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Electronics Manufacturers Use US Legal System to Thwart Hardware ‘Hacks’

Mar 10, 2010, 01:32 (8 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Gain)

"Electronics manufacturers are taking legal action against users in the United States who communicate how to unlock or “hack” hardware devices. However, manufacturers’ use of their hired legal guns to crack down on hacking, which they say infringes on their intellectual property ownership rights, is a point of debate.

"Users, mostly hobbyists, who reconfigure or reverse engineer electronic devices and communicate to others how to do that maintain that their hacks are an art and pose no harm in and of itself. Electronics vendors, or original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), claim that such knowledge can be used to illegally distribute software, steal internet service from internet service providers, or to commit other illicit acts. OEMs also seek to better control the designs and uses of their devices, especially those that are “locked-down,” such as video consoles, video players, set-top boxes, and smart phones, unlike the more open PC model, which facilitates media file distribution between users (IPW, Copyright Policy, 28 May 2009).

"Consumer rights and other groups also maintain that users are free to communicate so-called hardware “hacks” under free speech and other laws in the United States. However, policy groups and analysts say clamping down on the unintentional use of hardware protects OEMs’ intellectual property rights and helps consumers in the long run."

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