In my previous post, IP Infringement Issues, I wrote about an email I’d received from INSIDE Secure, and my response to that letter. The blog post sparked quite a bit of interest, as both Slashdot and Boing Boing picked up on it.
A lot of the comments that were generated thought that there was no substance within the letter; if they had had any real legal case, the tone would’ve been much harder. Part of a Slashdot comment:
Therefore, the letter does not even threaten any legal action at all. It's just a friendly request.....or as friendly as lawyers ever get.
I kind of agree with that. The email was very vague, not explicitly threatening, but certainly implicitly. Here’s an excerpt where I get the feeling of being accused of inciting third parties to infringe upon their “intellectual property rights”:
More particularly, we request that you refrain from publishing the code. We therefore leave it up to you to decide whether it is wise to incite third parties to infringe our intellectual property rights.
I also got some email about it. Here’s from a guy with an ISP business in France:
Hi there martin, I re-read the letter those guys wrote and here's my (IANAL) analysis : - they are referring to US law well, too bad, you're a swede, doesn't apply to you your code was created for research your code is legal in european law as it provides interoperability with a closed system. your code is a clean implementation move along, nothing to see here you can even remove the stupid copyright warning ( as long as you don't store said code on US servers ?) in short, you could have told them to go do whatever they want with their inane letter and not bulge. keep up the good work ! [redacted] from france (who has an ISP business and receves mail from the US with DMCA threats every weeks and just ignores them because they don't apply here) ps: consult a real lawyer
I even got an email from Richard M Stallman himself (!):
[[[ To any NSA and FBI agents reading my email: please consider ]]] [[[ whether defending the US Constitution against all enemies, ]]] [[[ foreign or domestic, requires you to follow Snowden's example. ]]] I read the article you published about the patent threat. Thanks for standing up to the threat. I'd like to mention that there is another stupid/nasty thing in their threat: their use of the term "intellectual property". That is a bogus concept, a confusion of disparate laws. Lawyers trying to intimidate someone love that term because it makes the issue blurry and scares people. They use it so much that they have made many people think it is meaningful. See http://gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.html for an explanation. So I would like to suggest that you avoid using that term yourself as if it meant something, and instead criticize them for using the term.
We exchanged a few emails, and I modified the original post a bit to use the term patent infringement instead of IP infringement. I recommmend you to check out the page he links to, about the fuzzy concept of IP. It covers some ground about the differences between patent, copyrights, and trademark legislation and purpose of each - and how the “Intellectual Property”-concept muddies the water.
So, a couple of weeks ago (2014-11-18), I got another email from INSIDE Secure. It was with a bit of trepidation that I opened it… Here’s the full text, with names omitted:
To: Mr Martin Holst Swende <Address> Meyreuil, on November 18, 2014 Dear Mr. Swende, Thank you for your email dated October 19 in response to our letter dated October 7, 2014. The incorporation of the warning in each file of the codebase and upon program execution, whereby the code is created for experimentation and educational use only, and any other use may infringe upon our intellectual property rights, addresses our concern. We appreciate your prompt cooperation on this matter. Regards, <XXX YYY> General Manager
So, apparently, they are fully satisfied with my response/actions.
A more cynical person could have speculated that what actually happened was that they didn’t really have a case in the first place, but a vaguely threatening letter is simple enough to send – in the hope that I’d remove the code and go hide under a rock. As RMS said regarding IP: “Lawyers trying to intimidate someone love that term because it makes the issue blurry and scares people”. But instead they started getting blowback on the internetz, which wasn’t at all in the plans… So, plan B: back off and pretend to have achieved victory!
Luckily, I’m not that cynical.