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Use_less

legality issues regarding the use of "free" source (HL SDK)

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Is it illegal to use someone else''s code in my program during development, then slowly phase it out during my development cycle? I''ve written a small C++ class that uses source from the Half-Life SDK, specifically the .mdl loading and rendering routines. I''ve basically written my code to interface with it then disposed of each function, rewriting it with my own, oftentimes changing the interface to suit my purposes. I''m down to around three or four functions, two of which will be removed soon and the others which are fairly trivial (4-5 lines) Does this make the code I''ve written a derivative work and therefore I cannot distribute it by law? The SDK was very clear on the point that I was to only use the source "to make a mod". I might have some excuse through an interoperability clause of some sort (making my engine to be "compatible" with their models) but I''m pretty sure that what I did doesn''t fit in the typical "clean-room" reverse engineering techniques which I know are legal. Any advice would be appreciated.

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Erm...no lawyer, but I believe that''s thiiiis close to illegal. I''d steer clear - but I don''t do 3D stuff, so...heh.

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It might be problematic, as you have based your code's design on the SDK's design. Although, I don't think that should be a problem as the design isn't patented (it isn't, right?).

You should talk to a lawer, or someone who really knows this stuff before you release anything. Espacially now, when you have announced your pending illegal activities to the world .




[edited by - CWizard on December 1, 2002 1:01:12 PM]

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quote:
I'm down to around three or four functions, two of which will be removed soon and the others which are fairly trivial (4-5 lines)
That's 4-5 lines of someone else's property. If those lines are so trivial write your own. If you can't then they're obviously not trivial.

As for the rest is certainly sounds like you have reverse engineered their code and you most certainly have not used it for the purpose allowed in the license so I would say you are on very shaky ground.

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions

[edited by - obscure on December 2, 2002 8:39:05 AM]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
quote:
Original post by Use_less
Is it illegal to use someone else''s code in my program during development, then slowly phase it out during my development cycle?

I''ve written a small C++ class that uses source from the Half-Life SDK, specifically the .mdl loading and rendering routines. I''ve basically written my code to interface with it then disposed of each function, rewriting it with my own, oftentimes changing the interface to suit my purposes. I''m down to around three or four functions, two of which will be removed soon and the others which are fairly trivial (4-5 lines)

Does this make the code I''ve written a derivative work and therefore I cannot distribute it by law? The SDK was very clear on the point that I was to only use the source "to make a mod". I might have some excuse through an interoperability clause of some sort (making my engine to be "compatible" with their models) but I''m pretty sure that what I did doesn''t fit in the typical "clean-room" reverse engineering techniques which I know are legal.

Any advice would be appreciated.



Based on your statements here, your lawyer bait if anyone decides to prosecute. They will be able to take your for everything.

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You''ve got some very tough issues to deal with here, but there are some elements working to your advantage.

1)In the eyes of the law you would be considered "sophisticated." This could work to your advantage.

2)No lawyer, including myself, should give advice over a forum board. Doing so could create an attorney-client relationship, and lead to problems for both parties. It is good that your peers are attempting to help you work through the question, however, given your level of sophistication, the specificity of your question and the level of investment/potential for profit you should consult a lawyer.

3) *THIS IS NOT ADVICE* :-) Part of the problem may arise in how the object code became source code. While I believe I have a bottom line answer to your question, and case law to support it, I cannot lay that out here for numerous reasons. See Number 6, below.

4) I am not aware of a statute that makes your activities illegal per se. There may be, however, case law (prior court cases that establish precedent in federal copyright law), that interprets the copyright act in a manner that makes your activity an infringement. If not, then it would constitute an issue for trial, where the burden would be on you (and your lawyer) to prove a fair use defense to copyright infringement.

5) The SDK is an important piece of the situation, but given the scope of the activity in question I don''t think it would be the only thing considered in a legality/infringement analysis.

6) The bottom line is that your issue/question really needs to be answered by a lawyer you have hired. Why? So that you understand the risk, have weighed it against your potential profit, and so it can be defended by the lawyer who gave you the advice.

I know you were seeking a specific answer, sorry that can''t be given by me in this forum, but I hope this information helps you some.



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I''m a bit of a noob so I was wondering how Sierra would actually notice that you''ve borrowed their techniques when the final .exe product is complete.

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Well it probably wouldn''t happen but would you want to bet your home on it? I know of a case of a developer spotting one of their sound effects in a demo from another developer. The guilty party had to pay thousands in "royalties/penalties" and that was just a demo!

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions

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