The EU's Court of Justice rules people are entitled to repair their purchased software, and may decompile it in order to do so

Delicieuxz

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The European Union's highest court ruled on October 6 that people may decompile their software if necessary to fix its intended function.

On those grounds, the Court (Fifth Chamber) hereby rules:

1. Article 5(1) of Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs must be interpreted as meaning that the lawful purchaser of a computer program is entitled to decompile all or part of that program in order to correct errors affecting its operation, including where the correction consists in disabling a function that is affecting the proper operation of the application of which that program forms a part.

2. Article 5(1) of Directive 91/250 must be interpreted as meaning that the lawful purchaser of a computer program who wishes to decompile that program in order to correct errors affecting the operation thereof is not required to satisfy the requirements laid down in Article 6 of that directive. However, that purchaser is entitled to carry out such a decompilation only to the extent necessary to effect that correction and in compliance, where appropriate, with the conditions laid down in the contract with the holder of the copyright in that program.

The Court of Justice previously, in 2012, ruled that people own the specific copies of software that they purchase: "the copyright holder transfers the right of ownership of the copy of the computer program to his customer".

And in 2014, the Court of Justice said that circumventing DRM may be lawful in certain circumstances, such as to restore functionality to purchased software. The new, October 6 ruling now makes the Court of Justice's view on the matter broader and explicit.

I think this is a great affirmation of software ownership rights.


The EU isn't the only region to have said it's OK to circumvent DRM in order to repair software or hardware that you own. A US federal appeals court made a ruling in 2010 relating to bypassing DRM. Then, in 2015, and 2018, the Library of Congress entitled people to circumvent DRM when doing so is necessary for a person to use their software or hardware.

2010: Court: breaking DRM for a “fair use” is legal
2015: The Library of Congress's New DRM Rules Are a Victory For Digital Freedom
2018: US government deems it legal to circumvent DRM to repair electronic devices

Related thread: You own the software that you purchase, and any claims otherwise are urban myth or corporate propaganda
 
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Lakados

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Honestly, if you can read decompiled code there was nothing stopping you from doing this before but by the boisterous balls of the Omnissiah, reading that code is an art form.
 

Nobu

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Good thing, too. There's loads of old games and software that has been cracked because otherwise it was difficult or impossible to use as it was intended, due to lost or damaged documentation and media.
 

GiGaBiTe

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Good thing, too. There's loads of old games and software that has been cracked because otherwise it was difficult or impossible to use as it was intended, due to lost or damaged documentation and media.

Same with game companies. There have been at least a few cases of game companies re-releasing their old backlog and using cracked executables made by some hacker decades ago because they lost the source to the game, or couldn't be bothered to remove the copy protection. Similar with console game compilations using some of the same emulators they've been threatening with legal action forever as the backend to their old game re-releases on modern consoles.
 

GoodBoy

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We don't "own" most software though, we license the right to use it. All of that legalese was sorted out so that people couldn't freely copy and distribute software in court cases from the 1990's. If I 'own' something I can give it away if I want. With something copyable like code, you really think you own it and can do what you want?

I think the fair use copies are legal. I even think repairing it would be legal too. I see this only really applying to custom written business software, where the software creator might leave the company if its internally written, or the external company who wrote the software might close up, but the customers business relies on that piece of software to operate. In all of these cases I think it should be legal to decompile and repair as needed.

But the average joe-blow? hell no. EU get's some good ideas, but some are detrimental. See: Amiga software and how copying in the EU killed the whole platform.
 

Lakados

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We don't "own" most software though, we license the right to use it. All of that legalese was sorted out so that people couldn't freely copy and distribute software in court cases from the 1990's. If I 'own' something I can give it away if I want. With something copyable like code, you really think you own it and can do what you want?

I think the fair use copies are legal. I even think repairing it would be legal too. I see this only really applying to custom written business software, where the software creator might leave the company if its internally written, or the external company who wrote the software might close up, but the customers business relies on that piece of software to operate. In all of these cases I think it should be legal to decompile and repair as needed.

But the average joe-blow? hell no. EU get's some good ideas, but some are detrimental. See: Amiga software and how copying in the EU killed the whole platform.
We've been having to do this for some parts of our Accounting software (written in the 90's, company folded in 2010'ish) so we can update it and keep it going to meet legal requirements while we get its replacement in order, of which we rolled out the first part of it last week with no hitches so far. So Payroll is launched and the data transferred, Purchase orders are up next.
 

ZodaEX

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We don't "own" most software though, we license the right to use it. All of that legalese was sorted out so that people couldn't freely copy and distribute software in court cases from the 1990's. If I 'own' something I can give it away if I want. With something copyable like code, you really think you own it and can do what you want?

I think the fair use copies are legal. I even think repairing it would be legal too. I see this only really applying to custom written business software, where the software creator might leave the company if its internally written, or the external company who wrote the software might close up, but the customers business relies on that piece of software to operate. In all of these cases I think it should be legal to decompile and repair as needed.

But the average joe-blow? hell no. EU get's some good ideas, but some are detrimental. See: Amiga software and how copying in the EU killed the whole platform.

The average Joe-Blow will never be reading and editing decompiled code in the first place so your point is moot.
 

Lakados

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The average Joe-Blow will never be reading and editing decompiled code in the first place so your point is moot.
As somebody who has had to decompile code to fix aspects of it, I can't give this enough likes.

It is an arduous nightmare and I can only respect the absolute F out of those who do it regularly because sweet Jebus it is the stuff of nightmares.
 

Delicieuxz

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We don't "own" most software though, we license the right to use it. All of that legalese was sorted out so that people couldn't freely copy and distribute software in court cases from the 1990's. If I 'own' something I can give it away if I want. With something copyable like code, you really think you own it and can do what you want?
The EU and Australia's highest courts have said people do own their software - even when a publisher claims it is merely licensed. And the US Supreme Court has opined that the first-sale doctrine necessarily must apply to software.

But owning an instance of a copyrighted work doesn't give a person the right to make copies of it and distribute those copies - not with software and not with anything else, including cars, clothes, electronics, food products, etc.

If you own a Toyota Corolla, you still can't make Toyota Corollas and sell them, because you don't own the Toyota brand or the IP for the Corolla model. If you own a pair of Nike shoes, you can't make copies of them and sell them, because you don't own the Nike brand or the IP for the shoe model. But you can sell your pair of Nike shoes. Likewise, you can't make duplicates of your owned software and sell them because you don't own the IP for the software. But you still own your single, non-reproduceable copy of the software - just as you own your music CDs and can sell them but can't burn copies of them and sell them. And just as you own your books but you don't own the original work they present, and so can't make copies of the book and sell them.

Owning a copy of any mass-produced work doesn't confer distribution rights onto you. Only the copyright-holder (and whoever they license the right to) has the right to create duplicates of the work and to exercise the right of first-sale for the copies they make.
 
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