I wanted to jump on the bandwagon of downloading the recently reverse engineered source code for the popular online chat application Skype, and found it removed due to DMCA. It isn’t suprising to see it removed as Microsoft currently owns the product after purchasing the company for 8.5billion, and MS has a long history of DMCA takedowns and they are a current ACTA supporter.
Reverse engineering has long been held a legitimate form of discovery in both legislation and court opinions. The Supreme Court has confronted the issue of reverse engineering in mechanical technologies several times, upholding it under the principles that it is an important method of the dissemination of ideas and that it encourages innovation in the marketplace. The Supreme Court addressed the first principle in Kewanee Oil v. Bicron, a case involving trade secret protection over synthetic crystals manufacturing by defining reverse engineering as “a fair and honest means of starting with the known product and working backwards to divine the process which aided in its development or manufacture.” [416 U.S. 470, 476 (1974)] The principle that reverse engineering encourages innovation was articulated in Bonito Boats. v. Thunder Craft, a case involving laws forbidding the reverse engineering of the molding process of boat hulls, when the Supreme Court said that “the competitive reality of reverse engineering may act as a spur to the inventor, creating an incentive to develop inventions that meet the rigorous requirements of patentability.” [489 U.S. 141 160 (1989)]
My $0.02 legal opinion
Reverse engineering to approximate original source code is a supported method by the supreme court. I perform reverse engineering of applications on a daily basis.
I have learned through this, that the source code generated rarely is an exact match to the original, and never has the original comments. When purchasing source code, how well commented it is, is part of it’s valuation. I would consider the reverse engineered source code work product of “Efim Bushmanov”.
It was commented that the reverse engineering violated the TOS of the Skype application. I agree that this starts putting Mr Bushmanov on tenuous ground. However, it is also upheld that civil contracts cannot take away rights guaranteed by courts. For instance, you cannot be forced to pay attorneys fees simply because you agreed to that in contract. The award of attorney’s fees is reserved to allocate by the judicial body presiding over the case. These forms of retained jurisdiction are to prevent company’s from abusing their customers by having overly elaborate contracts that overreach reasonable contract authority.