Technology & Law

The law follows the technology...



First posted on on 26.01.2013

The previous post discussed the development of the US and European laws as applicable to reverse engineering.  This post compares the Indian provisions with the European and US counterpart legislation.  

One important aspect is the growing number of application developers in India for the Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows platforms.    Usually application developers do not start development of applications from scratch.  A mish-mash of existing and new code is used.  For example, all four of the platforms discussed above provide tutorials and common libraries for their platform.  Developers then add to the existing libraries and build their unique applications.  However, developers also like to see, if possible, existing  best selling applications and their code, and apply the teachings of the best selling applications to their application development.  A recent study by Flurry analytics showed  that India is a major adopter of the new platforms and there are quite a large number of application developers in India.   

INDIAN LAW in view of US / European provision:
Section 52 of the Indian Copyright Act follows the European Directive (or more appropriately, the development of the European directive before its formal adoption).  Certain provisions are verbatim to the Directive, while there is marked difference in some.  The provision relevant to reverse engineering are highlighted below and compared with the Articles in the directive / and US law:

52. Certain acts not to be infringement of copyright. (1) The following acts shall not constitute an infringement of copyright, namely:
…"(ab) the doing of any act necessary to obtain information essential for operating inter-operability of an independently created computer programme with other programmes by a lawful possessor of a computer programme provided that such information is not otherwise readily available;
(ac) the observation, study or test of functioning of the computer programme in order to determine the ideas and principles which underline any elements of the programme while performing such acts necessary for the functions for which the computer programme was supplied; 
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Based upon the above comparison between EU, US and Indian laws, the following conclusion may be drawn:  Indian law is much broader than counterpart EU legislation and allows for reverse engineering (both black box and active decompilation) without major restrictions on the reasons for decompilation.  The actual implementation / interpretation by courts remains to be seen.