RE: Binary Drivers

From: David Schwartz
Date: Mon Dec 25 2006 - 19:21:29 EST

> > Now, let's try it another way: Are they allowed to sell a car that
> > incorporates a computer that uses a trade-secret algorithm for
> > controlling
> > the fuel injection to get 20 more horsepower and 5% better
> > mileage if it's
> > impossible to *start* the car without knowing that algorithm?

> It is done regularly. Current cars control the fuel injection etc via an
> onboard computer, without this control the engine just won't
> start.

So? You don't need to know the algorithm to start the car.

> Did you
> get the specs for the exact fuel control algorithm with your car? Should
> you be able to fool around with that, thus violating emission control
> measures (this would damage not only you, but everybody)?

If I bought the car from the manufacturer, it also must include any rights
the manufacturer might have to the car's use. That includes using the car to
violate emission control measures. If I didn't buy the right to use the car
that way (insofar as that right was owned by the car manufacturer), I didn't
buy the whole care -- just *some* of the rights to use it.

If I buy a device that has a safety of some kind, the manufacturer cannot
prohibit me from removing or disabling the safety unless some law gives them
that authority. Otherwise, I didn't buy all of the rights to that device,
just some of them. If the manufacturer kept the right to keep the safety
there, then they didn't sell me the whole product. It's no conceptually
different than if they kept the right to drive the car on Tuesdays.

If you bought the car, and it's a normal free and clear sale, then the
manufacturer retains no rights to say how the car is used. Any they might
have had, you bought from them. The exception is where operation of some
specific law changes the rules. (For example, you know that when you buy a
DVD of a movie, you do not get the right to charge admission to see the DVD.
But that's because a specific law retains that right for the copyright

> Almost everything around you is controlled by a uP nowadays (it is much
> cheaper/preciser to control e.g. the washing machine that way than via the
> customary rotating wheels with notches). Did you get the specs for that?
> Can you get them?

So long as you don't *need* them to use the device, there's no issue. The
problem is when you need them to use the device (and not just the ordinary
expected way, any reasonable way). Then you are entitled to them.

James C. Georgas made this point better than I did with his example of a car
that includes a "driver".


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