Reverse Engineering
Illegal Uses

An unfortunate and highly prevalent use of reverse engineering technologies has emerged in the sector of commercial software production. In that realm, reverse engineering has become synonymous with using an automated process to discover how a competitor's software works, making a few modifications and improvements, and marketing the stolen product as something new. Clearly, this is a copyright infraction, since copyright law affords protection to software. In fact, many computer science professionals feel that reverse engineering has become prevalent enough and is offensive enough that the technologies facilitating it should be deemed unlawful and prohibited. Several high profile lawsuits have involved issues of reengineering including the Sega v. Accolade and Atari v. Nintendo lawsuits. The famous Lotus Notes lawsuit which resulted in the determination that the look-and-feel was not protected by copyright involved reverse engineering performed by Paperback.

Yet many people feel justified even in using reverse engineering for illegal purposes. The following captures this sentiment:

"What is wrong with reverse engineering? Reverse Engineering is merely a symptom that the tech owner is charging too much, or severely restricting access to the tech, to the point that it is worth the effort for others to reverse engineer the tech in order to get access to it." -Newsgroup Posting

Clearly, the advocates of reverse engineering feel strongly about its merits in both the legal and illegal realms.

NEXT: Proposed Solutions

MPEG Layer 3   |   Emulation
Search Engines and Directories   |   CD Burners


Ted LeVan   |   Huat Chye Lim   |   Marissa Mayer   |   Ann Rose Van

Computer Science 201 Final Project
Stanford University, March 1999