[maemo-developers] [maemo-developers] Re: RE: Nokia 770 sources...

From: Michael Wiktowy michael.wiktowy at gmail.com
Date: Thu Aug 31 20:35:17 EEST 2006
On 8/30/06, Danny Milosavljevic <danny_milo at yahoo.com> wrote:
> On Wed, 30 Aug 2006 16:12:06 -0400, Andrew Barr wrote:
> > On Wed, 2006-08-30 at 15:56 -0400, Michael Wiktowy wrote:
> >> Unfortunately, I don't think the waters are all that clear in this
> >> situation.
> >
> > No, unfortunately they're not.
> >
> >> IANAL but it is my understanding that most countries have RFI laws
> >> that do not allow RF chip manufacturers to allow their users to modify
> >> their chips to switch to licensed bands or use an amount of power that
> >> brings it into a licenseable realm. It is not just the case of the law
> >> saying that a user can't operate in certain realms ... the user can't
> >> even be allowed to *possibly* operate in certain realms.
> Give me wire, a jar and a diode and I'll build you a device that does
> exactly that in 2 minutes. Oooh radio is sooo complicated. NOT.
> Let's outlaw wire (the most important part here - or is it the diode? :)).

I was not commenting on the technical challange of making such a thing. The
problem does not lay in the technical realm but rather the legal one. If you
go and sell your ingenious jamming jar-and-diode and then someone uses (or
modifies it) it do something illegal, guess who is going to share some of
the responsibility and liability? One of the few protections a company has
is to show to a judge that they have taken steps to "prevent" someone from
using their product in an illegal manner. Sometimes it is a disclaimer when
they can't really change the nature of something ("This coffee is hot!
Please do not spill it on your lap and sue us.") and sometimes it is with
obfuscation ("Sorry, we can't open this source ... here's your binary blob
to make it "work"").

I quite agree with you that this situation is rather sucky but I don't agree
that it doesn't exist and would be changed tomorrow if only the evil
hardware vendors would open up their firmware. It is not that simple and the
solution will take a long time to come about and take a lot of effort of
many people.

The solution is to identify where the legal road-blocks are and to put
pressure on the legislators/regulators to clarify/change the rules if highly
risk-adverse companies are hiding behind ambiguity of them. Then take those
answers back to the company and call their bluff with some authority. A user
hoping that they are just going to take the user's word on it that they will
be OK, without risking any liability, likely won't get very far.

However, it is far easier for a user to solely blame the evil hardware
vendor who is keeping their secrets to themselves ... this is after
admitting that the binary blob is not all that hard to disassemble. On the
other hand, it is far easier (and cheaper) for a hardware vendor to sit back
and point their fingers at "the rules" then to join with their users to
pressure regulators to change/clarify the rules to allow unhindered open
source development.

I hope that Nokia chooses to help their users change the legal environment
rather than hide in the murkiness of it. I think there is much more long
term profit to be made by unhindering user-develoment than by short term
savings of not spending time and money to pressure regulators or to free up
IP rights.
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