a contract for terms of use the software. It's a voluntary agreement between two parties that need not have anything to do with copyright.

    Say I download a program from the web. When presented with the EULA I click "I do not agree", and then go on to use the software. I got the software from its publisher's public site. I have not agreed to any contract. What law have I broken? Answer this and you'll see why copyright is a crucial element here.

    But that's not what happened here. The guy didn't refuse the EULA. He may have breached the agreement, but that's quite different. I think you're confusing the two things.

    It is possible to infringe the copyright on a program by copying it without permission -- but that's not what he's done. He isn't violating their copyright, he's simply built an add on that doesn't involve copying their software. It simply uses it.

    Of course it is. Copyright is a government-granted monopoly that can last more than 100 years. It's the purest form of protectionism. You can't seriously say you believe that copyright can be useful when you abhor any form of protectionism. Vice versa, accepting copyright is accepting that some forms of protectionism are good for society.

    You're right. I don't think copyright is useful. However, I am willing to accept arguments for protectionism IF you can prove that there's a market failure. The problem is that there's no evidence of a market failure that requires copyright.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 4:11pm

    Mike wrote:
    "there's no evidence of a market failure that requires copyright."

    Ha ???????????????????????

    Dude, take your medicine, NOW

    You have a delusional disorder

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Carme, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 4:22pm

    Re: This is clear copyright infringement - Finale

    But that's not what happened here. The guy didn't refuse the EULA.

    I didn't say this is what happened here. I was explaining that in general, the only reason you have to accept a license agreement at all is that not accepting it means you are infringing on the product's copyright. Otherwise you would simply decline to accept the agreement and still use the product you bought or received legally.

    You mentioned several times a contract; the details of the contract are important here. What do I get from agreeing to this contract and respecting all its limitations? A single thing in return: a "license" to use the product. Why do I need a license at all? I certainly don't need a license to use a pen I buy, or an espresso machine. Once I paid for them, I'm free to use them any which way. But even after I buy software (or receive it as a gift), I must agree to a contract to have a license to use it. The difference is copyright: I need a license so that I'm not infringing copyright. If there was no copyright, I would never sign any such "contract" because I would be getting nothing out of it. So license agreements and copyright go hand in hand.

    This is as clearly as I'll ever be able to say that. So let me close this discussion by explaining the fact of the case:

    1. There exists a protectionist legal construct called "copyright" that enables software publishers (and those of other content) to protect their business models even contrary to market forces.

    2. Copyright may or may not be "right" or good for society, and may or may not solve market failures or introduce new ones.

    3. The Chinese publisher in this case used the protectionist legal construct called "copyright" to throw in jail a person that was threatening its business model.

    4. Again, punishing this guy for releasing his add-on may or may not be "right" or good for society. But either way, it was done under the protectionist rules of copyright.

    And that is my point. I'm not saying whether the goals of copyright are laudable, or whether it actually achieves them. These are complex questions that deserve serious debate. All I'm saying is that what happened here is strictly according to the copyright paradigm of protectionism towards the original publisher. It's not an abuse or an unintended consequence of copyright, this is just how copyright was designed to work.

    Saying this case has nothing to do with copyright, as was said here several times, is completely misunderstanding copyright. And, for someone who thinks copyright is bad, it's also missing out on a good opportunity to point out the problems with copyright.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Dec 2nd, 2007 @ 11:37am

    Re:

    Angry dude, as per usual mocks, but provides no substance. So, please tell us, what is the evidence that there's market failure that requires copyright? And I'll warn you before you reply that in the past I've pointed out plenty of evidence to the contrary. Before you make a weak case for it, you might want to review some of that research. Otherwise, you'll just be making a fool of yourself.

    It is possible to argue the market failure that requires copyright, but you at least need to understand the evidence showing that there is no such market failure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Dec 2nd, 2007 @ 11:47am

    Re: Re: This is clear copyright infringement - Fin

    I didn't say this is what happened here. I was explaining that in general, the only reason you have to accept a license agreement at all is that not accepting it means you are infringing on the product's copyright. Otherwise you would simply decline to accept the agreement and still use the product you bought or received legally.

    If that were true then there wouldn't be license agreements for tangible goods as well -- but there are. I agree that a license agreement can be a part of copyright, but it need not be. And violating a license agreement doesn't mean you violated copyright. They are two separate points.

    You seem to, incorrectly, be assuming that ANY violation of the license is related back to copyright. That's simply not true. I can set up a contractual license for use that has nothing to do with copyright. Or I can set one up that is based on copyright, but if you are violating the terms of use of that contract, it's a contractual violation, not a copyright one.

    You mentioned several times a contract; the details of the contract are important here. What do I get from agreeing to this contract and respecting all its limitations? A single thing in return: a "license" to use the product. Why do I need a license at all? I certainly don't need a license to use a pen I buy, or an espresso machine. Once I paid for them, I'm free to use them any which way. But even after I buy software (or receive it as a gift), I must agree to a contract to have a license to use it. The difference is copyright: I need a license so that I'm not infringing copyright. If there was no copyright, I would never sign any such "contract" because I would be getting nothing out of it. So license agreements and copyright go hand in hand.

    You are confusing two things here. Just because a license and a copyright sometimes go hand in hand, it does not mean they always do or that one is required for the other to exist. In fact, we've pointed to numerous examples of how the makers of tangible products are increasingly adding EULAs to them, even though it has nothing to do with copyright.

    1. There exists a protectionist legal construct called "copyright" that enables software publishers (and those of other content) to protect their business models even contrary to market forces.

    Agreed.

    2. Copyright may or may not be "right" or good for society, and may or may not solve market failures or introduce new ones.

    Agreed.

    3. The Chinese publisher in this case used the protectionist legal construct called "copyright" to throw in jail a person that was threatening its business model.

    Agreed. But, I still don't understand what copyright was violated here. I agree that the publisher did make use of copyright, but you have yet to show how an add-on product violates the copyright of the original product. It does not.

    4. Again, punishing this guy for releasing his add-on may or may not be "right" or good for society. But either way, it was done under the protectionist rules of copyright.

    I agree that they used copyright law for this purpose, but I still don't understand how or why the creation of add-on product has anything to do with copyright. Copyright allows you to limit whether or not someone else can copy your software -- hence "copy" "right." This guy was NOT copying their software. He wrote an add-on. It is not a copyright issue.

    And that is my point. I'm not saying whether the goals of copyright are laudable, or whether it actually achieves them.

    Neither am I. I'm just trying to understand how you can claim this is a copyright violation, because I still don't see it.

    All I'm saying is that what happened here is strictly according to the copyright paradigm of protectionism towards the original publisher. It's not an abuse or an unintended consequence of copyright, this is just how copyright was designed to work.

    And that's where I believe you are incorrect. Copyright gives the creator the right to limit whether or not someone can copy his or her work. And this guy did not copy the publisher's work. He built a separate application. So, no, this is NOT how copyright was designed to work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2007 @ 4:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: This is clear copyright infringement -

    Mike,
    As there is no way to apply our copyright laws to China, why is anyone arguing this point?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Dec 2nd, 2007 @ 4:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This is clear copyright infringeme

    As there is no way to apply our copyright laws to China, why is anyone arguing this point?

    I'm not talking about our specific laws or China's specific laws, but the actual purpose of copyright. There's simply no way I can see the case being made that this is a copyright infringement issue, as I still haven't seen how this guy "copied" anything he wasn't allowed to copy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Carme, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 6:35am

    Copyright

    But, I still don't understand what copyright was violated here.

    Copyright gives the creator the right to limit whether or not someone can copy his or her work. And this guy did not copy the publisher's work.

    The reason you don't understand this issue is lack of knowledge. You expect copyright to work the way you want it to work, instead of how it actually does. It doesn't work that way. Copyright law is a very complex legal construct, that was debated and amended for centuries and comprises of dozens of pages of law and countless volumes of case law. The fact that you are breaking "copyright" into words to explain how it works should sound the alarm that it's time to catch up on reading on copyright, probably starting with the U.S. copyright law. When you do, I promise you'll find out that copyright law grants far, far wider control to the copyright owner than merely controlling "copying" of the work. You'll also understand why engaging in any of these activities requires explicit permission from the copyright owner, and probably some royalty payments as well:

    1. Writing and publishing your own Harry Potter book, drawing and publishing your own Spiderman comicbook, or producing a brand-new season of Lost;

    2. Selling Mickey Mouse costumes or putting Pluto figurines in Happy Meals;

    3. Renting a DVD and showing it in a theater, whether or not you're charging for tickets;

    4. Producing a movie based on a Tom Clancy book you read;

    5. Publishing a book with your Italian translations of Leonard Cohen poems;

    6. Using software without accepting the license agreement, or after it was breached (which invariably "terminates your rights" etc.)

    None of these activities involve any amount of "copying". Copyright is not about making copies, it grants far-reaching control to the holder. To make a credible critique of copyright you need to know the details in addition to the title. You sometimes make fun of people who talk about business without understanding basic economy, so you should know how smart people might say silly things when they lack the relevant background.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Brandon Eubanks, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 8:07am

    nope note copyright infringement

    First of all these guys are right this is China were talking about here not the USA. That being the case American's notions of copyright don't necessarily fly there. Another point is that this gentleman may have bypassed the EULA altogether. Anyone here ever heard of "Universal Extractor"? This gentleman could have easily bypassed any EULA that was part of the installation process, and hence why many software companies/distributors are making the license agreement/licensing process part of the software itself. Even if he did bypass the EULA though his addon probably and I did say PROBABLY there still uses the framework of this companies software to accomplish what it does, so even if he didn't bypass any type of protections or use any of the code from the messenger in his addon it could still be argued that the use of his addon is theft of service/resources since it uses the framework of the original program to use resources for free which would normally be not free.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 9:54am

    Re: Copyright

    The reason you don't understand this issue is lack of knowledge

    That's incorrect (and marginally insulting). It helps you not to make incorrect assumptions.

    You expect copyright to work the way you want it to work, instead of how it actually does. It doesn't work that way.

    I am quite familiar with how copyright works -- and am extremely familiar with the history of copyright both in the US and beyond. As you should know if you've been around here for awhile, I've been studying and writing about intellectual property for quite some time -- and I'm more than familiar with the text of the law, the precedents set in court both in the US and in other countries.

    Just because you don't agree with me, don't try to make it out like I'm ignorant. We can disagree without suggesting the other person is ignorant. I'm certainly not accusing you of ignorance -- though I do think you're incorrect here. I'm trying to understand why we disagree, not insult you. I wish you would do the same.

    You then list out five examples that you incorrectly state don't involve "copying." Most of them actually do involve copying. What does not involve copying is creating an entirely separate software program that works with another software program.

    At best, you seem to be saying that the definition of copyright has been so muddled over the years, that it now allows you to prevent *anyone* from doing anything that *touches* on your offering. That's simply not true, and even so would go against your argument that this is exactly how copyright is supposed to work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    MaxRay, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 12:24pm

    Should have hired the Guy

    Tencent should have hired the guy or at least bought his new software from him. Then its a win/win. Instead, they stomp all over him and still do not change their own software. Sure, it was copyright infringement. But the choice was to either make the Tencent product better - use the new version legally by buying out the programmer - or do nothing to their software and throw lawsuits at him. Tencent just chose the loose/loose situation. They don't have any better software and possibly alienating those that use the illegal version.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Brian, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re:

    I enjoy Mike's point of view and find Angry Dude amusing but annoying and more than anything in this world right now I want to see Mike reply to AD's t-shirt comment. I think I spit out my drink!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I enjoy Mike's point of view and find Angry Dude amusing but annoying and more than anything in this world right now I want to see Mike reply to AD's t-shirt comment. I think I spit out my drink!

    There are some things that simply aren't worth replying to. I've pointed out plenty of times in the past the details of the economics I'm talking about. It's not "sell lots of t-shirts" and angry dude either knows that or has trouble understanding concepts that have more than a single variable.

    Since I doubt it's the latter, I'm assuming that angry dude is simply acting dumb to try to get a reaction out of me and others here. He's been caught making up stuff and lying repeatedly in the past and been called on it. So his response is to lie some more about my positions. It shows what sort of person he is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 5:53pm

    Fun Discussion

    Either way, guys, fun discussion. I think you could both be right, depending on the circumstances (local law, actual facts of the case, etc.) Don't get me wrong, though. The discussion is worthwhile even without every detail, which would be difficult to get accurately.

    But Mike, the original posting didn't make it very clear how much the developer (Chen's) software was an "add-on" or instead a "modification" of the original. Add-ons should be OK, but mods not, generally speaking. From the linked article, it remains difficult to understand whether he added-on or modified.

    But there are three interesting points:
    - for a folk hero, Chen is pretty slimy. Spam, spyware, replacing QQ's popups for his own. Not the kind of guy I want to defend. If he's not guilty, he treads more grey water then tadpoles.

    - Mr. You, who may become Chen's lawyer said, "He's wrong , but not so bad as to be jailed." If a local copyright expert with a bias towards the defendant says that, it should inform us as to Chen's actions in the eyes of local copyright law.

    - Chen originally offered downloads of QQ's software along with his add-on. And his add-on name "Coral QQ" clearly trades off of the QQ brand much as Lindows was a trademark violation of Windows.

    If this were just an add-on, had an name that wasn't a trademark issue, was downloaded and installed entirely separately from QQ, didn't modify the installation of QQ on the PC, and ran separately killing QQ popups and over-writing the QQ app's screen space, then it would be a clear issue of a simple add-on that a user should be free to install. My read of the story is that this is not the case. It seems more likely a case of infringement. But we're all speculating unless we really understand the details of how the add-on works.

    Not sure if jail is a fair penalty, but from the story it's clear that Chen ignored lesser legal remedies.

    Carme, what do you think of software like esnipe.com (for one example) that lets one bid on eBay auctions last minute? One can use it instead of the eBay bidding interface. Are we at least agreed that there is no copyright infringement there?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    DeveloperZero, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 11:33pm

    Oh, the irony....

    Beyond the obvious irony of China upholding IP (although it makes sense in this case, because it is affecting a Chinese corporation, and the Maoist state is just like all the other "Communist" countries, but that is a different discussoin for a different day), its intersting that you, a person who believes in using alternative methods of income (i.e. ads), are supporting someone from earning their well-deserved income.

    How would you like it if someone found a way to get around you ads, put up their own, and made money off of your site. That is essentially what is happening here. While I don't know if it is legally wrong (I don't know chinese law), but is is both Morally and Ethically wrong (that also applies to ad-blockers, although not necessarily to pop-up blockers).

    The reason is because you viewing the ads from the company is how you are paying for the product or service, and if you don't pay for it, you're stealing. That is the most succint way I can think of to put it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This