OT: Reverse Engineering (was Re: [OpenBIOS] New power-up graphics BIOS.)

Chris Maresca ckm at crust.net
Mon Aug 20 09:50:45 CEST 2001

On Mon, 20 Aug 2001, Matthew Sullivan wrote:

> If memory serves me the problem comes down to if you have read the code and any of
> the code matches the original it can be deemed that you have copied it... however if
> you have never seen/read the code and write the exact same instructions you can
> legally use it.... The hard part is proving how you wrote the code without
> seeing/reading  the original...

Reverse engineering is done like this:

1. Hire/involve two groups of engineers, seperate them completely
2. Have group 1 produce a complete, detailed specification of the workings
    of the product to be 'reverse engineered'
3. Group 2 produces software to the spec of group 1
4. Usually, a third and independant group tests for interoperability

In this whole process, you have to document every interaction, every
process, the way of seperate teams and how you keep leaders/instigators
from 'tainting' the results.

Yes, in most countries it's legal to reverse engineer (even in the US).
It's illegal, however, to decompile and use the resulting code.  At the
very least, that's a copyright violation.  Reverse engineering !=
decompiling, there's a lot more to it than that.  

If you are prepared and equiped to follow a strict 'reverse engineering'
process, you should also be aware that many companies also protect their
'intellectual proprety' with patents.  While all of us may disagree with
software or business methodology patents, that doesn't change the facts on
the ground...


chris maresca
      internet systems architect -- www.chrismaresca.com

"linux, only up 138 days, because california has flaky power... "

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