Sat, Jun. 07, 2003

Reverse Software Engineering in IEEE Amicus Brief

CK - Washington.   IEEE-USA filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to defend reverse engineering of software on cert of Bowers v. Baystate Technologies, Inc., 320 F.3d 1317 (Fed. Cir. 2003) from the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC. Among several arguments supporting the supremacy of federal intellectual property law, the IEEE argues that the recent Bowers decision effectively rewards creativity in crafting license agreements at the expense of the essential tenets of copyright law.

Reverse engineering issues meet at the junction of federal copyright and other intellectual property law and the laws of the states and the District of Columbia, including their contract laws pertaining to sales and licenses.

In Bowers, a key is the restriction frequently embodied in shrink-wrap and click-on licenses to forego users' rights to reverse engineer a product. The Federal Circuit's holding can be understood to prohibit even learning by operating software so protected.

Germany permits reverse engineering under the 1991 E.U. Software Directive (Council Directive 91/250 on the legal protection of computer programs (OJ 1991 L122/42)) -- discussed with reference to U.S. law here -- which has found some support also in the U.S. software business community.
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