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Linux Software

Linux Drivers For Free Barcode Scanner Cease-And-D... 451

On Aug. 30 several folks who have written Linux drivers and apps relating to the free barcode scanner mentioned here a few days ago were sent cease and desist orders demanding that they stop distributing the code. [updated by timothy 20:00 GMT: Please note that what flyingbuttmonkeys received is not officially a "cease and desist" letter; instead, it merely says that the longer the drivers are available, the "longer damages will accrue," citing "intellectual property rights owned by Digital Convergence." ] The barcode scanner is called a CueCat (with some lame marketroid colons that I'm not using because it irritates me when people name things like that). The code included a device driver written by Pierre-Philippe Coupard and a reader/decrypter written by Michael Rothwell. The code is afaik unavailable, but hopefully folks who downloaded it will have mirrors soon. I asked Michael to describe to me what his decoder did, and a few other questions.

> How complicated is the driver/what does it do?

It isn't terribly complicated. There's two programs that I wrote in the package, and one I did not. All are based on the "libcue" I wrote, also in the package. The deocder algorithm is a simple modified base-64 XOR 67. Jean-Philippe 'JP' Sugarbroad figured it out, and Colin Cross wrote code based on it and made me aware of it. I re-implemented it for the learning experience. The program named "decode" reads in a line of output from the cuecat for stdin or as first argument. CueCat output looks like this:

<ALT-F10>.C3nZC3nZC3nYDhv7D3DWCxnX.cGf2.ENr7C3b3DNbWChPXDxzZDNP6.

decode splits the Cue output into fields separeted buy ".". It ignores the first field and runs the rest through the base64+XOR decoder. This becomes the first line output. Digital Converegence added some additional "encryption" to their Web service; their program takes the output of the cuecat and inverts its case befoe sending it off to http://[server].dcnv.com/CRQ/1..[activation code].04.[cuecat scan].0

[Server] can be a, o, s, t, or u. [activation code] is supposed to be the activation code you get from your registration, but can be simply "ACTIVATIONCODE", which is actually what my spftware puts there. [cuecat scan] is the raw output of the device, minus the ALT-F10, with case inverted. Their servers send back a little blob of text containing several fields, including a suggested URL and description. Libcue parses those out and makes them available to its clients. Here's the scan of an NADA car-guide book:

The output of decode looks like this
DATA 000000001768443202 IB5 978034533392650599

CUE 0345333926
AMAZON 0345333926
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345333926/104-2159322-9263954
Ringworld Larry Niven
http://images.amazon.com/images/P/0345333926.01.LZZZZZZZ.gif

The gnome panel applet reads in CueCat scans, looks up the :Cue at DCNV servers, and redirects Netscape to the suggested site, if any.

> What does their commercial software do exactly?

The same thing mine does, without the amazon lookup and with some annoying GUI features, like a tabbed CueCat panel.

> How many lines of code?

1258 according to "cat cuecat-applet.c cuecat-applet.h decode.c decode.h libcue.c libcue.h | wc -l"

Michael makes another interesting point in a seperate e-mail

When they sent the letter (Aug. 30), my software did not touch the DCNV servers to look up :Cues. It simply decoded the data, and if an ISBN number was scanned, the panel applet made Netscape go to the Amazon page blindly: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/[isbn number here].

So it was not the use of DCNV servers they objected to, but the mere decoding of the output of the cuecat. I didn't release the :Cue and Amazon lookup-enabled version until yesterday (Aug. 31), when the FedEx letter arrived by overnight delivery.

Thanks to Michael for taking the time to answer this stuff. It's pretty scary when the stuff that you have can't be poked at without a corporation demanding you stop. Imagine if Ford had said you can't open the hoods of your car a hundred years ago.

Update: 09/01 02:49 PM by CT : Freshmeat has a perl script CueCat Decoder that will also decode the CueCat's output.

Update: 09/01 02:57 PM by CT : Russel Nelson pointed out that Lineo's Driver has also been taken down following a cease and desist from Digital Convergence (CueCat's parent).

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Linux Drivers for Free Barcode Scanner Cease-And-Desisted

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's called the Electronic Frontier Foundation [eff.org].
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, here's what I did with my barcode scanner: scanned in my entire book collection [eblong.com], grabbed the catalog data from Amazon (etc), and turned it into a database. 1500 books in a weekend. If I had done that by hand, it would have taken weeks.

    Note that I didn't use a CueCat. This was several months ago, before the CueCat program started -- I just went out and bought a scanner. Nonetheless, you could do the same thing, and I've gotten email from people who plan to.

    Feel free to use my code. Python scripts, GPL, kind of ugly (and note that one needs correction since Amazon changed their page layout.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:27AM (#811407)
    I signed nothing, I read nothing, I didn't even give them my name. I ripped open the bag, tossed the papers and CD in my pile of useless CD's. I took a screwdriver to the case and looked inside (rather dull actually).
    I agreed to NOTHING!
    In short, it is mine to do with as I will. I can write other software for it, sell or give it to someone else, let my dog chew on it or take it out back and use it for target practice.
    I'm surprised they found a lawyer who'd even write up the cease and desist as they don't have a case. It's been decided by the courts before, if you give something away for free it's no longer yours to control.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:37AM (#811408)
    I think he should go to court just so we can hear the judge and lawyers say "flying butt monkeys" a lot
  • by RudeDude ( 672 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:28AM (#811412) Homepage Journal
    Here's the decode spec itself from the README found in the link driver:


    The encoding is a base64 (not MIME tho) with a random XOR thrown in. Each letter is a base 64 (6 bit) number, a is 0, z is 25, A is 26, Z is 51, 0 is 52, 9 is 61, + is 62, - is 63 (and fill in the blanks between there). A group of four of these 6 bit numbers are combined into a single 24 bit number, which is then split into three 8 bit ASCII codes (XORed with 67).

    Taral corrected my first perl script to solve the short code problem. If a group of 4 characters is not complete (ie there are only 2 characters), it should be padded with 0's ('a' in the base64 encoding), and then follow the same decoding process. Then chop off the same number of characters from the decoded string that were padded onto the encoded string.

    No tables/codes should be used anywhere - it is simply a coincidence that they work for numeric values, because the top 4 bits of all the number ASCII codes are the same, 0011 binary.

    If you want to print your own barcodes I suggest the encoding called "Code 128". I found a company (Elfring Fonts) that sells windows fonts and software to make it easy to encode your own stuff: http://www.barcodingfonts.com/ [barcodingfonts.com]
    ---
    Don Rude - AKA - RudeDude

  • If anyone has a new version, please put it up somewhere 0.05 is here [xdrive.com]
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:59AM (#811415)
    What's not implicated stated in this particular slashdot story, but refered to previously, is that when you swipe with the scanner, the first part of the mumbojumbo you get back is a unique identifier for that scanner. This gets sent back to the server, and gee, at that point, what do you think it's used for?

    At which point, the software for Linux is compariable to clean room interoperability (legal by DCMA) and to junkbuster. Both which are legal, AFAIK.

  • I'll probably do up Scheme and Lisp versions over the long weekend; it would probably be an interesting exercise to do it in OCAML, as an exercise in pattern matching.

    Betcha most of them fit into under a page, and well within the constraints of a ./ message...

  • I pulled the fairly short Perl version, and immediately concluded that it could be shortened and speeded up immensely by suitable use of associative arrays.

    The same principle will hold true for just about any language offering easy access to hash tables; the program can be made data-driven, and be both minscule and incredibly fast.

  • The way it interfaces, it pretends to be a keyboard, which means that the "nasty" parts of producing a driver have already been done.

    What needs to be written is the "user space" side of things, which essentially amounts to an interface that takes ISBN numbers read using the scanner and then "does something useful."

    That's not "device driver" work; that's application work. Feel free to be inspired to work on apps or drivers; don't assume that the info here provides any guidance on dealing with device drivers.

  • Ok, this has gone far enough.

    Here's my mirror of one of the packages, a description of the encoding and a taunt for Digital Convergance to 'come get some'. http://www.beau.lib.la.us/~jmorris/linux/cuecat [lib.la.us]
  • No no no, it was after she spilled the coffee that this info was found. Listen I believe she was in part responsible for what happaned the problems with this case that no one seems to bring are:

    1. McD was heating the coffee at 180 degrees instead of 140 which is the "safe" limit

    2. The management of that particular McD was incontact with the head office telling the head office that the coffee requirement was too hot and their customers were complaining. (The head office specified the 180 deg temp)

    3. The woman only originally asked for McD to pay PART of her medical bill. She knew she did something dumb, but the severity of the burns were because the coffe was unsafe to even drink.

    4. McD refused, and a fat lawyer got involved who uncovered the previous complaints as well ast the comunications with the head office about the temperature of the coffee.

    5. Her lawyer sued.

    6. She was awarded 10 million, Which was later put aside. (IE she never got it)

    7. McD now heats their coffee to 140 degrees which is still DAMN hot. Go try some.

    8. McD but this stupid lill warning on the cups saing "Contents are hot!" and fed the media about how people don't take responsibility for their actions.

    9. A lot of people BOUGHT it.

    The way I see it McD was at least in part at fault in this case. But THEY refused to admit it and it cost them.

    ---------------------------
    Yes there is a lot of I'ts not my fault I'll sue cases in this country.. this was not one of them.

    Ex-Nt-User
  • that serial number is probably easily matched up to the store where you picked up your cuecat device, or even to your name if you gave it to the clerk at the store.

    Ummm... No.

    The clerk who took my name entered it into the computer and then scanned the cuecat (or the catalog, I'm not sure) before giving it to me. Even if the serial number wasn't definantly associated with the identity I gave at time of purchase, it was certainly associated with the store location. There's no doubt that Digital Convergance would keep track of which serial numbers got shipped to which Radio Shack locations.

    Furthermore, from what I've heard there's a potentially identity revealing registration process one must complete in order to use the Windows software.

    Even if Digital Convergence doesn't know a person's exact identity, they know at the very minimum what Radio Shack store the scanner came from and thus very approximately where they live in most cases. And that's more than enough to increase the value of any marketing/profileing data they collect substantially.

  • Every cuecat scan results in some garbage that looks like the following:

    .C3nZC3nZC3nZCxj2Dhz1C3nX.fHmc.DxPYE3b6C3nZC3jY.

    Hidden inside that code is the barcode type, and its numeric or alphanumeric equivilent. But there's more: There's also a serial number. And that serial number is probably easily matched up to the store where you picked up your cuecat device, or even to your name if you gave it to the clerk at the store.

    .C3nZC3nZC3nZCxj2Dhz1C3nX.fHmc.DxPYE3b6C3nZC3jY.
    000000000215756002 UPA 691839000011

    The first item in the second line is the serial number. Then the barcode, and then the numeric value of the UPC type A code. This serial number stuff is real bad news. It's like a cookie that can't be turned off, and it gets sent to Digital Convergence every time you scan a barcode that brings you to a web site using their software.

    Of course, they're going to be pissed about people using their barcode scanners without their spying software: They want to make money by seling your personal information. They know where you live. They know what books you read, and they know what products you buy, all by what you scan with their little cuespy.

    The cease and desist letter they've sent is a vague piece of crap. Its sole intent is to intimidate. They have no legal standing. First spying, now intimidation tactics? I think perhaps it's time for a TLO to investigate Digitial Convergence.

    I've mirrored the standalone cuecat decoder software at http://osiris.978.org/~brianr/cuecat/ [978.org].

  • What portion of their Windows-based app does this circumvent? Registration. So you don't have to type in your vital marketing data so they can sell you out to all their valued marketing partners. Maybe this is their most important revenue stream, so obviously they want to protect it. Does anyone else find it ironic that the previous story is Amazon appending their privacy policy?

    Is this device covered by some sort of EULA (not the software, but rather the device) that prevents reverse engineering? If not, than they have nothing to sue over, besides standard legal manipulations that we're all familiar with. This needs to be delt with quickly and appropiatly, by retaining legal council and verifying that they have no legal leg to stand on.

    Is this a forbringer of a day where reverse engineering is illegal? Where everything is sealed and consumers own nothing but rent them from major corporations? Maybe not, but it's enough to make one wonder.

  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:44PM (#811434) Homepage
    If there's ambiguities, etc. that either invalidate or otherwise, they can't claim that the interpretation that is most favorable is the one that's the correct interpretation. Legally speaking, they have to be explicit in everything or it causes a loophole. Since they weren't explicit on the packaging, a claim on the WWW site doesn't give them footing in this regard.

    (Just because it's in the boilerplate at any location, doesn't mean it's legit- loads of companies alike try to pull fast ones all the time!)
  • by mrbill ( 4993 ) <mrbill@mrbill.net> on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:41AM (#811439) Homepage
    When I got mine (two of them) from Radio Shack,
    they just handed me the Cue:Cat in a baggie
    w/a CD-ROM, and a catalog. There is no legal
    license agreement saying I have to agree to
    anything to use the hardware - *ONLY* if you
    install the software (on a Windows box) do you
    have to agree to anything. I dont see where
    they have a case here. Nothing is being
    reverse-engineered, its only being decoded and
    interpeted.

    I'm going to write them - I was planning on
    writing a review of the unit in conjunction
    with the Sun PS/2 keyboard interface box and
    Sun's PCi pc-on-a-card product for PCI-bus
    SPARCstations (I actually got it to work).
    Now, I'll throw it in a drawer, and put up
    mirrors of this guy's code alongside my
    DeCSS archives.
  • To whom it may concern:

    When I first heard about the Cuecat device I must admit
    I was impressed. I wanted one and, hey, it's free!

    Imagine my dismay when on the same *day* I picked up
    a Cuecat from Radio Shack your company and it's lawyers
    decided to issue a cease-and-desist letter to the author
    of one of the few peices of cuecat decoding software
    for my choice of operating system. I am not pleased.

    As I'm sure you're aware, the Sega vs. Accolade case
    (among others) solidified the legality of the reverse
    engineering of technology for the purposes of
    interopability. You cannot use an unenforceable licence
    to stifle it, nor can your bullying tactics dam the flood
    of Free Software Cuecat decoders.

    The way I see it you have two choices. 1) Continue your
    fruitless bullying efforts and alienate the entire
    Free Software and Open Source community (incedently,
    said communities are composed of very, very influental
    personalities.) 2) Embrace the Free Software and
    Open Source communities and work *WITH* the authors
    designing Cuecat software (and possibly *gasp* contribute
    *code* to their projects...) and reap the benefits of
    an expanded user base.

    The choice is yours, though the only reason I can
    imagine you not opting for choice 2 is that you're
    doing something unspeakable in the guts of your
    C.R.Q. software.

    I myself an am influential person. I provide support
    and advice for many companies and individuals in the
    St. Louis area. If your lawyer-dogs are not reigned
    in promptly I will have no choice but to caution
    my family, friends and my paying customers to not
    use your Cuecat device, your Convergance Cable device nor,
    especially, your C.R.Q. software.

    I have already downloaded several alternative Cuecat
    decoding software packages. The most useful of which
    is a book cataloging package. I intend to use and share
    these pieces of software freely. I also intend to use
    my skills to improve and refine them. This can not be
    illegal, nor I might add immoral. You have given me a
    device that can be used for more than it's intended
    purpose, and for that I thank you.

    In closing, I'd like to add that people like me, hobbiests,
    hackers, and just plain inquisitive people made the Internet
    into the tool that it is today. The tool that you use
    for your marketing purposes and the tool you have based
    your business model on. Let me re-iterate: Hackers
    built the Internet. It is not wise to raise the ire of
    the same people who provide you with your email. Your
    web services. Who create the protocols you depend on.
    Who route your packets. You want bullying? Well there
    it is.

    Re7+!!

    End Game. Your move.

  • That's already sorta true... you buy toilet paper, right? Ok, so we don't have a little midget in the bathroom to scrub our ass after we do our business -- well, not until you get "really old".

    True, but right now I'm free to use e.g. yesterday's newspaper instead of TP, and even if I bought toilet paper, I'm not legally obligated to hire the midget to use it.

    Corruption is a fact of life.

    Certainly. Human nature is what it is. I'm just bitching because most people seem so damn naive about it...

  • by MenTaLguY ( 5483 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:58AM (#811444) Homepage

    I'm beginning to think we're headed into a new age where private property is abolished -- but instead of everything being owned by the state, it will be owned by corporations.

    Nader calls this Corporate Socialism. I'm beginning to think he has a point.

    Some days I wonder if we're headed toward a society where you can't even wipe your own butt for yourself, instead of having some corporation do it for you (for a nominal fee).

    If you did it yourself, you'd be depriving some butt-wiping company of revenue, you see. Putting honest, hard-working people out of jobs, for heaven's sakes!

    (if you disagree, you're a communist butt pirate and should be shipped off for re-education)

    This is severe hyperbole, of course, but unfortunately something very near that mindset is truly already out here in corporate-land.

  • by Jeffrey Baker ( 6191 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:44AM (#811446)
    That isn't a cease and desist letter, it is just a letter from some lawyers. A cease and desist letter would have the words "cease and desist" along with the word "demand" in it somewhere. There would also be a list of causes of action, as well as a date by which you must respond. This letter just looks like an attempt to make a bunch of hackers without lawyers start getting afraid of businessmen with lawyers.

    IANAL

  • These people do not understand that we are not tring to any wrong.
    Message to the company
    We are just creating an application that can use YOUR product. We would think you would be happy about this. Do you understand if your company tries and stop people from exploring the possiblity with your product. That you will hurt only your own sales. Instead of tring to stop this you should at least try and work with the people who could possibily be creating a set of customers for you.
  • If you read the fine print you are merely borrowing it

    Well, no. There's no fine print in a cash transaction. I went to Radio Shack. I gave them money for a purchase, and this was included for free. No contract was signed, so the Uniform Commecrial Code applies. A contract was fixed at the time of sale. I gave them my name, address, etc. They gave me the scanner. A simple quid pro quo transaction. The fact that there's a piece of paper in the packet that purports to be an enforcible contract is really laughable. It is invalid and cannot be enforced. This is doublely true if you never installed the software. If you did, The Cat people can say that you agreed to the contract since the packaging for the cdrom contained the right warning lables. Since I never installed the software, or even opened the cd package, I never agreed to a modification of the contract that was fixed at the time of sale.

    In other words, They are going to have a hard time enforcing the supposed contract.

  • by imp ( 7585 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @08:04AM (#811451) Homepage
    Sure, it said this in the software license that came with this item, but they are SOL. It isn't legally enforcible. I *NEVER* installed the software, so the terms of the sale is fixed when they gave it to me WITH MY OTHER PURCHASE. I bought a video amplifier and they gave me my cat. The contract for the entire transaction was fixed at the time I gave them my money (since it is impossible w/o software to fix the contract at a later point in time).

    In addition, the item was not free, but given to me (and everybody else) for good and fair compensation, namely the personal information. It can be shown that this information has a monitary value (just look at how much email lists and snailmail lists sell for), and therefore the exchange could likely be viewed as a "sale" for the purposes of the uniform commercial code.

    Software is a special case because it has labels on it stating that you are agreeig to a license, plus presents you with the license and a chance to repudiate the license and get a refund (in theory at least, when was the last time someone was able to return software they didn't like the license terms to, say, CompUSA).

    So I think they are SOL unless you installed their driver software. Which I've never done. I've not even taken it out of the packaging.

    P.S. If I were the author that got such a C&D letter, then I'd demand they get a whole lot more specific about what, exactly, was in violation. Such vague letters are easy and cheap to write and are meaningless in many cases because they aren't specific. Ask them for specifics. What, specifically, are they objecting to. What gives them the legal right to object to it (copyright claim, granted patent claim, trade secret, etc) so you have a chance to audit their claims. If they refuse, then you are in a much better position later if they file legal action against you.

  • by SimonK ( 7722 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:36AM (#811452)
    Its probably not worth it. They're just sending threatening letters with vague comments about "intellectual property". I fail to see any protectable intellectual property in what they do, or what the Linux drivers do. You can't copyright protocols, they have not patents I'm aware of, there's no trademark infringement. All thats been done is the reverse engineering of something they might consider to be a trade secret, but in themselves trade secrets have not legal protection.

    They haven't a leg to stand on, and I doubt they'll even find grounds to sue.
  • I just e-mailed copyleft with this rather obvious, but funny idea. Take the core of the code, the part that handles the actual communication with the device, and encode it in a barcode font. Print on t-shirt.

    Beautiful, no?

    -Waldo

    -------------------
  • What's incredible about this is that CueCat seems to make money from various other streams (licensing fees, privacy violations, etc.), so I can't imagine why they'd be opposed to geeks embracing their technology. This is extremely shortsighted of them.

    What I enjoy knowing is that there's that *one* Linux user that works for them. S/he's quietly sitting in the corner, head shaking, saying "I told you so...."

    Don't mess with Tuxas. (Or something like that.)

    -Waldo

    -------------------
  • Hmm. Supposedly if J. Random Hacker writes software that causes (say) a $1000-- loss to a given corporation, this corporation can sue J. R. to recover this amount of money.

    But if J. R. writes software that causes our hypothetical corporation to have an increase of (again, say) $1000--, does this mean that the corporation has to sue J. R. to pay her or him some or all of this negative damage?

    Maybe these suits are afraid of & the cost of tracking down random hackers to reimberse them for their contributions.

    In a nutshell, this is what this whole stupid act on the basis of these legal sharks come down to: someone writes software that increases the market for their hardware, & they get told to stop it.

    And if I'm being a smart-*ss about this, it's Friday & these same legal sharks don't deserve any more of my attention than that.

    Geoff

  • I had a couple minutes and wanted to see what I could find out about James Rosini, the man who signed the LegalLetter. The only notable thing I found was that he represented AT&T when AOL tried to sue over their supposed trademark of "You've Got Mail." Here's a link: http://techlawjournal.com/cour ts/aolvatt/Default.htm [techlawjournal.com]
  • Is anybody keeping track of these wild-ass flagrant miscarriages of the legal system? There seems to have been a bizarre abundance of them just in the last few weeks. Most of them seem to involve the usurpage of rights for individuals to further the interest of corporations. The corporations seem to have the financial means to redirect the legal system, rendering the Constitution inert.

    If these bizarre things could be compiled into an on-line database, perhaps it would ease the research burden of any idealistic lawyer who feels like attempting a counter-suit. Or maybe the EFF or the Greens or some such group could organize a class-action suit, on behalf of all U.S. citizens who aren't corporations.

  • Read the radio shack website for the necessary clue of WHY they're doing this. Companies don't give things away for free just for fun. There's always a catch that allows them to make money. In this case, its marketing info. This is a quote from the faq at Radio Shack [radioshack.com] "What happens to my personal information (like my name, address, and e-mail address) when I register and use the :CueCat? Any personal information (such as your name, address and e-mail address) collected online when you register and use your new :CueCat is held and owned by Digital Convergence Corporation (not RadioShack). To view Digital Convergence's privacy policy, Click here. Unless you give Digital Convergence permission to share your personal information with us, or unless you register or purchase on RadioShack.com or volunteer information at a RadioShack store, you and your shopping habits remain anonymous to RadioShack.com. Click here to view RadioShack.com's privacy policy." They only gave you this "handy" device because they want you to register and and scan lots of barcodes, so they have lots and lots of information about your personal interests, so they can sell your information to direct marketers (think human spam). When you write a linux driver, you bypass all the secret sending of private info to their servers, which means they can't make money off you.
  • I believe one or more companies have patented the "idea" of using barcodes in printed advertising to link consumers to web sites, and to allow price comparisons. They are probably referring to some kind of patent in this space.
  • I threw mine away the day it arrived in the mail. Can they force me to go the town landfill and hunt for it if they "recall it at any time"?

    I don't fs*kn think so....
  • Regardless of the temperature, I find it ridiculous that McDs lost the suit. It's friggin coffee. If you put coffee (HOT) in your crotch and drive, you SHOULD get burned, and probably be beaten to death for the rest of your life for being a risk to other drivers.

    Personally, I far prefer to use the instance of a boat enthusiast on Lake Michigan suing Weather24.com for the cost of his boat + pain and suffering for failing to mention a storm in the area that ended up sinking his boat. It's a much better example of litigous idiocy.
  • Notice that on the second page of the letter from KENYON & KENYON [flyingbuttmonkeys.com] they cc: a certain John Huncke [digitalconvergence.com], Digital:Convergence Executive Vice President of Business Affairs. From checking his bio linked above, you can see that he previously was an attorney for various media corporations and "a clerk at The Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Arkansas during Hillary Clinton's tenure", which should tell you a lot about his outlook towards intellectual property and innovation.
  • I walked in to RS, asked if they had any, the guy threw one down on the counter, I picked it up, and left. I agreed to no restrictions, signed no documents, did not even give them my name. The packaging required to get through to open the cutcat hardware had no licenses or references to licenses. I broke no seals beyond ordinary packaging (plastic bag). The hardware component itself has no reference to licensing, beyond, "For home or office use" and the fact that it is patent pending.

    Even moreso, it was manufactured by Tandy, NOT Digital Convergence. it was manufacuted under some agreement.

    The instruction booklet has no license agreement or mention thereof.

    It says the :cue:cat "reads any product code and isntantly transports you to the corresponding website"

    I have not opened the CRQ Software package, and cannot be held to licenses within it.

    I'd love to see Digital Convergence try to take it back and not get charged with theft.

    (What's the PC term for "indian giver"?
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:49AM (#811483) Homepage Journal

    Therefore, unfortunately, we are all bound by those license terms.

    Eh? Even if I were to accept the wildly controversial assertion that opening the software causes you to be bound by the license, there's still a big problem: just about everyone here (except for the Windows users) didn't open the software. The CueCat got plugged into the computer, and the unopened Windows software went into the trash, just like the Windows drivers disk that comes with most the hardware that we buy.


    ---
  • by sethg ( 15187 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:40AM (#811484) Homepage
    The meat of the letter is this sentence:
    It has come to Digital Convergence's attention that services/information being offered at such sites ... are in conflict with intellectual property rights owned by Digital Convergence.
    This is so vague, it makes me think that the lawyers (and Digital Convergence) don't really know what's going on. Somebody at Digital Convergence or its law firm probably saw that the Linux software was available, found out that someone outside the company had wrote them, and ASS-U-ME-D that you had copied their software.

    So if your code looks nothing like theirs, they won't be able to prove that you violated their copyright by posting it, and everything will be copacetic.

    Of course, IANAL.

    And I'm glad I downloaded that stuff yesterday.
    --

  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:56AM (#811485) Homepage
    Correct me if I'm wrong lawyers in the audience, but a cease and desist letter really doesn't mean anything. That is to say, I can send you a cease and desist letter to tell you to stop drinking Pepsi. It doesn't mean I have any legal merit in a lawsuit and it doesn't mean I will sue you, but it is essentially an official threat.

    Now, CueCat, I'm guessing is concerned that RadioShack will stop giving away the scanners because they can be hacked to work with competing barcodes. Thus they'll stop sending money to cue cat. But I don't see any legal basis for there case. I mean no copyrights were infringed, no licenses broken. Reverse engineering (outside of the realm of the DMCA possibly), is a long defended right. If CueCat does sue, I can't imagine they'd stand a chance.

    That being said, if one cannot afford the lawyers and take the risk of being sued, then this may be a somewhat moot point (and you know cuecat is hoping for that). So, everybody get your check books ready, looks like we're gonna have to send some more funding to smack down the dumb corporations.

    ---

  • These guys are funded by Microsoft. If you doubt it, check out Net Talk Live, another one of their operations here in Dallas. If anyone does get into a legal process with them, be sure to demand in discovery to see all the agreements they have made with Microsoft to ensure that only Windows gets any support from this device.

  • by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:55AM (#811489) Homepage
    Sorry about the link tag-- I was in a hurry and screwed up, but it is at that URL. I just verified it by clicking on the link myself. Xoom is incredibly slow-- so be patient. The JavaScript decoder is here. [xoom.com] Hit reload if it doesn't go through the first time.
  • Try http://www.digitalconvergence. com/contact/index.html [digitalconvergence.com]

    I find it rather troubling to hear that DC is threatening legal action against people who use its product (the CueCat) under Linux by writing their own software to interface with it. Perhaps you could explain to your customers why you choose to threaten them, without the cloak of legal doubletalk. All in all, this is definitely a great way to stir up support for your product on the Net. I'll be sure to throw away my CueCat as soon as I get home from work, and tell my friends to do the same.

  • I wonder why they don't send a nastygram to the folks at http://www.readerware.com/ also?
  • Or these guys http://sourceforge.net/projects/jbiblioteca/

  • > But there's more: There's also a serial number.

    So take your kid to RS, put his name on the forms, and tell him to scan the bejesus out of everything he sees for a week.

    Then you can send them an e-mail that says "Go directly to jail".

    --
  • It's simple. They give the software away for free, but you have to register at their website and give them an e-mail address and fill out some demographic information. That way they can make all sorts of fun lists indexed by e-mail address of what products interest you in the Radioshack Catalog, and what other items you are scanning. It's one big demographic information gatherer.

    Unauthorized software allows the possibility of an end-run around their demographic gathering. It destroys their poorly thought out business model. They don't gather this information, they don't make money.
  • Personally I can think of some really fun stuff to do with this information.

    Find out someone's unique ID, hack a program to send their unique ID instead of yours and then start scanning *LOTS* of barcodes from really raunchy porn. All of a sudden it looks to all the mass-marketers that the person you got the ID from is a crazed porn addict.

    Even better, just hack a program to send a random Identifier. See, their information is only worth anything as long as it is percieved to be accurate. If customers buying the list know that probably half the stuff is bullshit nobody's gonna buy it. Sour the milk so to speak.
  • by kramer ( 19951 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @07:05AM (#811505) Homepage
    BIG FAT IANAL

    A friend of mine pointed out that Cuecats are being sent to various subscribers of Wired and Forbes and possibly other magazines as a promotion.

    Now IIRC, federal law states that any unsolicited merchandise received by mail is a gift. This federal law would supercede any click through license agreement. It's no longer theirs, and you're free to do with the hardware as you see fit.
  • by Kaa ( 21510 )
    I took a look at the letter and nearly fell out of my chair laughing. Here are some pieces:

    "It further includes not only the direct infringement made by Flyingbuttmonkeys.com, but also any infringement which Flyingbuttmonkeys.com induces others to perform. The longer that Flyingbuttmonkeys.com continues its improper activities, the longer damages will accrue."

    and further on

    "both we and Digital Convergence intend to continue monitoring the activities of Flyingbuttmonkey.com...".

    improper activities of flying butt monkeys! monitored by our learned friends at Kenyon & Kenyon!! ROTFL!

    Kaa
  • You think the lawyer's haven't already thought of that?
    Besides, that means they'd have to store bazillions of those damn contracts. Overhead that would eventually cost more than the cuecats themselves.

    BTW, thanks for the polite reply, 5h1tf@ce.
  • by The Infamous TommyD ( 21616 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:57AM (#811516)

    I am writing to express my utter disgust with your corporation's heavy handed
    tactics against innocent programmers trying to use the CueCat on other
    operating systems. The free CueCat software that has been developed and
    posted to the Internet in no way infringes on your intellectual property. It
    is simply a driver for the device! I am certain that no use was made of your
    copyrighted material (i.e. software that came with the cuecat) to learn to
    decode the cuecat's output. (It really is not a difficult thing to do simply
    by analyzing the output of the device.) Also, note that users of the cuecat
    are not required to sign any form of non-disclosure agreement so no
    "intellectual property" could be released there. As for Trade Secrets, do you
    think that someone broke into your property to steal a secret that could be
    decoded by anyone with a pencil, paper, and a bit of time?

    Obviously, we aren't talking about patents here or trademarks. So nothing is
    left. Your use of the legal system to stifle free development of software that
    supports your device is utterly reprehensible and you deserve to be sued for
    harassment!
  • See RFC 2026 [ietf.org], The Internet Standards Process.

    It looks like the same policy as the IEEE, standards may use patented inventions but the patent holder is required to license the patent under openly specified, reasonable, non-discriminatory terms.

  • This seems to be very relevant:

    [cornell.edu]

    US Code Title 39, Part IV, Chapter 30, Section 3009. Here is an excerpt:

    (b) Any merchandise mailed in violation of subsection (a) of this section, or within the exceptions contained therein, may be treated as a gift by the recipient, who shall have the right to retain, use, discard, or dispose of it in any manner he sees fit without any obligation whatsoever to the sender. All such merchandise shall have attached to it a clear and conspicuous statement informing the recipient that he may treat the merchandise as a gift to him and has the right to retain, use, discard, or dispose of it in any manner he sees fit without any obligation whatsoever to the sender.

    This section also references Title 15, Chapter 2, Subchapter 1, Section 45, regarding unfair business practices. I thing The barcode scanner manufactures could sue DigitalDirtbags on unlawful distribution.

  • by RuphSkunk ( 22588 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @01:34PM (#811522)
    This seems to be very relevant:

    [cornell.edu]

    US Code Title 39, Part IV, Chapter 30, Section 3009. Here is an excerpt:

    (b) Any merchandise mailed in violation of subsection (a) of this section, or within the exceptions contained therein, may be treated as a gift by the recipient, who shall have the right to retain, use, discard, or dispose of it in any manner he sees fit without any obligation whatsoever to the sender. All such merchandise shall have attached to it a clear and conspicuous statement informing the recipient that he may treat the merchandise as a gift to him and has the right to retain, use, discard, or dispose of it in any manner he sees fit without any obligation whatsoever to the sender.

    This section also references Title 15, Chapter 2, Subchapter 1, Section 45, regarding unfair business practices. I thing The barcode scanner manufactures could sue on unlawful distribution.

  • They obviously don't want Linux users to use their product, and they claim it's on loan to you anyway. I say do the right thing and return it to them.

    Postage Due.


    Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wagn'nagl dominos.

  • Quite right. If they want a contract to stick they need to make it known beforehand. "Sir, if you'd like one of our free barcode scanners and will agree to our agreement, you can have it."

    Same goes for EULAs. If you buy something and didn't agree to a contract beforehand, you can use the software in any way you see fit, as if it were a book. The maker has no more power to restrict your actions than a book publisher has to restrict who can read the book, etc.

    You may be bound by a license if you use the free software, because you haven't already paid to use it, but if it was bundled with the scanner which was a gift for making a purchase (ie, they gave it to you) then you're safe there too.
  • Why do you give them your name?

    Last time I was at RS I was asked for my name, I asked if the warranty depended on it, I was told 'No,' that the receipt was enough. So I declined.

    If you're willing to pass up the warranty (if any) on what you buy, they have no way to make you give them your name.
  • by WNight ( 23683 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @03:23PM (#811527) Homepage
    This is a great idea. They're commiting nearly fraudulent acts (threatening legal action when they know no crime has been committed and no criminal harm has been done.) so we might as well fight back, not just against their current moves, but against the company itself.

    If the only thing that have that's worth anything is the data, lets ruin the data. They're not paying us for data and nobody signed a contract guaranteeing accurate data, so let's screw it up royally.

    There are many ways...

    1) Random IDs, your stuff... Makes it look like tons of people use it once or twice and throw it away after scanning random stuff.

    2) Random ID (singular), List of Stuff... Makes it look like tons of people own exactly the same things, usefullness depends on how many people scan the exact same list.

    3) Random IDs, Barcodes of favorite products... Makes it appear that thousands of people are scanning the same products. What a way to boost your favorite band's sales figures, etc.

    No scanner is needed for this, just an app that will make the appropriate net connection and report a given serial # and UPC code. Then lists of stuff we want to promote (hacker-friendly bands, O'Reilly books, etc) can be passed around for people to boost their sales figures.
  • by Krimsen ( 26685 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:29AM (#811530) Homepage
    Yes that is the one thing ConversantShogun pointerd out here [slashdot.org]... The whole license is contingent on you seeing it. I checked everything that came in the little plastic baggie, including the manual and the CD case and there was no copy of the license there. It just said that using the software was contingent on accepting the license - it never said anything about any license associated with using the hardware... loophole possibly?
  • by Krimsen ( 26685 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:56AM (#811531) Homepage
    Here is the exact text, from their site:
    The :CueCat reader is only on loan to you from Digital:Convergence and may be recalled at any time. Without limiting the foregoing, your possession or control of the :CueCat reader does not transfer any right, title or interest to you in the :CueCat reader.

    If you want to view it yourself, check here [digitalconvergence.com] and go down to the third heading called "Permitted Uses and Restrictions". Read about halfway down that section, then be careful you don't hurt youself as your jaw drops into your lap.
  • "Some days I wonder if we're headed toward a society where you can't even wipe your own butt for yourself, instead of having some corporation do it for you (for a nominal fee)."

    Brings a whole new meaning to PayPal, doesn't it?

    My .02
    Quux26

  • Taco says:

    The barcode

    scanner is called a CueCat (with some lame marketroid colons that I'm not using because it irritates me when
    people name things like that).

    And he runs the site named "/."

  • Sir,
    Please remember that when you acquired the refrigerator the notice on the box required that you only use it for storing USDA-approved food, that it be filled only by a licensed professional, and that cleaning be done only by our certified maintenance facilities. We have noted that users often lose the magnetic external storage accessories, but you can easily buy approved replacements at the manufacturer's official web site. Violation of your usage license or use of unapproved accessories requires that you return the appliance immediately, without opening it after the violation occurs.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong lawyers in the audience, but a cease and desist letter really doesn't mean anything. That is to say, I can send you a cease and desist letter to tell you to stop drinking Pepsi. It doesn't mean I have any legal merit in a lawsuit and it doesn't mean I will sue you, but it is essentially an official threat.

    One qualification: A letter does mean that if the recipient is later sued or prosecuted for the conduct described in the letter, there can be no question that the recipient was acting intentionally. (That is, the recipient can't later say, "I had no idea this person had a copyright/patent which might cover what I was doing." In this regard, it would be interesting to know if any recipient of a C&D letter in this case has received a letter which references a specific copyright, patent or license term.)

  • I and a friend here were under the impression that if one uses an IETF standard, e.g. RFC 1341 [ietf.org] which defines Base64 encoding, one is obligated to allow others to use it freely. I can't find an explicit statement of that yet on the IETF pages, but if this is the case it would seem that Digital Convergence would be the ones in violation.
  • NO! We should NOT keep writing software for this device. There are plenty of reasonably priced bar code readers out there that don't even require drivers at all (their interfaces are typically described as "keyboard wedges" - they lierally make it look like you typed in the info. - all the magic happens in the hardware!)

    Why should we even dignify a such a proprietary device with our support, especially after their behaviour and with good, and open alternatives? Simple bar code readers just aren't that expensive, guys... Go grab a cheap one, get a Code 39 (3 of 9) bar code font and go to town. (There are several other formats, but Code 39 is kind of the Lingua Franca of the bar code world, and I've found it the most common and standard format int he past...)
  • by deacent ( 32502 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:24AM (#811551)

    From the Permitted Uses and Restrictions section of the CueCat license:

    You acknowledge that the Software and :CueCat reader contain trade secrets and other proprietary information of Digital:Convergence and its licensors. Except as expressly permitted in this License, you may not decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble, modify, rent, lease, loan, sublicense, distribute or create derivative works based upon the :CRQ software or :CueCat reader in whole or part or transmit the :CRQ software over a network or from one computer to another.

    [snip]

    In any event, you will notify Digital:Convergence of any information derived from reverse engineering or such other activities, and the results thereof will constitute the confidential information of Digital:Convergence that may be used only in connection with the Software and :CueCat reader.

    DISCLAIMER: IANAL

    This leagalize does give them a leg to stand on. It's a matter of whether a court of law will find it enforcable. I guess it's a lot like the EULA. As long as Radio Shack employees aren't forcing anyone to sign an agreement, I think this license is unenforcable.

    -Jennifer

  • by Rocketboy ( 32971 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:40AM (#811554)
    Here are a couple of e-mails I sent. The first was to DigitalConvergence, makers of this toy:

    "Our company has received several of your CueCat scanners via Forbes recently and I would like to know whether you would prefer us to return them to you or to Forbes, or to just trash them. While there is some potential value in this device, your company's business practices are offensive enough that we have no desire to use them at this time (re: "Cease and Desist" letters to developers of Linux drivers for your device.) Better luck next time.

    Sincerely,

    etc etc

    Then I sent this one to subscriber@forbes.com:

    "Please stop sending the CueCat device to subscribers of Forbes magazine at XYZ Corporation. We find CueCat's business practices deeply offensive and will simply dispose of any such devices which we receive. As subscribers to your magazine, we find your association with these predatory and possibly illegal business practices to be deeply disturbing and we hope that your choice of business partners is merely an temporary aberration, not an indication of future trends. Thank you very much.

    Respectfully,

    etc etc

    Possibly they can be educated, possibly not. But I won't do business with either of them until they demonstrate some enlightenment. :)

    mjs
  • I never agreed to any such contract. The CDROM (which I hadn't examined until now) says that by opening the software I agree ... I don't agree, so I didn't open the software.
    -russ
  • by Noodles ( 39504 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:40AM (#811566)
    Ummm... I have seen punctuation marks used in other names too: /.
  • Looks like we have another case of the stupids on our hands.

    I can't wait until Burger King starts handing out free toys and then sends cease and decist letters to anybody using it for propping a wobbly table leg.

    For crying out loud, this stupid instance will probably make it into court soon just like the stupid DeCSS case.

    Why on earth do courts (yes, I know it is not in court yet, I am just proving that I am psychic;-) even bother to hear cases based on this crap?

    Visit DC2600 [dc2600.com]
  • Law firm: So you want to sue flying butt monkeys?
    DC: Yup.
    Law firm: Riiiight...
    Note to self:
    If planning to do any progect that may involve upsetting goverment or corporate entities, be sure to host the progect on an odd domain name. At least then while you're dealing with legal hassles, you can still chuckle at pompous beurocrats intoning things like "flying butt monkies".
  • it makes me think that the lawyers don't really know what's going on

    Or... maybe it's like this:

    • Digital Convergence thinks they can successfully sue, tell lawyers to attack
    • Lawyers really know what going on, realize the suit is stupid and won't fly, but spend one minute doing the minimum requirements in notifying Airborne leTouche deMonkey.

      Lawyers assume leMonkies will ignore the latter and send Digital Convergence a big bill

  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:13AM (#811580) Homepage
    Exactly. Sega vs. Accolade established that reverse engineering was legal. DMCA says that reverse engineering isn't allowed except for the purpose of interoperability. I don't see libcue as doing anything besides allowing interoperability, so libcue seems to be legal even if DMCA is upheld.
  • When the counter jockey at Radio Shack handed me my scanner, I was told nothing about restrictions. I signed nothing.


    ---- ----
  • I wouldn't boycott RadioShack. It's not their fault. Lots of people are handing them out. It's Digital Convergence that's the problem. I imagine if you order a reader from DCNV for "shipping costs," you will be bound by their agreement.

    See "i-opener" in the archives.

    ---- ----
  • I've not given in yet. I jsut want to make sure that I don't bury myself deeper later without meaning to...
    -M

    ---- ----
  • Use Gnu Barcode.


    ---- ----
  • I found a perl based cuecat decoder on freshmeat [freshmeat.net] this is NOT a mirror, but at least it's something.
  • I'll probably do up Scheme and Lisp versions over the long weekend; it would probably be an interesting exercise to do it in OCAML, as an exercise in pattern matching. Betcha most of them fit into under a page, and well within the constraints of a /. message...

    Sounds like we need a contest for the shortest decodecat program. Use any lanuage you want, must read stdin and output barcode on stdout, 'wc' is the final arbiteur.

    I stopped by RatShack on my way to work to pick up a CueCat, and the sales guy *talked me out of* taking a RatShack catalog.
    --
  • by klund ( 53347 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:31AM (#811589)
    From his page: I'm beginning to think we're headed into a new age where private property is abolished -- but instead of everything being owned by the state, it will be owned by corporations.

    I'm sending $100 to the EFF [eff.org] today. This kind of crap has got to stop.

    I hope everyone who reads this article (and who can afford it) will join me.
    --
  • by NetJunkie ( 56134 ) <jason,nash&gmail,com> on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:22AM (#811594)
    They messed up. If you don't install the Digital Convergence software you NEVER agree to any license or agreement. When I got mine from Radio Shack I signed nothing. I also didn't even break a seal to get it out of the bag it came in. I also never installed their software. I'm using the above mentioned software for linux.

    Since they can't win this, I hope the linux community keeps writing software for this device and DOES NOT ever go through the Digital Convergence servers. Let's show them what happens when letters like this get thrown around without thinking.

    Good luck Digital Convergence. :)
  • by zerodvyd ( 73333 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:46AM (#811621)
    My company uses tethered barcode scanners on a regular basis, in fact each of my in-process workstation have one connected. These puppies cost about $300 a pop, connect to PS/2 port and provide a pass-through for standard keyboard attachment to it. What's even better is that the piece of hardware will scan just about any barcode, decode it, and send it as if it were a keyboard input stream ...with a hit to the enter key at the end of the input string.

    these have no driver requirements whatsoever
    they work on every OS I've tested them on (NT, 9x, *nix/x86)

    Why did this CueCat (yup, next is the CueDog right? or CueMouse?) require so much effort to just dump for free into the hands of the end user??? Call me crazy, but if I were going to hand something out for free, I wouldn't devote any time to serious development like a minor encryption scheme... I bet the next version of it is supposed to have an IP address per CueCat.

    This kind of thing should be covered under Fair Use. Though I'll lay money (in the hands of EFF) that they'll continue blithely on their prosecution path and try to pull the DMCA down on the developer's head because it defeats a 'digital copy protection' scheme of some format.

    If they're angry that they lost money on the development of the device, they have nobody to blame but their own developers and marketers. KIS - Keep It Simple.

    If I get my hands on one of these things I do have a door that doesn't like to stay open, sounds like an adequate door stop. Will I get a Cease and Desist order too?

    please
    zerodvyd
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:01AM (#811635) Homepage Journal
    I'm fucking sick of this.

    1) Sue them seeking a declaratory judgement that you're not infringing on anything.

    2) Once you win that, sue them in civil court for harassment.

  • by Skorpion ( 88485 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:26AM (#811637) Homepage
    Is this legal ? I undestand that they may have objections on ways of using their servers, but what with hardware they give away ?

    Alex

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@@@carpanet...net> on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:18AM (#811649) Homepage
    hmmmm ok I can see EULAs for software, its a standard insudtry practice, and there is even law now that makes shrink wrap licences semi-legitimate for scopyrighted works.

    However...this is hardware. A Physical device. It is not a copyrighted work. So wouldn't any such type of licence legally require them to go through some measure of proper contract procedure?

    Do you have to sign anything to get one of these readers? If they don't make it CLEAR ahead of time, then its their own fault for being stupid.

    Personally though, I have to agree, this idea of moving on to a future where corperations own everything and we just licence it, gives me extreme nausea.

    I guess its their world, we are just living in it.

    -Steve
  • by (void*) ( 113680 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:19AM (#811670)
    It never ceases to amaze me how lame some people are. A few months ago, I bought some bedside tables from IKEA, and used them a bedside table, a phone table, and a small table for working. Does IKEA get to sue to me for using a bedside table as something else?

    In eactly the same fashion, Radioshack gives you a barcode scanner and they expect you to use it on their catalogues and their catalogues only. Nevermind that it could be used elsewhere. You should stop doing it now, and get ANOTHER barcode scanner for that. If cuecat was so unimaginative as to think that are as unimaginative as they are, trying to make a lame business out of these kind of artificial restrictions, they should find something else to do - really.

  • by preferred_nick ( 136626 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:47AM (#811707)
    So where do I get a tee-shirt with the code ???:)
  • by rjnerd ( 143758 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @07:48AM (#811717) Homepage
    If someone mails you something, unsolicited (even in error) its yours. Those that got them in the mail without asking for one, own the hardware. Federal law says the "hardware license" part of the "contract" is void.

    (this got enacted after places started sending people unsolicited "merchandise", followed by a bill. Its very clear now, you mail it to someone without their asking for it, they own it)

    I can't comment on the "loan" status for those that asked for one at ratshack.

  • by dizee ( 143832 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:40AM (#811718) Homepage
    I'm sure the person that typed up that cease and desist letter kept a straight face.

    I can see that conversation:

    Law firm: So you want to sue flying butt monkeys?
    DC: Yup.
    Law firm: Riiiight...

    But anyhow, this is just ridiculous, it's a physical product that sends output like a keyboard, basically, it is a keyboard. We can do anything we want to with it. We can destroy it, we can pee on it, we can set it on fire, we can strap gi joes and 74 bottle rockets to it and boldy send it where no cat-shaped bar code reader has gone before. We paid for it (granted it cost $0), it's ours.

    The nerve of this company is absolutely absurd. Tonight, I'm going to write as many useless (maybe even useful) programs that use the scanner as I can just to piss them off.

    Really, what is the world coming to (or at least the US)? I feel that there's going to have to be a revolution before too long, ya know? Kill all the stupid people!

    Mike

    "I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer."
  • by streetlawyer ( 169828 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:48AM (#811736) Homepage
    Subject: Not everything which resembles a c&d letter, is one

    One to be filed in the round file, methinks. A cease-and-desist letter worth paying attention to would have said exactly what IP was being infirnged (clue: none is) and used the words "cease", "desist" and "remove". This is just something threatening dire consequences in unspecific terms.

    Charitably, one might assume that they are putting a marker down; they don't know whether they might have a problem with flying butt monkeys, but they do know that if they ever need to prosecute in future, they'd better not be found in proof that they knew about this software for a while, but did nothing about it.

    Irritating, perhaps, but part of the price we have to pay for a common-law based system. The alternative would be for there to be government-provided coding licenses and prior restraints of what code you can write.

  • by broody ( 171983 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:12AM (#811743)

    I haven't found that guys code but here is a page [plover.net] that is still alive.

  • by Legolas-Greenleaf ( 181449 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:59AM (#811763)
    Personally, I think that Digital Convergence will listen to Radioshack a little more attentively then it will to me. For one thing, Radioshack stands something to lose from having boycotting customers and should act on their behalf. Digital Convergence, on the other hand, makes no direct money off of me, so is under no real obligation to listen to me. However, if Radioshack threatened to pull their scanner, which i assume they pay nice sums of money for, then Digital Convergence would have to listen. I think this would probably be a more productive way to approach this problem.
    -legolas

    i've looked at love from both sides now. from win and lose, and still somehow...

  • by Legolas-Greenleaf ( 181449 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:46AM (#811764)
    Actually, in that case (as has been discussed many times on slashdot), she had good reason to sue. The reason we think of her as some idiot spilling coffee on herself is a successful PR spin by McDonalds.

    As you can see at this page, entitled the actual facts of the mcdonalds coffee case [lectlaw.com], the coffee was quite overly hot. This is beyond the hot you expect coffee - it was served at between 180 and 190 F (most places serve it at about 140). This was enough to burn through her sweatpants and cause 3rd degree burns to 6% of her body, including some very tender spots. She required $20k in reconstructive plastic surgery. If the coffee was even at 155 F, she would have avoided serious injury. Initially, she asked McD's for just the money to cover the surgery, but when she refused and discovered over 700 claims from between 1980 and 1992, including cases of 3rd degree burns, she did the full-out lawsuit. Also, the jury found her 20% at fault, which is why she only got $160k of the $200k awarded to her. Since that time, the temperature of the coffee at that peticular McD's has been dropped to 158 F.

    Just letting 'ya know the facts. =^)
    -legolas

    i've looked at love from both sides now. from win and lose, and still somehow...

  • by Desdinova77 ( 184164 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:59AM (#811769)
    http://www.cuecat.com/faq.html Has a link to their privacy policy. There they admit they collect 'demographic' data and makers of the decode program acknoledge that your 'id' number is sent and can be replaced witha generic code. They dont care about the scanner or the software. They property they are protecting is thier ability to track your internet usage.
  • by zlite ( 199781 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:28AM (#811785)
    The cease and desist letter says they're protecting :Cue's "intellectual property". I fail to see how writing an independent program that simply makes use of the output of the :Cue scanner in any way infringes on the company's intellectual property.

    Reverse engineering of file formats are the closest example and my understanding is that courts have rules that this is fine.

    I don't see how they have a leg to stand on. Hack on...
  • This article and all responses to it violate the intellectual property rights of :CueCat, inc. and RadioShuck Inc. Cease and Desist reading it immediately. We will prosecute all individuals who view this contraband information to the fullest extent of the law and then some.

    Sincerely,
    Iaal T. Corporate, Esq.

  • by commandant ( 208059 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @06:40AM (#811796)

    When I walked into my local Radio Shack, the guy didn't even know what a CueCat was. I had to say, "You know, the barcode reader?" He acknowledged and handed me the thing. He took my name and address (I still can't figure out why I didn't use fake info). He never said anything about a license to use it. He also never said, on the phone or in person, that it was on loan from DigitalConvergence.com. He said they were "giving" it to me, for free.

    After opening the package I plugged the thing into my machine, and glanced at the card they give you. I've just now read the entire card, and it says nothing about a license agreement, or even a mandatory look at crq.com. It only says to go to crq.com to get a unique activation code.

    Unfortunately, in screw-you lawyer style, the back of the CD jacket says, in tiny print on the bottom, "Opening of this software constitutes acceptance of our License terms contained herein. Copies can also be found at www.digitalconvergence.com/ula.html. [...]" Although I don't recall a EULA in the package, it does direct you to online information. It also doesn't say installation constitutes acceptance, only opening the software. And that happened when you eagerly ripped open the plastic containing the device.

    Therefore, unfortunately, we are all bound by those license terms. I could imagine, if one took it all the way to the Supreme Court, one could claim that decoding the CueCat output is merely reinterpretation of public information (since the CueCat dumps its code into any text editor you choose, they aren't making an effort to conceal the code).

    If mine gets recalled, though, I won't give it back. The reason? I paid for it. That's right: when I was at Radio Shack, and before I could even see a hint of a license agreement in the package (the message was obstructed by the informational booklet), I gave away my name and address (it's even printed on the receipt they gave me), which is valuable marketing information. So Radio Shack (and potentially DigitalConvergence.com) can send me shit I don't want, and I have nothing to show for it? I don't think so. I deserve compensation for giving up my privacy.

    Maybe that's why I didn't use fake info.

    I do not belong in the spam.redirect.de domain.

  • by quantum bit ( 225091 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @05:39AM (#811824) Journal
    1. Convert the DeCSS source code to groups of three-number octects (000-255) representing the ASCII characters of the source.

    2. For additional fun, before step one, invert the bits of the source code. Claim this is a copyright protection device and nobody can attempt to circumvent it under the DMCA.

    3. Use a barcode printer to print out the resulting sequence of numbers in barcode format.

    4. Give to a friend.

    5. Friend scans barcodes with free scanner and Linux driver.

    6. Friend converts source code back into original form, saves it in a file whose name starts with Metallica and ends with .mp3.

    7. Publish the resulting file on Napster, Gnutella, Freenet, etc...

    8. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

    .sig: Not all /. users with high UIDs are trolls dammit!

"Never ascribe to malice that which is caused by greed and ignorance." -- Cal Keegan

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