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Subject: Gmini and legal issues
From: Laurent Giroud (laurent.giroud_at_libertysurf.fr)
Date: 2004-01-02


Hi,

as mentionned previously, I'm working on the disassembly of the Gmini Firmware. With a bit of help, I've been able to decrypt it (as suggested, it's not compressed, just "encrypted").
However, before publishing something here I wanted to make sure I would not be breaching any laws.

Concerning the USA, since this work is very similar to that of the XboxLinux project I think there's not much need to check as the DMCA specifically allows it under some conditions.

In France, such kind of work is also allowed provided some conditions are met. Since Archos is a french company and I am french myself, you can imagine why I'm taking care to respect them all.

Here's what the Code of Intellectual Property says :

Article L122-6-1
IV. The program's code reproduction or the translation of this
    code's form is not subject to the author's autorization as
    long as the reproduction or translation as intended by the
    1st or 2nd alinea of the L122-6 article is essential to get
    the informations necessary to the interoperability of a
    program independantly developed with other programs, as
    long as the following conditions are met :
  1 Those acts are accomplished by the person owning the right
    to use the program or or by a person "hired" by him for
    this purpose (read "choosen by him")
  2 The informations necessary for interoperability haven't
    already been easily and quickly made available to the
    people mentionned at the 1st alinea
  3 Those acts are limited to the parts of the program
    necessary to interoperability.
    The informations so obtained can't :
      1 Neither be used to other means than obtaining the
        interoperability of the independantly created program
      2 Neither be communicated to other people except when
        it's necessary to obtain the interoperability of the
        independantly created program
      3 Neither be used to design, produce, or commercialize
        a program which "does something" similar or for any
        other act contrary to the author's rights (read
        "contrary to copyright law")
V. This article shouldn't be interpreted so as to prevent the
   normal use of the program or to cause an unjustified
   prejudice to the author's legitimate rights

Article L122-6-2
  All advertising or instruction notice (?) relative to the
  means allowing the suppression or neutralization (?) of a
  technical device protecting a program must mention that the
  illicite use of those means might be punished as
  counterfeit (forgery ?).

As you can see there are a few subtle points. A part of this article I did not mention explicitely allows disassembly of the firmware for the user's own purpose : he has full rights to understand how the device he bought works from A to Z
.
What is subject to the restrictions IV-1-1/2/3 above is the reproduction of the firmware code and its translation (ie desassembly) in order to obtain informations permitting its interoperability with rockbox (ie infos on how to load it).
The main problem is that rockbox could be considered as a program that does "something similar" [to the original firmware] which would invalidate not the right to disassemble, but the right to design, produce or commercialize (no problem with this last one) rockbox for the gmini. It could be safe if it's interoperability with the hardware that is judged important and not with the original firmware, considering that Archos does not lose anything from people installing a new firmware on their machines. The fact that plugins can be bought from Archos can be a problem since providing the same features than those plugins offer in rockbox could be considered as an attack on their revenue model. This is not certain however since it's not explicit in the french law and a judge could rule that everybody has the right to use whatever software he wants on hardware he bought and that this software has the right to use the hardware to its "fullest" even if it hurts the product manufacturer.

A thing that must be done to prevent some problems is to write Archos a request for the informations mentionned in the Law's article and telling them that otherwise disassembly would be allowed by the same article. This might incite them to open up.
However it's also possible that they precisely decided to opt for the plugins business model in order to make disassembly illegal under the Article mentionned.

Only a lawyer might give useful advice here on those points. So I'll be contacting one in the next few days.
Anyone knows any good ones ? ;)

Regards,
Laurent



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