Computer Chess Club Archives




Subject: Re: The superior Rybka chess knowledge

Author: Robert Hyatt

Date: 08:49:09 01/22/06

Go up one level in this thread

On January 22, 2006 at 09:26:17, Walter Faxon wrote:

>On January 22, 2006 at 00:18:52, Robert Hyatt wrote:
>>On January 20, 2006 at 17:23:00, Uri Blass wrote:
>>>It is illegal to do it.
>>>I doubt if all of them do not respect the law.
>>You and others keep saying this.  But it is _not_ true.   Please cite any U.S.
>>or international law that specifically and explicitly makes this a criminal act.
>> "reverse-engineering" has been adjudicated as perfectly legal in both US and
>>international courts.  One can't "copy" the code due to copyright.  But one can
>>certainly read, study, and learn from it...
>No expert on the law but...
>(1) I don't know about the case of Rybka, but usually the terms of sale prohibit
>reverse-engineering.  So doing so is a tort if not a crime.

There are no "terms of sale" for a freely distributed program.  But even if I
were to "buy the thing" no law can restrict what I do with the thing for myself.
 No, I can't distribute it to others, if it was sold to me.  But I can certainly
discuss what I see about how it works, and if I can figure out some supposedly
secret idea and report on that, that's perfectly acceptable, even if the idea
was patented.  The patent might prevent others from using the idea, but not from
discussing it at length to find alternative approaches to produce the same

>(2) If you make a human-readable copy, that is a "derivative work" which is a
>violation of copyright.  Anything you thus "learn from it" and then use (or post
>about) is also derivative.

That is incorrect.  I buy a copyrighted book.  So I can't "learn anything from
the book and then use it?"  "derivative work" means that I derive something from
a copyrighted item and then try to sell or distribute that as my own idea.
Nobody is suggesting that someone would disassemble a program (such as Rybka),
then sell the disassembled program as their own work.  But if copyright law
worked like that, research would be dead.  If that were true, how could you use
alpha/beta when Shannon et al could clearly prove it was their "idea"
distributed in a copyrighted journal paper?

>(3) In the U.S. the DMCA prohibits use of methods to get unauthorized access to
>any copyrighted work.  Felony.  A disassembler used to help has been held by a
>court to be a "burglary tool".

Where?  Except for a case where the software was "stolen" and re-sold.  There is
no money being made here when one talks about what ideas a particular program
appears to use...  Copyright applies to the original text, and prevents its
re-distribution.  It doesn't protect the "ideas" inside the text, just the
actual text itself.  Again, were that false, education itself would be

>(4) Before the DMCA the only exceptions that U.S. courts have allowed regard the
>need for other programs to interface the subject program.  Rybka uses the
>standard UCI protocol and has no other interface requirements.
>Perhaps you ought to talk to your University's lawyer before posting on this
>subject again.

Sorry, but I already have.  It is a mandatory event here about every 5 years.
You are missing the point of "copyright".  It is about "copying".  It is _not_
about discussing ideas included in something that is copyrighted.  Patents
protect ideas, but the US patent office has taken a very dim view of attempts to
patent computer algorithms, although they have done so on occasion.


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