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CODEC & Software Defined Radio legalities

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#1
Given the existence of open projects such as the TAPR's Software Defined Radio, I was wondering what the legalities might be for writing or using various decoding software implementations.

Aside of actually receiving a portable phone of some sort, I don't know of any legal reason one couldn't use an open source CODEC, even one that was reverse engineered. But I'm no expert on this. Perhaps others are more versed in the law than I am.

So, for example, if someone wrote a CODEC for an IDEN system, is it legal to distribute, and is it legal to use?

Jake Brodsky
AB3A
 

DaveNF2G

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#2
It would be best to consult with an attorney who specializes in intellectual property. Failing that, the OpenSource community has discussion forums available. I don't recall where they are located, but I'm sure a Google search will turn them up.

TAPR might also be a good source for referrals.
 

vabiro

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#3
I would wonder if there would be a couple of areas that would be applicable:

- The Intellectual Property: Reverse engineering may be completely legal, however in the US the DMCA may be applicable to the circulation of the reverse engineered work. This would be similar to the DSS encryption used on DVDs. It was reverse engineered, but is illegal to distribute in the US, as a result it is only downloadable from off-shore sites.

- Intercepting Encrypted Comms: I know that it is explicitly illegal in Canada, but not sure if it is explicitly identified as illegal in the US.

One of the leading organisations on these kinds of things is the Electronic Frontier Foundation (Electronic Frontier Foundation | Defending Freedom in the Digital World ). They have been doing a lot of lobbying.

There was also some legal cases recently regarding the practice of academic study of technology by use of reverse engineering, and then the distribution of the findings. I think Stanford or MIT were involved in those cases.

Victor

Edit: This may be applicable: http://www.eff.org/issues/coders/reverse-engineering-faq
 
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#4
English Lesson

I would wonder if there would be a couple of areas that would be applicable:

- Intercepting Encrypted Comms: I know that it is explicitly illegal in Canada, but not sure if it is explicitly identified as illegal in the US.
I want to emphasize, I'm not discussing encryption. I'm discussing encoding and decoding. They are different. Coding methods are like modulation methods. They're used to improve performance of a connection. Encryption is strictly used to keep unauthorized people from understanding certain information.

Coding methods are not the same thing as encryption methods. Sadly, this nuance is often lost on regulators, legislators, jurists, and the general public.

Secondly, there is another very persistent and ignorant notion that somehow one can "intercept" radio traffic. YOU CAN NOT INTERCEPT RADIO TRAFFIC! You can only receive it. The traffic may be unintelligible due to encryption or an unknown encoding method, but you still received it. Interception implies that you catch it and that it will never get to its destination because you got it first.

Someone needs to explain this to the communications lawyers before they screw up the language even more than it already is.

Mumble Grumble spit...

Jake Brodsky, AB3A
 

vabiro

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#5
I want to emphasize, I'm not discussing encryption. I'm discussing encoding and decoding. They are different. Coding methods are like modulation methods. They're used to improve performance of a connection. Encryption is strictly used to keep unauthorized people from understanding certain information.

Coding methods are not the same thing as encryption methods. Sadly, this nuance is often lost on regulators, legislators, jurists, and the general public.

Secondly, there is another very persistent and ignorant notion that somehow one can "intercept" radio traffic. YOU CAN NOT INTERCEPT RADIO TRAFFIC! You can only receive it. The traffic may be unintelligible due to encryption or an unknown encoding method, but you still received it. Interception implies that you catch it and that it will never get to its destination because you got it first.

Someone needs to explain this to the communications lawyers before they screw up the language even more than it already is.

Mumble Grumble spit...

Jake Brodsky, AB3A
Jake,

Your point is taken, but the use of the term "intercept" as it applies to listening to communications has entered the vernacular. It is used throughout legislation as a synonym for "receiving".

I don't think we will be able to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Regarding encryption, not having to crack encryption may be helpful. The thing that I would wonder is if the intent of use of a digital modulation was to obsfugate reception. Does that make the perception of reverse engineering analogue to decryption?

Victor
 
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#6
Regarding encryption, not having to crack encryption may be helpful. The thing that I would wonder is if the intent of use of a digital modulation was to obsfugate reception. Does that make the perception of reverse engineering analogue to decryption?
I sure hope not. The practical ramifications would outlaw most P25 capable scanners. I also seem to recall that MDT traffic is now illegal to receive, even though many used to do it, and that it was the MDT traffic that helped to convict the police officers who beat Rodney King.

This is the line we're treading. From a practical perspective, software defined radios will become more and more inexpensive and easy to purchase and program. What will we do when they become simple to build from open source hardware plans, and people write CODEC software all over the world? Governments can legislate whatever they want to, but if you have something like this in the privacy of your own home, how would anyone know that you're listening in?

It's just like DVD ripping. People do it all the time, and as long as you're not trying to sell ripped copies, who cares?

I'll investigate the EFF to see if they're interested in this sort of thing...

Jake Brodsky, AB3A
 
N

N_Jay

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#7
. . .Secondly, there is another very persistent and ignorant notion that somehow one can "intercept" radio traffic. YOU CAN NOT INTERCEPT RADIO TRAFFIC! You can only receive it. . . .
You may want to double check.
Several dictionaries include the reception of a transmission (as opposed to the stopping)
i.e. to receive (a communication or signal directed elsewhere) usually secretly.
 
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#8
Unfortunately, you're correct...

You may want to double check.
Several dictionaries include the reception of a transmission (as opposed to the stopping)
i.e. to receive (a communication or signal directed elsewhere) usually secretly.
Yes, but the term leads to some very erroneous misconceptions. It is one thing to "intercept" communications on a land-line. That usually involves a physical connection to the media. But to do so with a radio signal?

Oh well, score another one for the ignorant lawyers and intelligence agencies who make up such horrible abuses of the language.
 
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#9
Yes, but the term leads to some very erroneous misconceptions. It is one thing to "intercept" communications on a land-line. That usually involves a physical connection to the media. But to do so with a radio signal?

Oh well, score another one for the ignorant lawyers and intelligence agencies who make up such horrible abuses of the language.
In most litigation, there's a lawyer on each side and most people think that the one on their side isn't ignorant--just the one on the other side. And even the one on the other side may not turn out to be so ignorant when the dust settles and he's/she's kicked your butt.

In your prior post, you indicate that intercept means to "catch it and that it will never get to its destination because you got it first". That's the NFL definition but has little to do with communications law. In this post you relate the word to a physical connection to the media, but make no reference to keeping it from its intended recipent.

Actually, the way that most legislation is drafted is to define important terms so that people are not left to guess or argue over what they mean. This is even more the case with statutes that have penalties for their violation. Sometimes it's done well and in other cases less well. You will note that "intercept" is a defined term in 18 U.S.C. sec. 2510(4) where it is defined as follows:

"(4) “intercept” means the aural or other acquisition of the contents of any wire, electronic, or oral communication through the use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device."

If you read other sections of that act, you will see that many of the terms in (4) are further defined.

Therefore for the purpose of that act, that's what it means. Nothing about catching it or keeping it from its intended recipient and nothing about a physical connection.

People who create things which one doesn't understand are not necessarily ignorant.

Dick
 

vabiro

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#11
In any case, I had a thought: There are tons of "Free to Air" Satellite receivers that have the capability to upload encryption keys.

There doesn't seem to be much of a crack-down on the equipment capable of decrypting the signal, regardless of whether there is a valid application of the capability within North America for the capability.

Would this imply that making the capability available in scanners [to hack the standards] would be an option for the manufacturers.

Victor
 
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#16
The art is in a museum for ALL to see!

I guess they need the money for that new jet...
Museum Art=One of a kind objects meant for display, and usually not created for the purposes of profit, but for the sake of art

DVD Movies=Mass produced in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, explicitly for retail sale, usually in a follow up to the big screen production that was, created to make a profit.

By your "logic" there's nothing wrong with the following statement.
It's just like making copies of Motorola RSS. People do it all the time, and as long as you're not trying to sell ripped copies, who cares?
It's strange that a person who spends much of his time in the tavern trying to show how the democrats are really socialists and/or communists, is now out here in the general forum attacking basic tenets of business(protection of copyrighted, trademarked, or patented property).
 
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#17
I hope you mean the record execs, not the artists ;)
I will agree with this statement though. If the recent history of executive compensation is any guide, then it'd be safe to say if album sales or DVD sales are plummeting, the artists will feel that pinch in reduced royalties, people in the production/distributing company will be laid off, and the executives will receive their full promised salary with a bonus unconnected to any actual sales or performance.
 
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#18
This topic is drifting a bit, but the fundamental problem is this: Who owns the airwaves and what does this imply?

From a purely practical perspective if someone chooses to decode or even decrypt my encrypted radio traffic, there isn't much I can do. That was the fundamental assumption behind the radio Secrecy provisions in the Communications Act of 1934 (section 605). However, over the years people have tried to nibble away at that original time honored and well conceived notion.

Back in the late 1970s there was that interesting radio regulation for something called Multi-Point Distribution service. HBO somehow made a case that it was illegal to receive their transmissions because they were charging for it even though it was sent omni-directionally, and unencrypted. This was unique because most two way or multi-way communications services until then involved transactions that took place over the air.

That opened floodgates of all sorts. Pretty soon others began asking for open secret channels and before long all mobile phone traffic got banned from monitoring. Then police forces began to wonder if they could use some of this encryption mojo too. Then came the amendments in 1986 and 1996.

Now some are actually contemplating whether people who may reverse engineer and build their own CODEC are criminals.

Do you see the drift here?

It used to be that you could receive whatever you wanted to in the privacy of your own home. Slowly we gave up some of those rights to where we can't even monitor parts of the electromagnetic spectrum any more. I suppose next someone will argue that it's illegal to use WEPCRACK.

Where does this end? Where should it be? Don't we have a right to listen in to the daily goings on of our tax funded initiatives?
 
N

N_Jay

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#20
Yes, Why don't we have the right to listen in if we taxpayers pay for this foolishness?
No matter how many times that argument is used it is still false.

It is the same as saying Why can't I sit in the Mayor's office, we paid for the furniture.

If I added up my taxes, I probably own a HumVe, yet I can't go to the nearest armory and check one out.:roll::roll::roll:
 
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