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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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Is it legal software EULA (the software enables the use

Resolved Question:

Is it legal for a software EULA (the software enables the use of a USB camera) to disallow reverse engineering for the purpose of accessing the camera directly without need for the original software. I.e. there is no real interest in being able to publish details of what the software itself does beyond being able to create an open source driver for the camera.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Alex Watts : Hello my name is ***** ***** I will help you with this.
Alex Watts : To clarify reverse engineer the software?
Customer:

reverse engineering here would be a matter of intercepting what standard APIs the software uses to interact with the camera and logging how the software interacts with the camera so that it's possible to develop open source software that can also properly interact with the camera to turn it on and retrieve images from the camera.

Alex Watts : Ok. This is likely to be illegal. I am sure it is a condition of use of the software not to reverse engineer or tamper in any way.
Alex Watts : If it doesn't say this in any terms then you can reverse engineer it.
Alex Watts : If you were then to use it for malicious purposes it would be illegal..
Alex Watts : So if the terms are silent on this or there are no terms governing download then you can.
Alex Watts : Otherwise if there are terms saying no reverse enginering, it would not be illegal but a breach of contract.
Alex Watts : So you have to ask yourself if you did, who would find out?
Alex Watts : probably no one.
Alex Watts : can I clarify anything for you about this today please?
Customer:

well the EULA explicitly states this isn't allowed. In the US for example afik it can sometimes be considered fair use to reverse engineer for interoperability reasons. In this case reverse engineering at least means going against the license, but in the UK I don't know if there is any protection for reverse engineering for interoperability purposes.

Alex Watts : It would be a beach if contract. Reverse engineering in itself is not illegal.
Alex Watts : So it wouldn't be a criminal offence, only breach of contract
Customer:

so it would just mean that you'd no longer have a license to continue using the software, but that in itself wouldn't really be a problem

Alex Watts : yes, it's not illegal.
Alex Watts : Does that help ?
Customer:

thanks for the help, I suppose ideally I'd like to be aware of some examples where this was how the law was interpreted, or understand maybe what aspect of UK law is it that ensures this would be legal. In terms of asking 'who would find out?' makes me unsure that this is clearly legal. In this case publishing open source code would clearly publicly state that that the original software had been reverse engineered.

Alex Watts : This is contract law.
Alex Watts : In the UK if there isn't an act then makes it illegal then you can do it.
Alex Watts : If it's not for malicious purposes then it's not illegal.
Customer:

breaking the contract is one thing, but I somehow imagined reverse engineering would be specifically covered somewhere maybe in copyright law?

Alex Watts : Not here,
Customer:

ok, thanks for the help

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