Re: [stella] is "disassembly" legal?

Subject: Re: [stella] is "disassembly" legal?
From: Greg Miller <gmiller@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 1997 13:30:47 -0500
Richard Kennehan at Cosmo02PO wrote:
> I know that the best way to learn certain programming tricks is to disassemble a
> game, but I have seen more and more companies flash warning messages that say
> "decompilation or disassembly is prohibited".  For example, the BIOS of a
> computer at work says that, and so does certain network card drivers.
> My main question is, can companies say that it's illegal to disassemble
> software, when courts have ruled in favor of the "first sale doctrine" which
> states that the owner of a product can do any darn thing they wish to it?

Here's the key: "the owner" You don't own anything that's licensed to you. The
courts have been very firm in this.

> According to the book "Game Over", it is the "first sale doctrine" that
> prevented Nintendo from making video game rentals illegal, so it would seem that
> this same doctrine would make it legal to disassemble computer software.

In general, you buy disks, and the software is just licensed for certain uses.
That means you can't even legally back up software (or load it into RAM)
without permission. Fortunately, marketting the software is implicit
permission for normal use. Anything else requires that you ask first.
*However*, if disassembly is needed to conduct your business or make
legitimate use of the software, that *may* come under the "fair use"
exception. For example, if you don't want to pay Nintendo's licensing fee, you
can reverse engineer legally acquired cartridges to obtain any information you
need to produce your own carts. You can also copy anything you have good
reason to believe you need to to make it work.

Video games and CCGS:
TW (online game):
Magic cards:
***** ATTENTION NEWBIES: Limit signatures to four lines! *****

Archives updated once/day at
Unsubscribing and other info at

Current Thread