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+ - Lawsuit in open-source tuning land-> 1

Submitted by
David Blundell
David Blundell writes "I owned and operated the largest online site dedicated to tuning and open-source solutions for engine management — chipping and tuning engine computers, basically. From May 2002 till the beginning of this year. Last year, I received a Cease and Desist notice (which was forwarded to the EFF, who were very helpful) for a matter involving a posting on the forum that was removed within 48 hours of telephonic notification. The company involved was pursuing the matter rather aggressively initially, but I thought the matter had been dropped earlier this year after I sold the site until I was surprised by a lawsuit last week.

If anyone is curious about the details of this mess and how it has been handled up to this point, go check out http://forum.pgmfi.org/viewtopic.php?p=95637 (don't worry — no registration required) — it's probably an hour read, but there is a timeline of events and all legal correspondence exchanged over this mess is available for your viewing pleasure.

I'm trying to spread awareness of this matter because I think it is important for forum operators everywhere to understand the risks involved with companies willing to aggressively protect their IP. Also, I think there are some rather novel (well, at least interesting?) issues here:

-The "software" in question here was a backdoor. An existing product's protocols were used in a manner that the original authors had not intended. A software license agreement forbidding reverse engineering may have been violated in the course of creating the "software." Who should be the target? Hosting provider or author? Limitations? At what point does a product that makes use of reverse-engineered protocols (something like Samba, for instance) become a violation of intellectual property?

-The company suing me presumably are laying claim to the code that the downloader can access as their intellectual property. This code was originally written by Honda, reverse engineered and presumably modified by Hondata, who are suing me. Honda could care less about the matter. Without any patents or copyrights, do Hondata have an intellectual property claim to code that they didn't exclusively write (merely modified) running on hardware they did not design, build or sell?

-What are the limits on the duty of care of a forum hosting provider? Moderator? Mere domain owner?

-Is this a case of a large, established commercial provider using strong-armed legal tactics to manipulate and push around an open-source project (and/or take over it, see demands in link), or were there more legitimate claims?

I'm hoping to receive some answers to these questions from an IP attorney, and I'll be sure to share as things progress.

Thanks for listening."

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Those who do things in a noble spirit of self-sacrifice are to be avoided at all costs. -- N. Alexander.

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