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Chris Boyle

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Personal use restrictions in software licenses[Sep. 26th, 2009|10:18 am]

I'd appreciate some advice from people who know the law relating to software licenses better than I do. I'm particularly interested in answers that apply to me as a UK citizen, although information for other countries is useful.

(1) To what extent are software license clauses that restrict the actions of individual personal end users, other than redistribution or reverse engineering, legally enforcible? I'm talking about things like this HTC license: You may only load the Google Software onto the Android Developer Phone 1, and [with some exception] you may not combine any part of the Google Software with other software, as it applies to my personal use.

(1b) To what extent would such restrictions stand up (or have they stood up) in court? In particular, do HTC or Google have any history or stated policy on trying to enforce such restrictions?

Here's where things get interesting: (2) What laws, if any, would be broken by someone who distributes a script or instructions to, given a file obtained legally by a user who agreed to that HTC license, extract components of that file and put them on a device or in a system image, the stated purpose being for individual users for their own personal use? I'm guessing this centers on the script not being considered a derivative work. The said components are not currently protected by any kind of copy-protection mechanism as I understand the term. This is not something I even have the time to create, nor something I'm advocating making, but I'm interested in whether someone will be able to do it.

Update: Several workarounds of this form have appeared. This puts Google in an interesting position, in that if they object to this approach, it's somewhat inconsistent for them to recommend in their documentation that developers do the same thing with G1/Dream device firmware blobs to work around HTC's copyright! (necessary to build any system image that can use devices like the radio (i.e. phone), sensors, probably wifi, etc.)
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