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CueCat At It Again 193

Michael Rothwell (the author of Foocat) wrote in to tell us that our friends at Digital Convergence are not giving up on their quest to defend their 3rd grader calibre "encryption" of their "intellectual property". Since they've changed their EULA, and mass mailed California, they have no excuse (the old EULA has no restrictions on reverse engineering the hardware, and mass mailing in California makes it irrelevant anyway). Anyway, you can read DC's response (a misnomer since they don't actually answer any of the questions). The site has other fun tidbits like reports of DC visits, and linkage to all sorts of good info about how to remove the serial number from the CueCat, and what DC is planning on doing with your info (besides giving it to crackers).
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CueCat At It Again

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    They're pissed at the name "FlyingButtMonkeys" because the management at DC are all a bunch of Flying Butt Monkeys!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There are no such thing as UTICA and DCMA, or I don't know what they mean. There are UCITA and DMCA.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Awwwww, come on...
    It's fun to mock idiot companies.
    What are we gonna do, kick Microsoft [slashdot.org] around some more?

    It's really sad and pituful that these dopes think that they have something special that the courts should protect for them when a bunch of pizza-chomping hackers figure it out on their own in their spare time. Stupid loser companies.

    These guys (companies of this ilk) are stupid. They don't get it. It is our moral duty to drub them mercilessly and mock them until they shrivel up and die .

    Yeah, the story's getting old. And stale. And smelly. and rancid. The fact that it has hung around so long is not the community's fault. It is illustrative of the pure boneheaded stuborness that this kind of stupid-head company embodies. So, yeah, if you're tired of the story blame the DC's and M$'s of the world, not /. . Don't read the story. Go take a break. But don't lambaste the rest of us for doing our part by lining up to take our turn to give these dopes a well deserved boot in the arse.
  • Political and legal issues aside, I think Einstein said it best, "Sometimes one pays the most for things one gets for nothing."
  • Damnit, slashdot needs a spellchecker! (And I need to use the preview button).
  • Heh. You aren't the first one to ask that question, and I doubt you'll be the last. DigitalConvergence hasn't bothered to answer that very large, very IMPORTANT question, and I doubt they will either. Considering their profit model (give away barcode reader, collect user information, sell databases full of user data to advertisers), why would they? I'm sure they know that if they _actually_ answered that question, we'd all be laughing our asses off...
    _____
  • As long as you have access to a database matching numbers with items, applications fly into the mind.

    • Track what goes into your fridge, cupboard and rubbish bin - automatically produce a shopping list to replace used groceries
    • Tie this in with an online grocery shop..
    • Index your CD collection.
    • Running your own event? Print barcodes on the tickets.
    • Scan books/CDs/etc before lending them to friends...
    • Um... running out...


    --
  • now at UPC Database [upcdatabase.com] you can directly scan an object with the cuecat, and add it to the database if it's not into it. It's fun, i added a Staedler eraser, lighter, cigarettes, CD-R, "facial tissue" kleenex-clone, etc
    --
  • I'm calling my lawyer now ;) You'll be getting clueless letters RSN.

  • The point is, there was no original agreement unless you opened the software package and installed the software. The hardware was provided free of charge, without any statement of conditions at the time of the transaction (and in some cases has been mailed without request). This means that under US law (as I understand it) the hardware is YOURS. F'chrissakes, this is like a guy walking up to you in the street and saying, "here's a CD player and a free CD", walking away without saying anything more, and then suing you because you tried to play your own CDs in the player, with the reason for the lawsuit being that there's a message recorded on the CD he gave you saying that you mustn't play any other CDs with the player - even though you've never even listened to the CD!
  • UTICA states == New York? ;)

  • by grappler ( 14976 )
    why is that a troll?

    That's funny!

  • Plus, since I got mine before they changed the EULA (even assuming that it applied to me, which is impossible because I've never been presented with it), then they could not unilaterally change it after I agreed to it.


    ...phil
  • There was a business plan here -- a business plan you chose to ignore but still applies.

    So? I am under no obligation to support somebody else's business plan. And a business plan is not a license. A business plan is not a guarantee of success.

    The company will lose money if all you do is play with the device scanning rogue bar codes and not use it to buy Radio Shack merchandise.

    Wah.

    This means they will stop giving them away, and we'll be the losers...

    We lose yet another marketer collecting information on us via hidden motives. We lose another way for companies to make money off us. Small loss.


    ...phil

  • George W. Bush never met a campaign contributor he didn't like, and as governor of Texas has had no problems signing laws that say corporations have more property rights than consumers. It is likely that George W. Bush would side with DC here, because "well, DC paid lots of money to develop this thing so it's theirs".

    Check out The Leasing of America [badtux.org] for a more extended rant on how recent changes in the law take away individual's property rights in favor of giving special rights to special interests.

    -E

  • Copyright law requires no notices. You cannot reproduce a piece of software you get in the mail and redistribute it without the author's permission, regardless of whether you asked for the software or not.

    On the other hand, you are well within your rights as a consumer to sell that single disk you got in the mail to anybody you wish (presuming you made no copies). You never agreed to any license, after all. Unless you're in a UCITA state, in which case being born constitutes agreement with any and all licenses that anybody wants to arbitrarily hold you to :-}.

    -E

  • their 3rd grader calibre "encryption" of their "intellectual property"

    First off, there's a big difference between attacking ONE company's supposed IP and attacking IP in general. DC is refusing to even say what their intellectual property is. These people aren't copying DC's code, so copyright isn't applicable, and if they have any patents (on base64+xor?!), it'd sure be nice to see them.

    The reason their "intellectual property" is getting quotes around it is because it deserves them.

    You mean Slashdot's endless crusade against any corporation worth anything (read: that actually attempts to make money) doesn't count?

    What crusade?
    No, I mean it. There's no crusade against corporations in general, rather against corporations that violate privacy, or intellectual property, or do one of a large number of other Bad Things. That the corporations who are doing Bad Things tend to be the ones that put money first on their priorities... well, says something 'bout human nature, no? :)

    Taco says to go ahead and hack your CueCat even if your EULA says no. What am I missing?

    That you never signed the EULA; that if you never installed the Windows software you never even saw the EULA. That if they sent you a CueCat without you asking (and they did, to many people) it's ILLEGAL for there to even be a EULA. That the right of first sale means that, if you purchased the thing from a third-party vendor (eg. RadioShack) the EULA is unenforceable (though basic copyright still is). Tht kind of thing.

  • We're attacking their "inellectual property" because DC hasn't got the cojones to specify exactly what sort of inellectual property is being infringed.



    Right. Next you'll be telling me that Napster is "protecting the artists."



    Pardon, but that wasn't a statement of opinion he just gave. That was a statement of fact.



    DC HASN'T got the cojones to specify what sort of property is being infringed. They say "hands off our IP", but refuse to say what that IP is. I'd like to know. What IS their IP? These folks aren't infringing on copyright... so does DC have patents on the decoding process? What patents? They aren't saying! (And if one CAN get a patent on base64+xor... well, that's pretty messed up).



    If you honestly had a legal defense against someone who was attacking you, you'd say what it was, right? These folks DON'T. They're bluffing about owning some nonexistant IP. And that's why we all are so pissed.

  • I don't see a statement here attacking copyright.

    I don't see a statement here attacking corporations.

    I don't see a statement here saying that it's OK to break contracts. [The persons being attacked by DC never entered a legal contract with them].

    I do se a troll.
  • Suppose a software company sent me a CD in the mail and I ripped open the package with out bothering to read labels or license agreements, and put the CD in my CDR burned a bunch of copies with out ever installing it on my machine. Suppose I then and gave them away, or even sold them. Would I be guilty of piracy? Common sense tells me, no. The company sent me something with out me asking for it, I can't see how they can control what I do with it. Same goes for the CueCat, I didn't ask for it and did not enter into any agreement with DC, therefore I can do what ever I want with it including taking it apart, writing my own software for it, of even shoving it up my ass if I want to. (Not recommended! :)
  • but I'm finding that tormetning Digital Convergence is actually, well, kind of fun.

    I suppose it's just human (or at least geek) nature to enjoy needling clueless boneheads who have more dollars than sense. This is especially true when they throw public temper tantrums through expensive law firms that all come down to "MOMMY!!! I gave Jimmy my cupcake AND HE ATE IT!!!!! WAAAAAAAH!!!".

    It's made that much funnier by the fact that DC tried to hide the fact that they can track an individual's buying interests using an indudtry standard coding scheme and what amounts to a secret decoder ring.

    The cherry on top is that crackers have already managed to steal their database. If anyone should be suing, it's a toss-up between DC's investors and the people who's information got posted to usenet due to DC's negligence.

  • States do not give exemptions from EULA in the case of mass mailings. However US Postal regs say that anything that shows up in the mail that you did not ask for or order is a gift and comes with no restrictions of any sort.

    Otherwise people could ship you expensive stuff and demand that you pay for it.

    The Cure of the ills of Democracy is more Democracy.

  • Can I point out that you have basicly no cause to complain if someone you are critical of looks at a public web site. If you don't want people to read what you are doing *DON'T PUT IT ON THE WEB*.

    The Cure of the ills of Democracy is more Democracy.

  • Look at the bottom of the things that RS are handing out. It clearly states that Tandy is the manufacturer. They're an investor AND the supplier of their barcode reader- they make money either way it goes down.
  • XORed Base 64 protocol? Barcodes? Hate to tell you this bub, but neither qualify as IP- vast amounts of prior art there, not to mention that nobody that Digital Convergence is harrassing (yes, harrassing) has done anything other than a clean-room reverse engineering of the protocol (which can't be made as IP...) between the barcode reader (which could concievably be IP, but we're not copying the reader- which would be the only possible IP violation in this context) and the PC.

    There is no IP or IP violations involved here.
  • You hit that nail squarely on the head.
    Christopher A. Bohn
  • Gahh. Yeah, I blew the Cade reference...memory's not what it used to be. R3's claims of legitimacy to the throne are tainted somewhat by the fact that he snuffed or arranged to have snuffed the folks who sat between him and the throne.

    Given that his failure to snuff Henry Tudor eventually led to the reign of Elizabeth I, "unfortunate" might not be the most appropriate descriptor. (Plus, the Yorks and Lancasters had become tired -- the time for Fresh Meat on the throne was due.)
  • For what it's worth, "let's kill all the lawyers" was a plan by Richard III to remain in power after overthrowing the rightful government by depriving others of their legal protections and recourses. The lawyers out there can thank their professional ancestry for turning "kill all the lawyers" from an evil act into a pretty darn good idea.
  • You may not be interested in buying pet food online, but if you don't have a car and have several pets, or, say, a very big dog, you may like the convenience of having pet food delivered to your home, for example. And what if you do your grocery shopping at small specialty stores and you don't want to have to make an extra stop just to buy pet food?

    No, selling pet food online is a reasonably good idea if you're realistic about your real market and have a good order processing and fulfillment operation in place.

    Digital Convergence, on the other hand, took cheap, essentially unencrypted barcode readers that spit out transparent data as transposed ASCII to a keyboard port, and expected to use them in a business predicated on controlling all use of the scanner's output.

    Doing so is not all that difficult--if you diustribute "smart" barcode scanners that only work through, say, a public/private keypair encryption scheme in which the scanner needs to be fed a site's key and then spits out data only that site can decrypt.

    But that hardware would have cost money, which may be why no other company has tried giving away barcode scanners en masse prior to this in the 20-year history of cheap barcode wands. It boggles the mind that in the four years this was in the works, no engineer, no product development person, no lawyer and no investor saw the hangar-sized hole in the business plan.
  • 3rd-party Cuecat drivers for Linux pose no serious threat to DC's business model. Even if every Linux desktop user got a Cuecat, it wouldn be a drop in the bucket compared to their Windows audience.

    No, the problem is what happens when alternative drivers show up in the Windows shareware and commercial worlds. Already, the $40 shareware package Readerware [readerware.com] has added CueCat support. If DC loses this battle, as they should if anyone hopes to continue using a screwdriver or a butter knife to open paint cans, everybody will support it. Real Jukebox and Windows Media Player will allow you to catalog CDs without inserting them into a drive. Grocery shopping sites will let you scan items you want to reorder. Companies in the e-coupon business will latch onto it, all bypassing Digital Convergence.

    If DC didn't want this to happen, they should have either made a smart scanner with public-key encryption built in, or they should have required a signed contract from consumers prior to giving it to them. Both of which, of course, are expensive and ruin their business model just as surely as these drivers that took someone a half hour to write in a clean-room manner.
  • We're attacking their "inellectual property" because DC hasn't got the cojones to specify exactly what sort of inellectual property is being infringed.

    Taco says to go ahead and hack your CueCat even if your EULA says no. What am I missing?

    If you never installed their software, you never agreed to any EULA.

    Furthermore, If you're the real Bruce Perens, I'm Mickey Mouse. Shouldn't you be in school right now, troll?
  • Tape it to the sidewalk next to the mailbox and mail it to Venus COD. The Earth is very heavy, and the delivery should be spectacular.
  • It's not even "encryption". They use base64, which is just a scheme to allow the expression of byte values as ASCII. It's on a level with ROT-13 in terms of security (or pig latin, orfy hatty attermy).

  • If they were willing to not store your personal information on the server, they wouldn't need to collect it at all. Why store your name and address on the client? What's the point? Thier whole business is about collecting more accurate marketing data about you, personally. This is worthless if they can't cross-reference it with what other companies have collected.

  • I think Taco is saying that since DC changed their EULA, they must recognize that the original EULA did *not* prohibit reverse engineering and that those that got in early like flyingbuttmonkeys are free to do as they please.
  • I've got four. Three are actually plugged into computers (office, home, in-laws). I've got more computers at home and at the office, but I use X to connect to them so one keyboard does it all.

    However, I really wish I could find something to do with them. A CD catalog isn't helpful since CDDB already did all that work for me. As far as books, I find that the majority of my books don't actually have Bar Codes. Even if I was able to create such a catalog, it wouldn't tell me anything really useful like where I *put* that book or CD.

    The vast majority of my videos are things that I recorded myself. I don't have a computer in the kitchen and running upstairs before I throw out the peanut butter just doesn't seem like a good idea.

    I really wish I could think of something to do with them. I keep reading these /. stories thinking someone's got an original idea, but just shopping lists and catalogs. Yawn.

    They can be used as small red flashlights.
  • This has been there since the first /. article:

    http://www.jounce.net/~maarken/decode.html
  • Ok not that I don't pretty much agree with your stance on IP and fair use and all that but...

    is Slashdot on some kind of Jihad against digital convergence? This is getting a little weird.

  • Something is a little odd here. By accepting to receive the CueCat you sort of agreed to the original agreement. DC changed their agreement and then mailed everyone. At what point did the second agreement become a contract agreed by both parties, after all I never exchanged anything the second time round. Thus while the first agreement is legal, I reckon that the second is null and void - or am I missing some absurdity in the USA legal system?
  • Michael's code is here [flyingbuttmonkeys.com].
    --
  • they say I can't have the hardware connected to more then one computer at a time. Uhhh... and can only be used on a single machine at any one time.

    Okay, so I toss out my elaborate 'Y'-adapter hookup and use a KVM switch instead. It only talks to one computer at a time, right?

    (I've gotta wonder -- are these guys really this clueless or is it all an elaborate plot to distract hackerdom from something serious?)

    No, no, no. It ain't ME babe,
    It ain't ME you're looking for.
  • So the copyright law prohibits copying this ROM and selling the copy, and precedents such as the Betamax case might help defend copying the ROM for personal use.

    In the US at least, bare copyright (without a license) allows for archival copies and reverse engineering. Interoperability is also allowed, IIRC. If there is a license then it only applies to people who have agreed to it. If these devices have been mailed unsolicited to people, then there is NO presumption of agreement. Go ahead and create some drivers (though document how you received the the device!).

    In the case of normal software, the user implicitly agrees to the license by clicking on the "I accept" button, or in some other mechanism. (Shrink-wrap is a beast of a different color). But in the case of :CueCat the makers are in a tenuous position. There may be an agreement that needs be made prior to the installation of the external software, but there is none for the device itself. They may claim that they are only licensing the device and not selling it, but people are receiving it for free at Radio Shack! They have sold the license to use :CueCat to no one! Unless Radio Shack and other distributors make people sign a form before they get one, as far as I am concerned, they are under no legal agreement. The most these guys can hope for is the protection of copyright, but that allows the user to reverse engineer...
  • With :CueCat, they sent it to me in the mail, unsolicited. Therefore it is now legally mine

    Absolutely! If people are being pressured by these jerks they should talk to a lawyer and their postmaster! I don't know if there is any software actually inside the :CueCat. If there isn't, do whatever you want with it. If there is, you are under no license only straight copyright law, which allows you to reverse engineer.
  • Yeah, but you still have to trust them not to store your personal info, because the info still goes through their server at some point.

    And since they're storing your UID and a list of sites you've been to or whatever on their server, what's to stop them from changing their privacy policy, grabbing your personal info (the only need to do it once) and linking it to all your past activity? With the rate that companies violate and/or arbitrarily change their internet privacy policies these days, I don't think I'd trust any company these days not to do this.
  • I was just reading the license agreement and it informs me that I may not have the CRQ software loaded on more then one computer. Why in the world do they care? They are giving th esoftware aware free. Not only that, but they say I can't have the hardware connected to more then one computer at a time. Uhhh... and can only be used on a single machine at any one time... ok then. Anyway... Isn't this like me buying a hard drive and being informed "Buyers of this hard drive may not store MP3 files on it, nor can this hard drive be used in more then one computer system" What in the world?
  • For the second event, you can write a bit of software to quickly scan books and lookup ISBN's, just as you said. The point? Reselling large sets of used books on E-bay, or just for cataloging your home collection of stuff.

    They are really missing out - what if they had provided free (in both senses) libraries to work with the CueCat that fed back any information you scanned back to the servers? They could do it all by ID, just by knowing which regions CueCat's were shipped to. Sure people could strip out the part that sent back the info, but how many people would really do that? I wouldn't if I knew all it knew about was my :CueCat: (forgot where the ":" goes) ID.

    They could also have added software to let you build up a database of your personal stuff. If they were really smart it would operate indepndently of the computer to hold fifty scans at a time and redock with the computer later.

    Oh well.
  • My favorite part of the new letter Rothwell got is the bit "remove portions... which assist or induce others to [hack the cat]"

    So now I can't even tell my friends how nifty this thing is because, knowing my friends, they will immediately take it apart? I can't wait till this ends. Of course in the meantime I'll go get a few more cause my lamp just burned out.
  • Also posted at kart.dhs.org [dhs.org], the home of Mr T. vs the CueCat.

    To DigitalConvergence, or to "whom it may concern",

    I run the website kart.dhs.org, which hosts the BeClueCat decoder, listed here:

    http://www.bebits.com/app/1537/ [bebits.com]

    DigitalConvergence has been visiting my website since September 15th. Certainly they know I exist.

    I have yet to receive a 'cease and decist' letter from your legal consels, Kenyon and Kenyon, and I feel left out. So many other people have received FedEx'ed letters "WITHOUT PREJUDICE [sic]", yet I have not.

    Kenyon and Kenyon's neglect to C+D me might be construed as "prejudice", since so many others have gotten scary letters. As a BeOS user I realize that I'm part of a minority. Don't you care enough to send your goons after me too? Do I need to agree to a special cease and decist EULA before you can send me one? Perhaps it's because you don't have any contact info. (name and address sent to Digital Convergence)

    To put it in a nutshell:

    Here I am. I'm looking for answers. If you have a beef with me, let's get in touch and I'll listen to your side of the story. If you want to play silly games, I and thousands of other individuals will continue to screw with you. Your business model is beyond flawed; it's despicable. Digital Convergence employees: get out now and cut your losses.
    --

  • the guy at the counter said, "We're giving these away in exchange for your name and address."

    I gave my name and address. I was even truthful and gave my real name and address. The counter guys statement was a verbal contract and I was not required to sign anything.

    BOOM. The deal is done. My state (NC) has not passed UCITA, so the software that is on a CD that will not see inside of my drive has a bogus EULA that means nothing.

    Even if you got your CC at RadioShack, the DC letters are legal posturing that amounts to so much hot air.

    Repeat it over and over, and shout it from the rooftop:
    "A binding agreement other than provided in by common law requires a signature from both parties after ample opportunity to review it."

    Some text hidden inside a box that can only be viewed under certain conditions after an item is bought and paid for does not qualify. Whether technically true or not, convince everyone you know that this is fact. Then we can watch CC and its ilk roll over and die.

  • I have a flat mate in california

    Sorry to hear about your mate. At least he probably died instantly.

  • I was just reading the license agreement and it informs me that I may not have the CRQ software loaded on more then one computer. Why in the world do they care? They are giving th esoftware aware free.

    It's a standard boilerplate clause. You can even find it on software which is not only freely downloadable but also utterly useless unless it is running on at least 2 machines.
  • ?This seems like the standard rubbish. I found the same thing with my HP printer drivers. I have a deskjet on a 486/66 running Linux and Samba, and a couple of windows machines on the network with the windows deskjet drivers installed, and I seem to be breaking the license agreement.

    That's with a deskjet, the laserjet 4050N drivers have exactly the same kind of clause in. (For those unfamiliar the LJ4050N comes fitted with a 10/100M ethernet interface.)

    I don't know if I'm supposed to buy additional licenses from them or what?

    In practice you'd probably simply end up wasting time trying to get people in various HP offices to understand the question.
  • Something is a little odd here. By accepting to receive the CueCat you sort of agreed to the original agreement.

    Except that many of these were sent as unsolicted parcels. Here there is a standard "agreement" which DC made with the USPO by sending the devices. (As well a standard agreement the USPO has with the recipient in these cases.)
    Other people obtained the devices from a retail store where there is also a standard agreement between the store and the customer.
    Nowhere in these two cases is there any kind of "agreement" between the user and DC. This could only apply to the third catagory who ordered the device from DC.
  • But remember, the law does not guarantee that your business model will pan out.

    Except under an economic model known as "corporate socialism". Which certainly appears to be the way things might be heading in the US.
  • Ah, but you can use it for a lot of other things... scan the barcodes on all of your CDs, books, and DVDs to create a database of what you own - there a bunch of sites and utils that let yo convert the barcode info into titles and such.

    --
  • The people behind this are big.

    ... and that was the best job of design they could do? The thing sucks at something like three different levels. It looks bad. It has no good encraption. It is distributed in a way that is a licencing nightmare.

    You know, everytime a company does something like this, I have to smile, 'cause if the barrier is this low, I'll make a killing.
    As soon as I loose my scruples.
  • I disagree. I get a really good laugh every time I see another fumble by Digital Convergance. This story made my morning! :)

    Yes, you can mark this as redundant.

  • I agree. I get a really good laugh every time I see another fumble by Digital Convergance. This story made my morning! :)
  • There is no "illegal" stuff. This whole thing is just legal intimidation. They know damn well that there is nothing illegal about this. They are just hoping that they'll scare the guy enough to make him stop.

    If you read the letters posted carefully, you'll note that they never actually accuse him of doing anything illegal. At one point they use the phrase "unauthorized or illegal". That "or" is important. They're hoping he'll panic and take it down before realizing that "unauthorized" has nothing to do with "illegal" in this context.
  • Who said that? Cuecat has a pretty solid license agreement that you must agree to before taking the device.

    I don't see it that way at all. If DC (or anybody, for that matter) mails me something that I didn't ask for, how can they force me into a license agreement?

    The DMV doesn't give you permission to kill people with your car, they give you a license to drive it.

    That's true, but I don't think the analogy is valid. I'm the one who makes the decision to get a driver's license. The DMV doesn't just mail them out.

    What open source zealots have to get in their heads is not everything can be free.

    I don't think that has anything to do with the issue here.

    Some companies need to make money to survive.

    There's nothing wrong with making money. If a company provides a service that I deem valuable, then they deserve to make that money if I choose to spend it on their service. But what DC is doing is saying, "Here's a product that you didn't ask for. You're free to use it as long as the manner in which you use it benefits us."
  • It was given away for free, so there's really no need to get so emotional about not cracking it (as opposed to something you pay for, like Tivo).

    To tell the truth, I don't really care about CueCat. Sure, it's a fun toy to play with, but this is really about something much bigger. If I were to give you an item that you didn't ask for, I'm basically giving up all rights to tell you what to do with it. If Columbia House sends you a packet trying to get you to sign up for their service, they're not "allowed" to bitch at you because you used their selection booklet to shop for discs you'll end up buying elsewhere.

    I could go on and on with analogies, but the point is this: most /.'ers don't really care about the CueCat, they care about their rights. Big businesses (especially with the new "E business model") try to control consumers, and it's important to let them know that we have rights as well.
  • I thought that because DC has contracts with at least 2 large companies in the Dallas area (Dallas Morning News [dallasmorningnews.com]; WFAA [wfaa.com](CH 8)), would make DC give up the fight. The reverse-engineering is making the devices more used (I only got one once the linux drivers was avaliable). Their main (only?) source for income is being able to sell the bar-code lookups for either TV or publications. AFAIK, you can still do these lookups even with the "stolen IP" drivers.

  • by tkrabec ( 84267 )
    >Since they've changed their EULA, and mass
    >mailed California, they have no excuse (the old
    >EULA has no restrictions on reverse engineering
    >the hardware, and mass mailing in California
    >makes it irrelevant anyway).

    I do not understand how they can change their ELUA after someone already accepted it (I have not because I have not read it or installed it yet).

    Don't I have to upgrade their SW or HW and to have to agree to a new ELUA? It is not my fault that they had a fault in it.
  • If you make an agreement you don't like, it's ok to break it.

    Like it said in the summary, some states actually give legal exemption from EULAs in cases of mass mailings, etc. DC gave away their product with the assumption that all consumers are idiots.

  • You'd think these stories would get old after a while, but I'm finding that tormetning Digital Convergence is actually, well, kind of fun. I guess I just have a bizarre sadistic streak or something.

    The whole infringing on their IP thing is getting kind of old though. We need to come up with a fresh angle... Maybe I'll register livegoatporn.com and post pictures of goats and Cue:Cats. There's nothing in the EULA about that...

  • Now if your sister had mailed her dog to you...
  • Because they visited the site, there is no reason for their letter to be vauge about what to remove from the site. This vaugeness amounts to an order to remove everything he has ever posted about anything and is clearly a harasment.

    If they had never visited the site at all, their letters would be foolish and based on hearsay. To threaten someone with a lawsuit based on hearsay is harrasment as well.


  • It's only boring to people with short attention spans who can't pay attention to something long enough to protect their own rights. If we give up on this the powers that be (taking away our rights) gain a little ground. We can't give in an inch, or let even the smallest precedent be set.

    This stuff is important, and it always will be. It's amazing to me that there is so much apathy about important issues when they are first brought up, while there is still time to fight. And so much outrage once it's too late. For example, UCITA. It was hard to get more than a hand full of people worked up over this ridiculous bill before it was passed, and now that it's legal I'm seeing more and more people shocked at what it does.

    It's as if people expect the government to protect all of their rights automatically. Wake up people you have to fight every step of the way. Even a on a smaller issue such as CueCat.

  • Speaking of unauthorized use of these things and the phrase "IANAL", I just realized that two of 'em, glued together (flat end to flat end), and with any sharp flashing edges on the plastic properly-smoothed, would serve as a pretty useful dildo. Or better yet, a buttplug.

    Are you talking about cuecats here or lawyers? I've gotten a bit confused, I'm afraid. *g*

  • but being in the UK..... I have a flatmate in california

    Thats a big flat.
  • Perhaps this has already been started or already exists, but why doesn't someone create an OpenSource database of UPC codes?

    If someone scans an item that isn't in the database, they enter a description. Eventually, the database will be filled. eh?
    --

  • Yeah it's magic for smuggling stuff.

    I can buy all the nice cheap american food, gasoline and computer equipment load it in through the bathroom window and out of the front door and not only do i avoid customs but I save myself those nasty shipping costs.
  • I'd quite like one or two to play with in my appartment but being in the UK i'm not quite sure whether or not u can walk into radio shack and pick one up.

    I have a flatmate in california so hopefully he should be able to pick up a couple and we'll do all the 'illegal' stuff outwith US jurisdiction.

    :)
  • Try www.deBarcode.com [debarcode.com] for a web-accessable database of UPC-A, UPC-E and EAN-13 bar codes.

    It's a touch limited at this point, but you're free to add any bar codes you encounter.

    John

    The Church of the SubGenius [subgenius.com] -- because somebody had to put all that slack in there...

  • They must fear that people (large numbers) who get these things will never sign up for their service but instead use it with non-DC software. They almost certainly will keep after websites that post the scanner code (IMO).

    Now, granted - a few linux geeks getting their hands on one of these and using fooCat_barCode instead of the cuecat software shouldn't make any difference. These guys probably wouldn't subscriber to their service in any case and finding an alternate use for the thing simply spares it from the landfill.

    But if someone were to take the fooCat_barCode stuff and use it to implement a windows shareware program that gets wildly popular as a replacement for DC's service, that is a different story.

    So, I think they might fight with whatever they have left to keep this source off the net for as long as possible. This, of course, is a losing battle. That doesn't mean they will/should give up. Someone's dink is in the fire right now for not properly preparing for this challenge to their business model. They will have to answer to whoever put up the cash for this little venture. There is no way they give up now.
  • At least DC will be getting a good number of people (the great unwashed Windows lusers) to visit their site.

    The last time I was in London (around 3 months ago), there were a number of huge advertisments on the tube for a site called something like IHaveMoved.Com. I've not seen them advertised anywhere else in the country since.

    The purpose of this site is to inform people and organisations that you have moved house. They seem to get their revenue from address harvesting. The companies seeking the infomation pay for it.

    I read somewhere that it cost a million pounds just to start up this site, including the outlay for advertising. How the hell are they going to recoup this money, even if they do attract users to visit them and set up an account?

  • Enough about the Cuecat. It's a bar code scanner, not a cure for AIDS. It was given away for free, so there's really no need to get so emotional about not cracking it (as opposed to something you pay for, like Tivo). Let's move on to more important topics.
  • When I got my Cue:Cat the person at Radio Shack handed it to me with no mention of any obligation. I even asked, "Is this really free? I can keep it?" and the clerk responded in the affirmative.

    What if you asked "Does this come with any kind of license agreement?" Or you knew that it came with a license agreement prior to getting one -- you just chose to ignore it?

    Don't forget the cardinal rule -- there's no such thing as a free lunch. When you received a "free" piece of hardware, a piece of hardware that was easily $5-10 to manufacture, you must have thought to yourself "what's the catch?"

    The catch is you're supposed to use it to scan Radio Shack catalogs, go to their site and drive advertiser (and purchasing) traffic. Not break the damn thing apart and use it as a toy to scan bar codes for no reason.

    There was a business plan here -- a business plan you chose to ignore but still applies. The company will lose money if all you do is play with the device scanning rogue bar codes and not use it to buy Radio Shack merchandise. This means they will stop giving them away, and we'll be the losers, because a couple of hackers couldn't swallow their pride and say "Gee, I got this thing to work with Linux. But the company gave it to me for free. Maybe I should buy a few products using it and its Windows program to return my gratitude."

  • If I were to give you an item that you didn't ask for, I'm basically giving up all rights to tell you what to do with it.

    Who said that? Cuecat has a pretty solid license agreement that you must agree to before taking the device. And it pretty much confirms what the cease-and-desist letters say more verbosely: the CueCat is licensed, not sold or given away.

    Personally, I don't see a big deal about issues with licensing agreements. So what if the hardware maker wants to grant a license instead of giving you all the rights?

    The DMV doesn't give you permission to kill people with your car, they give you a license to drive it. Tivo doesn't give you permission to break down their proprietary video encoding technology, just to hack the hard drive and other non-critical bits (this is how companies make money).

    What open source zealots have to get in their heads is not everything can be free. There are certain precedents that set up a capitalist society, and for better or worse we must live in this society. Sure, I could devote my life to developing Linux and giving it away for free. I could also never marry and starve my future children to death.

    Come on, even the poster boy of open source has taken a more realistic route. Wake up people. Some companies need to make money to survive.

  • So if I don't read the DMV's rules I don't have to follow them? I think you're little off, dude. Just because you threw away the EULA doesn't mean it doesn't apply to you. The license applies whether you trash the CD or not (and by the looks of things, that wasn't exactly their intention with the CD).
  • Don't like it, DC? Include some return postage.

    They could if they wanted, but you're still under no obligation to return it. As you stated, they abandoned it in your mailbox. And wouldn't it be considered mail fraud to imply that you have obligations to uphold on something that they sent you unprompted in the mail?

    Maybe some better paid geeks than me could get a lawyer (Any openlaw people here want to take it up?) drafting a cease and desist letter to send to DC, to force them to stop using any sort of EULA on the devices they are mass mailing. That would also make a really nice press release, something that might even make the major news outlets, the ones that investors read.

    I almost felt sorry for this company a couple of weeks ago. Then I installed their S/W. Looks like I'll have to go get another one that isn't covered by their EULA, and have some fun with it.

    Fist Prost

    "We're talking about a planet of helpdesks."
  • It seems a better business plan for the cuecat would be to sell them for ~$10 with a software package that allows the user to do all the things you mention and then some:

    - scan food packages: generate grocery lists. download nutritional info and compare it to popular diet plan guidelines (e.g. Weightwatchers). Using current in-stock food, recommend recipes to cook. Allow for auto-reorder with local/online grocery store when certain items need replacing.

    - scanning books/CDs/etc for insurance database. Provide hooks for spreadsheets & common databases, along with included simple app. Setup agreements with insurance companies so you can upload your lists to their system (an insurance list in your house is no good if your house burns down; and that's the whole point of such a list)

    - dynamically generated barcodes on gym equipment, encodes machine type, time/difficulty on machine. Add a bit of memory to the scanner, and you digitally log your workouts, then sync with the fitness software to log your progress. Integrate with nutritional monitor.

    - toys toys toys! Sell a special Lego Mindstorms edition. Sell cheap software that allows kids to print barcodes on stickers. They can barcode their toys, their clothes, their sisters :) Why? I don't know, but kids groove on that kind of stuff. Have fun electronic kits: barcode keycards with a simple lock for the home computer, or little Susie's room. Scan books as they are read to make a book reading progress chart.

    - Finally, provide engineering samples cheap to those who want them (hardware, drivers, no apps), contingent on the user agreeing that they will not sell (distribute?) hardware/software using the scanner or drivers without the companies consent. Then everyone knows what they're getting into before hand.

    I think I've just given out several ideas to make some clever people rich. If you use these ideas to become a gazillionare, I'd appreciate a little 'Thank you' note :)
    -----
    D. Fischer
  • I like your analogy, but I think it can be further improved:

    It would be like a stranger left their dog at your doorstep, with a note saying, "Have a dog. Feed it alpo, and play fetch with a stick."

    You'd think you could do whatever with the dog: keep it, give it away, neuter it, take it to the Human Society.

    But then, the stranger shows up, sees you playing fetch with a frisbee, and calls the cops for not following the instructions he left you.

    That's how I see it, anyway.
    -----
    D. Fischer
  • How about a few Cue Cat Competitions - in the spirit of the Olympics? First up is the Cue Cat Collection - how big a pile of these suckers can you amass? No doping, please. Second, find a use for it, other than being able to purchase a second copy of a book you already own without having to l a b o r i o u s l y type in the book title at Amazon.com.
  • The last few nights, stories on the CluelessCat have been airing on WFAA (TV) in Dallas, which is owned by one of the major CC investment partners. They give the appearance of a balanced view, but last night they gave prominence the the COT's assertion that they have coded the server-side software so as to make it "impossible" to track individual users. Until they change the software, of course. They did interview someone from the Privacy Foundation, who made some good points. If DC were running out of cash, would they hesitate to track and sell your Web browsing information? I don't think so - or, at least, I'm not willing to trust them. They have not acted in a trustworthy manner.

    >no sig

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:23AM (#754207)
    Umm, they have almost $200 million in private equity funding (Read: Cash in bank from big companies with no stipulations on how to use it and it can't be taken back).

    They're not going anywhere for awhile. They're through their first and second rounds already.

    This is not your typical dot-com startup. The people behind this are big.
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:15AM (#754208)
    DeCSS : First Amendment/DCMA :: CueCat : UTICA/DCMA

    This is an important battle over the legality of shrink-wrapped licenses that UTICA makes legal, though it seems to obviously violate past legal actions (ownership of mailed items, etc). Yes, I don't think this particular story has as much substance, but like MS/DoJ, Napster, and DeCSS, we're in the period where DC/CueCat issues are being laid down, and until either a trial or DC's backing down, we'll have to live with these short tidbits.

    Besides, we're all waiting word on if the Supreme Court will take the MS case :D

  • by Cid Highwind ( 9258 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:25AM (#754209) Homepage
    But it can scan *any* barcode, not just the ::cue:::cat:::: specific codes in magazine ads. Anything product that has a UPC barcode is listed in a database, and book with an ISBN number is listed with the Library of Congress, most CDs have either a UPC or some other identifying barcode on them.

    DC's problem with the new drivers is that people can use the cue::cat; to access publc UPC databases, or the library of Congress, instead of DC's database. If people use the scanner, but not with DC's servers, DC's (poorly thought out) business model goes right out the window.
  • by Col. Klink (retired) ( 11632 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:29AM (#754210)
    With a cuecat and a simple decoding program, you can read any bar code (UPC, ISBN, etc). You don't need to use their servers at all. You can search for books on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or the Library of Congress. http://www.jounce.net/~maarken/decode.html has a decoder that can look up product info for all sorts of stuff.

    You can scan the books you own and automagically build a card catalog. If you lend a book to a friend, you can swipe the code and keep track of who's got it.

    You can also print your own barcodes and make up your own inventory system.

    The scanner itself simply converts the barcode into a a keyboard sequence including the serial #, bar code type & bar code # (all wrapped up in pseudo-encrypted base64).
  • by Pope Slackman ( 13727 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:53AM (#754211) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I liked the 'Dead Horse' icon suggestion...

    --K
    ---
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @07:24AM (#754212)
    "remove portions... which assist or induce others to [hack the cat]"

    Actually, not quite: "remove immediately those portions of the Web site that contain unauthorized or illegal [and still undefined] misappropriations of [DC's] intellectual and proprietary rights, or which assist or induce others to do so"

    What the blistering three-nippled fuck are they talking about?

    What are intellectual rights? What are proprietary rights? Or do they mean "intellectual-and-proprietary rights" as a long way of saying "IP rights". Can any lawyers comment on that wording? Seems a weird way to say it, but IANAL.

    And what does "to do so" mean? The only fsckin' verb in that sentence is "to contain unauthorized or illegal misappropriations of DC's [whatever]". Do you see any portions of that web site which assist or induce others to contain information? I sure don't.

    Sigh. At least it's an improvement in that they've hired a real lawyer to do the blustering, as opposed to someone with Robert McElwaine's command of the English language.

    But it's still a crock. Unless and until DCNV informs Kenyon & Kenyon as to which material - specifically - it believes is infringing, and K&K informs the owner of Flyingbuttmonkeys.com, it's still a load of freshly spat-up cat vomit.

    Speaking of unauthorized use of these things and the phrase "IANAL", I just realized that two of 'em, glued together (flat end to flat end), and with any sharp flashing edges on the plastic properly-smoothed, would serve as a pretty useful dildo. Or better yet, a buttplug.

    You could bend over on all fours, insert the modified cats, have a good friend give a really good yank on the cord, and plastic barcode-reading cats would fly out of your butt.

  • by plover ( 150551 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @10:38AM (#754213) Homepage Journal
    PLEASE DO NOT THROW YOUR :CUE:CATs IN THE TRASH!

    Electronic circuitry contains lead and cadmium, both of which can leach out of landfills and contaminate groundwater. Recycle your :Cue:Cats or dispose of them at your community's "HazMat Dispozal Daze" or whatever. Please, do not throw heavy metals in the trash!

    John

    The Church of the SubGenius [subgenius.com] -- because somebody had to put all that slack in there...

  • by root ( 1428 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:33AM (#754214) Homepage
    Boring out your engine? Adding an NO2 injector? Replacing the alternator with a higher amperage one? Adding a racing stripe to your car?

    THEN YOU ARE A THEIF, AND A PIRATE!

    Ford, GM, and Daimler-Chrysler have recently hired DC's team of lawyers to file suit against roughly 92.7 million US car owners who have made "unauthorised modifications" to their cars. Numerous auto parts store chains have been subpoenaed for their receipts to obtain lists of customers who may have purchased parts to "illegally modifiy" their vehicle or purchased reverse engineered documentation on their car's inner workings (Haynes/Chilton manuals). It is the car maker's position that all of these acts constitutes THEFT OF IP under the recently passed DMCA. And as computers are integral parts of all modern cars since the mid to late 1980s, the DMCA applies as much to cars as to computers and software. The Clinton/Gore administration has applauded the move citing studies that show that of the 9 out of 10 CHILDREN injured or killed in automobile accidents, at least one of the vehicles has been modified by its owner in some way. Backed by the radical right wing AAA and the NHRA, Presidential candidate George W Bush has irresponsibly asserted that gov't ought to stay out of people's garages. We will bring you more details as this case unfolds.

  • by e_lehman ( 143896 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:44AM (#754215)

    I am glad that Slashdot is covering this matter closely.

    Volunteer software developers are personally vulnerable to legal assault in a way that corporate developers never are. Most of us routinely rely on the contributions of such individuals, even if not for something as esoteric as barcode scanners in particular. I believe that there is a reciprocal community responsibility not to let Michael Rothwell and others who work without compensation for the public benefit be mugged in the dark by lawyers and forgotten.

    I'm glad Slashdot is keeping a bright light shining on the matter.

  • by Kefaa ( 76147 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:30AM (#754216)
    The truly disturbing part of this ongoing circus is the effect it has on the general population. It is easy for us to defend the actions of people interested in determining what CueCat is reporting about us. However, it is bothersome that the American public is beginning to believe they cannot control their environment and worse they cannot withstand the cost of the legal hassles involved in defending themselves.

    While many here are of the opinion "we cannot be stopped". The marketing media are not trying too stop us. They are trying to stop Johnny from growing up and playing with the toaster. So when the "ViewCat" can begin taking photos, we do not concern ourselves with the fact the EULA says ViewCat Inc. owns them and may sell them as marketing information. Or, as we have seen with recent carnivore events, we find the government would like the ISPs to release those photos to them as part of an ongoing investigation.

    It is very subtle, the approach was missed by many because the laws were changed before most people were anywhere near the Internet. They are being fed the lines they need to hear to support the positions of the few in status quo. We end up dismissed as "hackers," who are breaking the law (EULA), or radical conspiracy theorist.

    Sadly, it is going to take some marketing site releasing information about a major player in the government before we see any type of real action. However, to do that would require that more than a few know how to traverse the Internet or have an experience with shopping on-line. Not a real optimistic prospect.
  • by Picass0 ( 147474 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:11AM (#754217) Homepage Journal
    If common sense applied here, this is how I see the Cue-cat deal (in the mail, not Ratshack).

    My sister asked for me to look after her dog recently while she went on vacation. Nice dog, but I took this dog into my house and looked after it, with the understanding that I would have to give it back. I had to be responsible for this animal. It was a favor, and I had the right to say no. With DC sending you this in the mail they are saying "here, take care of this thing for us. You're responsible for returning it eventually."

    This company is asking for you to do them a favor (enter into a contract to take care of and return their private property) without asking you if you are willing to participate. If I was never given the chance to say "NO", why should I be obligated? DC is abandoning this equipment in my mailbox.

    So, let's say my sister had been a further pain it the butt by saying "Checkers (her dog) likes to play the game fetch with a stick, and only with a stick. Not a frisbee. And she only eats Alpo." If my sister had said this, I'd tell her to find someone else to take care of her dog. I'm doing her a favor, so she can cut me some slack. Well, in the case of DC, I didn't ask for this responsibility, so I'll do what I damn well please. Don't like it, DC? Include some return postage.

    The other aspect of this is the personal information being collected. Where does it tell me in the EULA that I can't use the Cue-cat to collect personal information about myself for myself? Why can't I use this thing to index my stuff and keep the info in MY DB instead of theirs?

    I'm not an enemy of this company. I have no problem with someone trying to make a buck. But if I receive one of these in the mail without my consent, it's mine, and I bet the laws governing the US mail would take priority over DC's EULA.
  • by LaNMaN2000 ( 173615 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:19AM (#754218) Homepage
    I do not think that Digital Convergence has any intention of following through on their threats of litigation. The reverse engineering of the CueCat has put their entire business model in jeopardy in the same way that the hacking of the I-opener challenged Netpliance's.

    Both companies gave away/sold loss-leaders in the hope of having customers sign up for a service. In Netpliance's case, the service was charged to the consumer while DC requires the customer to use the service so it can sell info to advertisers, but the net effect is the same: if the consumers obtain the loss-leader but do not sign up for the service, they are screwed.

    Unless Digital Convergence challenges the manufacturers of alternative drivers, they will have absolutely no source of revenue to show potential second/third round investors and they may as well close their doors today. Personally, I think giving away thousands of CueCats in the hope of having people sign up for a service and scan ads is about the *stupidest* .com business model I have ever seen (except selling pet food online--that was classic). However, I don't think DC's investors are willing to give up and close shop.

    That being said, they will not devote some of their rapidly depleting cash supply to fight a legal battle they cannot possibly win. Their goal was to get people to remove the drivers in the same way that the MPAA got people to remove DeCSS--by telling their *service providers* that their customer is engaged in illegal activity. Since DC has no legal basis for their claims (the DMCA does not cover hardware), people are not complying with their cease and desist letters. With the failure of this strategy, their company should not last more than another few months.
  • by devnullkac ( 223246 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:19AM (#754219) Homepage

    I think this whole thing is worth it just to see the word flyingbuttmonkeys appear 8 separate times under the Kenyon & Kenyon official letterhead.

  • by Private Essayist ( 230922 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @04:17AM (#754220)
    From the DC letter:

    "Although we appreciate your apparent curiosity and interest in determining how Digital Convergence's proprietary :CueCat and :Cue technology operates, you must appreciate that Digital Convergence will enforce its rights against those unlawfully using its proprietary technology."

    Since they gave :CueCat away, what makes them think we can't take it apart? I got a :CueCat in the mail, unsolicited. I did not install the software as I have no use for the thing, and therefore I saw no license or agreement of any kind. I got something in the mail without asking for it, and if I want to take it apart I can.

    Two analogies come to mind:

    1. Receiving 'something for nothing' in the mail in order to encourage you to buy a product or perform a service (such as getting a dollar bill attached to a survey they would like you to take). The law says that I am under no obligation to perform the service, and I am welcome to the dollar.

    2. When you own a physical object, such as an alarm clock, you are welcome to throw it against the wall, or smash it with a hammer, or take it apart into little pieces, or disconnect the alarm, or whatever you feel like. It's your clock.

    With :CueCat, they sent it to me in the mail, unsolicited. Therefore it is now legally mine, and item 1 has legal precedence. Then, as item 2 follows, if I own this thing, I can take it apart if I want.

    So when DC says we are "unlawfully using its proprietary technology," I'm curious to know which laws they are pretending apply in this case?
    ________________

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