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Linux Drivers For Free Barcode Scanner Cease-And-Desisted
Linux Posted by CmdrTaco on Friday September 01, @10:21AM
from the in-a-world-full-of-lawyers dept.
On Aug. 30 several folks who have written Linux drivers and apps relating to the free barcode scanner mentioned here a few days ago were sent cease and desist orders demanding that they stop distributing the code. The barcode scanner is called a CueCat (with some lame marketroid colons that I'm not using because it irritates me when people name things like that). The code included a device driver written by Pierre-Philippe Coupard and a reader/decrypter written by Michael Rothwell. The code is afaik unavailable, but hopefully folks who downloaded it will have mirrors soon. I asked Michael to describe to me what his decoder did, and a few other questions.

> How complicated is the driver/what does it do?

It isn't terribly complicated. There's two programs that I wrote in the package, and one I did not. All are based on the "libcue" I wrote, also in the package. The deocder algorithm is a simple modified base-64 XOR 67. Jean-Philippe 'JP' Sugarbroad figured it out, and Colin Cross wrote code based on it and made me aware of it. I re-implemented it for the learning experience. The program named "decode" reads in a line of output from the cuecat for stdin or as first argument. CueCat output looks like this:


decode splits the Cue output into fields separeted buy ".". It ignores the first field and runs the rest through the base64+XOR decoder. This becomes the first line output. Digital Converegence added some additional "encryption" to their Web service; their program takes the output of the cuecat and inverts its case befoe sending it off to http://[server][activation code].04.[cuecat scan].0

[Server] can be a, o, s, t, or u. [activation code] is supposed to be the activation code you get from your registration, but can be simply "ACTIVATIONCODE", which is actually what my spftware puts there. [cuecat scan] is the raw output of the device, minus the ALT-F10, with case inverted. Their servers send back a little blob of text containing several fields, including a suggested URL and description. Libcue parses those out and makes them available to its clients. Here's the scan of an NADA car-guide book:

The output of decode looks like this
DATA 000000001768443202 IB5 978034533392650599

CUE 0345333926
AMAZON 0345333926
Ringworld Larry Niven

The gnome panel applet reads in CueCat scans, looks up the :Cue at DCNV servers, and redirects Netscape to the suggested site, if any.

> What does their commercial software do exactly?

The same thing mine does, without the amazon lookup and with some annoying GUI features, like a tabbed CueCat panel.

> How many lines of code?

1258 according to "cat cuecat-applet.c cuecat-applet.h decode.c decode.h libcue.c libcue.h | wc -l"

Michael makes another interesting point in a seperate e-mail

When they sent the letter (Aug. 30), my software did not touch the DCNV servers to look up :Cues. It simply decoded the data, and if an ISBN number was scanned, the panel applet made Netscape go to the Amazon page blindly:[isbn number here].

So it was not the use of DCNV servers they objected to, but the mere decoding of the output of the cuecat. I didn't release the :Cue and Amazon lookup-enabled version until yesterday (Aug. 31), when the FedEx letter arrived by overnight delivery.

Thanks to Michael for taking the time to answer this stuff. It's pretty scary when the stuff that you have can't be poked at without a corporation demanding you stop. Imagine if Ford had said you can't open the hoods of your car a hundred years ago.

Update: 09/01 02:49 PM by CT: Freshmeat has a perl script CueCat Decoder that will also decode the CueCat's output.

Update: 09/01 02:57 PM by CT: Russel Nelson pointed out that Lineo's Driver has also been taken down following a cease and desist from Digital Convergence (CueCat's parent).

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    'Linux Drivers For Free Barcode Scanner Cease-And-Desisted' | Login/Create an Account | 438 comments | Search Discussion
    The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. Slashdot is not responsible for what they say.
    1 | 2 | 3 (Slashdot Overload: CommentLimit 50)
    legality (Score:3, Interesting)
    by Skorpion (alex at on Friday September 01, @10:26AM EDT (#4)
    (User #88485 Info)
    Is this legal ? I undestand that they may have objections on ways of using their servers, but what with hardware they give away ?


    -- The source of all our problems is that we think, that today we won't die.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • Re:legality by SpacePunk (Score:1) Friday September 01, @10:31AM EDT
    • Re:legality by SquidBoy (Score:1) Friday September 01, @10:32AM EDT
      • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    • What nations does the order apply to? by Anonymous Coward (Score:1) Friday September 01, @10:43AM EDT
    • Read the fine print; they never "gave" it to you by Krimsen (Score:1) Friday September 01, @10:50AM EDT
        FOUND IT! (Score:5, Informative)
        by Krimsen ( on Friday September 01, @10:56AM EDT (#86)
        (User #26685 Info)
        Here is the exact text, from their site:
        The :CueCat reader is only on loan to you from Digital:Convergence and may be recalled at any time. Without limiting the foregoing, your possession or control of the :CueCat reader does not transfer any right, title or interest to you in the :CueCat reader.

        If you want to view it yourself, check here and go down to the third heading called "Permitted Uses and Restrictions". Read about halfway down that section, then be careful you don't hurt youself as your jaw drops into your lap.
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        • Re:FOUND IT! by ConversantShogun (Score:2) Friday September 01, @11:03AM EDT
        • Re:FOUND IT! by 1010011010 (Score:2) Friday September 01, @11:11AM EDT
          • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
        • Re:You missed the important part (Score:5, Informative)
          by deacent on Friday September 01, @11:24AM EDT (#167)
          (User #32502 Info)

          From the Permitted Uses and Restrictions section of the CueCat license:

          You acknowledge that the Software and :CueCat reader contain trade secrets and other proprietary information of Digital:Convergence and its licensors. Except as expressly permitted in this License, you may not decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble, modify, rent, lease, loan, sublicense, distribute or create derivative works based upon the :CRQ software or :CueCat reader in whole or part or transmit the :CRQ software over a network or from one computer to another.


          In any event, you will notify Digital:Convergence of any information derived from reverse engineering or such other activities, and the results thereof will constitute the confidential information of Digital:Convergence that may be used only in connection with the Software and :CueCat reader.


          This leagalize does give them a leg to stand on. It's a matter of whether a court of law will find it enforcable. I guess it's a lot like the EULA. As long as Radio Shack employees aren't forcing anyone to sign an agreement, I think this license is unenforcable.


          [ Reply to This | Parent ]
          • Re:You missed the important part by Krimsen (Score:3) Friday September 01, @11:29AM EDT
          • Re:You missed the important part by Anonymous Coward (Score:1) Friday September 01, @11:29AM EDT
          • Re:You missed the important part (Score:5, Insightful)
            by commandant ( on Friday September 01, @11:40AM EDT (#215)
            (User #208059 Info)

            When I walked into my local Radio Shack, the guy didn't even know what a CueCat was. I had to say, "You know, the barcode reader?" He acknowledged and handed me the thing. He took my name and address (I still can't figure out why I didn't use fake info). He never said anything about a license to use it. He also never said, on the phone or in person, that it was on loan from He said they were "giving" it to me, for free.

            After opening the package I plugged the thing into my machine, and glanced at the card they give you. I've just now read the entire card, and it says nothing about a license agreement, or even a mandatory look at It only says to go to to get a unique activation code.

            Unfortunately, in screw-you lawyer style, the back of the CD jacket says, in tiny print on the bottom, "Opening of this software constitutes acceptance of our License terms contained herein. Copies can also be found at [...]" Although I don't recall a EULA in the package, it does direct you to online information. It also doesn't say installation constitutes acceptance, only opening the software. And that happened when you eagerly ripped open the plastic containing the device.

            Therefore, unfortunately, we are all bound by those license terms. I could imagine, if one took it all the way to the Supreme Court, one could claim that decoding the CueCat output is merely reinterpretation of public information (since the CueCat dumps its code into any text editor you choose, they aren't making an effort to conceal the code).

            If mine gets recalled, though, I won't give it back. The reason? I paid for it. That's right: when I was at Radio Shack, and before I could even see a hint of a license agreement in the package (the message was obstructed by the informational booklet), I gave away my name and address (it's even printed on the receipt they gave me), which is valuable marketing information. So Radio Shack (and potentially can send me shit I don't want, and I have nothing to show for it? I don't think so. I deserve compensation for giving up my privacy.

            Maybe that's why I didn't use fake info.

            I do not belong in the domain.
            I do belong in the domain.

            [ Reply to This | Parent ]
              Re:You missed the important part (Score:5, Interesting)
              by Sloppy (sloppy@spam^H^H^H^ on Friday September 01, @11:49AM EDT (#233)
              (User #14984 Info)

              Therefore, unfortunately, we are all bound by those license terms.

              Eh? Even if I were to accept the wildly controversial assertion that opening the software causes you to be bound by the license, there's still a big problem: just about everyone here (except for the Windows users) didn't open the software. The CueCat got plugged into the computer, and the unopened Windows software went into the trash, just like the Windows drivers disk that comes with most the hardware that we buy.

              Have a Sloppy night!
              [ Reply to This | Parent ]
            • 2 replies beneath your current threshold.
          • Re:You missed the important part by thrash_ (Score:1) Friday September 01, @01:03PM EDT
          • Re:You missed the important part by topeka (Score:1) Friday September 01, @01:16PM EDT
          • I never agreed to that. by Russ Nelson (Score:2) Friday September 01, @01:22PM EDT
          • IANAL: Do I have any obligation to these people? by Rocketboy (Score:1) Friday September 01, @03:10PM EDT
          • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
        • Does the license apply to me? by Lancer (Score:1) Friday September 01, @11:54AM EDT
        • Uhm.. what if you threw the thing away?? by The Optimizer (Score:2) Friday September 01, @11:55AM EDT
        • Re:FOUND IT! by rotten_ (Score:2) Friday September 01, @12:14PM EDT
        • Re:FOUND IT! by _Nemmeran_ (Score:1) Friday September 01, @12:33PM EDT
        • A Brave New EULA by skoda (Score:2) Friday September 01, @01:59PM EDT
        • Re:FOUND IT! by mp3car (Score:1) Friday September 01, @02:04PM EDT
      • Re:Read the fine print; they never "gave" it to yo by imp (Score:3) Friday September 01, @01:04PM EDT
      • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    • 3 replies beneath your current threshold.
    Can we write CueCat? (Score:1)
    by georgeha on Friday September 01, @10:28AM EDT (#7)
    (User #43752 Info)
    And ask them for Linux drivers?

    Come on, they're going to be distributing them in WiReD, and everyone knows that most WiReD readers use Linux.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • Re:Can we write CueCat? by grammar nazi (Score:2) Friday September 01, @10:32AM EDT
      • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    • Here's the link to Wired re:CueCat by uqbar (Score:1) Friday September 01, @10:33AM EDT
    • Re:Can we write CueCat? by arivanov (Score:1) Friday September 01, @10:35AM EDT
      • HW eulas by ConversantShogun (Score:2) Friday September 01, @10:48AM EDT
          Re:HW eulas (Score:4, Insightful)
          by TheCarp ( on Friday September 01, @11:18AM EDT (#148)
          (User #96830 Info)
          hmmmm ok I can see EULAs for software, its a standard insudtry practice, and there is even law now that makes shrink wrap licences semi-legitimate for scopyrighted works.

          However...this is hardware. A Physical device. It is not a copyrighted work. So wouldn't any such type of licence legally require them to go through some measure of proper contract procedure?

          Do you have to sign anything to get one of these readers? If they don't make it CLEAR ahead of time, then its their own fault for being stupid.

          Personally though, I have to agree, this idea of moving on to a future where corperations own everything and we just licence it, gives me extreme nausea.

          I guess its their world, we are just living in it.

          -- "I opened my eyes, and everything went dark again"
          [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • Re:Can we write CueCat? by grammar nazi (Score:2) Friday September 01, @11:19AM EDT
    • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    What "intellectual property"? (Score:5, Funny)
    by zlite (chris at comminus dot com) on Friday September 01, @10:28AM EDT (#8)
    (User #199781 Info)
    The cease and desist letter says they're protecting :Cue's "intellectual property". I fail to see how writing an independent program that simply makes use of the output of the :Cue scanner in any way infringes on the company's intellectual property.

    Reverse engineering of file formats are the closest example and my understanding is that courts have rules that this is fine.

    I don't see how they have a leg to stand on. Hack on...
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Here is a idea (Score:1, Insightful)
    by SquadBoy ( on Friday September 01, @10:28AM EDT (#9)
    (User #167263 Info)
    Why don't we set up a legal defense fund for this. Donate as much or as little as you want. IANAL but someone is going to have to put a end to this madness. Many of us in this business are making very good livings because this kind of stuff was legal for so long. I think it is time for us as both people and companies to pick a case and fight it hard.
    I'm afraid it is you who are mistaken about a great many things....
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • Re:Here is a idea by Anonymous Coward (Score:2) Friday September 01, @10:35AM EDT
    • Re:Here is a idea (Score:5, Insightful)
      by SimonK ( on Friday September 01, @10:36AM EDT (#30)
      (User #7722 Info)
      Its probably not worth it. They're just sending threatening letters with vague comments about "intellectual property". I fail to see any protectable intellectual property in what they do, or what the Linux drivers do. You can't copyright protocols, they have not patents I'm aware of, there's no trademark infringement. All thats been done is the reverse engineering of something they might consider to be a trade secret, but in themselves trade secrets have not legal protection.

      They haven't a leg to stand on, and I doubt they'll even find grounds to sue.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Cease and Desist (Score:4, Funny)
    by abe ferlman on Friday September 01, @10:30AM EDT (#14)
    (User #205607 Info)
    This article and all responses to it violate the intellectual property rights of :CueCat, inc. and RadioShuck Inc. Cease and Desist reading it immediately. We will prosecute all individuals who view this contraband information to the fullest extent of the law and then some.

    Iaal T. Corporate, Esq.
    Sausage King of Chicago (Yes, Ferlman is intentionally misspelled.)

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Ahhhhhhh but (Score:1)
    by AbbyNormal on Friday September 01, @10:31AM EDT (#15)
    (User #216235 Info)
    Didn't Mr. Ford and other manufacturers prevent a little known company (Tucker, I think..can't remember) for creating a car that would "revolutionize the industry?" I'm sure US. Conspiracy buffs could better fill in the details.

    In anycase, companies are starting to get a little to antsy about protecting their rights without actually looking at the code. I mean isn't that inventing is? Creating a product that is better than the original without infringing upon other peoples ideas? This sounds like a kickass idea but once something comes out that could threaten the marketshare of company, that company releases the lawyers. Perhaps stiffer fines in the US should be imposed if a threatening letter is sent unjustifiably. That would knock the wind out of a lot of these orders. Fight the power Michael!

    "CrAZY??? Don't MIND if I DO!
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • Re:Ahhhhhhh but by Paranoid Diatribe (Score:1) Friday September 01, @11:13AM EDT
      • Re:Ahhhhhhh but by AbbyNormal (Score:2) Friday September 01, @11:19AM EDT
    • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    screw this (Score:5, Insightful)
    by klund on Friday September 01, @10:31AM EDT (#16)
    (User #53347 Info)
    From his page: I'm beginning to think we're headed into a new age where private property is abolished -- but instead of everything being owned by the state, it will be owned by corporations.

    I'm sending $100 to the EFF today. This kind of crap has got to stop.

    I hope everyone who reads this article (and who can afford it) will join me.
    My word processor was written by Stanford Professor Donald Knuth. Who wrote yours?
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    So, we have another case of the stupids (Score:3, Funny)
    by GMontag ( on Friday September 01, @10:31AM EDT (#18)
    (User #42283 Info)
    Looks like we have another case of the stupids on our hands.

    I can't wait until Burger King starts handing out free toys and then sends cease and decist letters to anybody using it for propping a wobbly table leg.

    For crying out loud, this stupid instance will probably make it into court soon just like the stupid DeCSS case.

    Why on earth do courts (yes, I know it is not in court yet, I am just proving that I am psychic;-) even bother to hear cases based on this crap?

    Visit DC2600
    Memorize the books before burning.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    harsh (Score:1, Funny)
    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 01, @10:32AM EDT (#19)
    Nice to see that someone has time on their hands to worry about someone actually doing them a favour.. Amusing to see any legal letter addressed to though :)
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    This is just stupid (Score:2, Interesting)
    by update() on Friday September 01, @10:35AM EDT (#26)
    (User #217397 Info)
    Slashdot is constantly complaining about companies' legal activities. I think 95% of it is misinformed, hypocritical or just downright absurd, and I don't hesitate to say so.

    But this business is just stupid. What does this company care? They own the patent on the device and the software is free, right? I don't see how this affects their revenue at all, even if it is illegal, which I doubt. (And before a swarm of people point to the DMCA, I know about that and I still doubt it's illegal.)

    I've been working on KDE panel applets lately. Here's a port to add to my list...

    Karma freeze? Well, there's more where that came from!

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Too little too late. (Score:1)
    by Orclover on Friday September 01, @10:36AM EDT (#28)
    (User #228413 Info)
    Cease and decist?(spelling nazis can piss off), I wonder how long it will take major corporations to figure out that once a program is out on the internet it is too late, you cant stop it, hell you can barely slow it down. This of course covers any program made by individual users provided free to the general public.
    "Its ok mam im a cop!/I dont think he gives a sh!t" -Predator II
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Is this illegal? (Score:1)
    by deuist ( on Friday September 01, @10:36AM EDT (#29)
    (User #228133 Info)
    I don't know how using someone's else hardware and then writing your own lines of code is illegal. There are no violations of copyright law. And wasn't that how PCs came to be - Compaq reversing IBM's bios?

    If you ask me, Rothwell did CueCat a service in that now the company doesn't have to worry about writing a Linux driver.

    I do see where CueCat may be scared, though. With the code from Rothwell freely given away, other companies can come in and start making their own bar code readers thereby keeping CueCat from making all the money.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Do they even have a case? (Score:1, Interesting)
    by Sawbones on Friday September 01, @10:36AM EDT (#31)
    (User #176430 Info)
    I haven't gotten around to radio shack yet to pick up one of the free barcode readers there, but maybe someone who has can answer this.

    When you pick up one of these scanners do you have to fill out a form or sign anything stating that you intend to - or must - use this scanner only for their special barcode catalogs? IANAL, but it seems to me if they haven't, even if the premise of the whole giveaway is to use the scanner with the specified catalog, you'd be fine - for all you knew it was a promotion to was just to get you to go to a new store, like giving away really oddly shapped baloons.

    I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    ... and monkeys will fly out of my butt!!! (Score:4, Funny)
    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 01, @10:37AM EDT (#32)
    I think he should go to court just so we can hear the judge and lawyers say "flying butt monkeys" a lot
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    This is your final answer. (Score:2)
    by jjr ( on Friday September 01, @10:38AM EDT (#33)
    (User #6873 Info)
    These people do not understand that we are not tring to any wrong.
    Message to the company
    We are just creating an application that can use YOUR product. We would think you would be happy about this. Do you understand if your company tries and stop people from exploring the possiblity with your product. That you will hurt only your own sales. Instead of tring to stop this you should at least try and work with the people who could possibily be creating a set of customers for you.

    The Micro$haft BSOD T-shirt
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Almost funny. (Score:1)
    by Farq Fenderson (farq[at]stylishpants[dot]org) on Friday September 01, @10:38AM EDT (#34)
    (User #135583 Info)
    I was about to laugh, as I was expecting this... but there's no reason for it. What do they lose if people make practical use of it? It's not like they're losing profits. They should have expected this anyhow. Stupid marketroids.
    Break The Law
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Corporation annoyance recipe... (Score:5, Funny)
    by quantum bit ( on Friday September 01, @10:39AM EDT (#35)
    (User #225091 Info)
    1. Convert the DeCSS source code to groups of three-number octects (000-255) representing the ASCII characters of the source.

    2. For additional fun, before step one, invert the bits of the source code. Claim this is a copyright protection device and nobody can attempt to circumvent it under the DMCA.

    3. Use a barcode printer to print out the resulting sequence of numbers in barcode format.

    4. Give to a friend.

    5. Friend scans barcodes with free scanner and Linux driver.

    6. Friend converts source code back into original form, saves it in a file whose name starts with Metallica and ends with .mp3.

    7. Publish the resulting file on Napster, Gnutella, Freenet, etc...

    8. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

    .sig: Not all /. users with high UIDs are trolls dammit!
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Barcode wand terminal uses (Score:1)
    by illtud on Friday September 01, @10:39AM EDT (#36)
    (User #115152 Info)
    I've just this day set up a dumb Wyse-50 with a barcode scanning wand to serial login to my dev (RH) box. I work at a Legal Deposit Library and we're paying a company to come and bin some 40 of these. They cost a few *thousand* pounds each back in the 80s (customised character set/language support) and being somewhat of a scavanger, I'm playing with one to see if it's worth saving them. It reads barcodes happily and simply dumps the numerical codes to stdin - I'm going to take one home and link it up to an MP3 jukebox & db so that I can scan barcodes from my ripped CDs and trigger the server to play the album.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    I suspect this is just a misunderstanding (Score:4, Interesting)
    by sethg ( on Friday September 01, @10:40AM EDT (#39)
    (User #15187 Info)
    The meat of the letter is this sentence:
    It has come to Digital Convergence's attention that services/information being offered at such sites ... are in conflict with intellectual property rights owned by Digital Convergence.
    This is so vague, it makes me think that the lawyers (and Digital Convergence) don't really know what's going on. Somebody at Digital Convergence or its law firm probably saw that the Linux software was available, found out that someone outside the company had wrote them, and ASS-U-ME-D that you had copied their software.

    So if your code looks nothing like theirs, they won't be able to prove that you violated their copyright by posting it, and everything will be copacetic.

    Of course, IANAL.

    And I'm glad I downloaded that stuff yesterday.
    "...relational databases are some kind of sinister death cult...." --Tim Bradshaw

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    lame marketroid names (Score:4, Funny)
    by Noodles on Friday September 01, @10:40AM EDT (#41)
    (User #39504 Info)
    Ummm... I have seen punctuation marks used in other names too: /.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Hehhe (Score:5, Funny)
    by dizee ( on Friday September 01, @10:40AM EDT (#42)
    (User #143832 Info)
    I'm sure the person that typed up that cease and desist letter kept a straight face.

    I can see that conversation:

    Law firm: So you want to sue flying butt monkeys?
    DC: Yup.
    Law firm: Riiiight...

    But anyhow, this is just ridiculous, it's a physical product that sends output like a keyboard, basically, it is a keyboard. We can do anything we want to with it. We can destroy it, we can pee on it, we can set it on fire, we can strap gi joes and 74 bottle rockets to it and boldy send it where no cat-shaped bar code reader has gone before. We paid for it (granted it cost $0), it's ours.

    The nerve of this company is absolutely absurd. Tonight, I'm going to write as many useless (maybe even useful) programs that use the scanner as I can just to piss them off.

    Really, what is the world coming to (or at least the US)? I feel that there's going to have to be a revolution before too long, ya know? Kill all the stupid people!


    "I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet, tasty beer."
    --Homer Simpson
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • Re:Hehhe by talesout (Score:1) Friday September 01, @12:10PM EDT
    • Re:Hehhe by Vagary (Score:1) Friday September 01, @01:23PM EDT
      • Re:Hehhe by ahodgson (Score:1) Friday September 01, @02:42PM EDT
    • Naming Fun by _Sprocket_ (Score:2) Friday September 01, @01:58PM EDT
    • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    What can they do? (Score:1, Insightful)
    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 01, @10:41AM EDT (#43)
    Did you have to sign any kind of agreement to get to walk out with the barcode scanner? Or did the salesperson verbally explain to you "Now don't go and do anything naughty like writing Linux drivers for this, or reverse engineering how it works" or the like? I mean, if you didn't, and you aren't adding to the load placed on their servers, I don't see that they've got a leg to stand on... of course, that's purely opinion. I mean, if some dude's girlfriend gets all hot and bothered and uses it to masturbate, are they going to sue her for finding a use of it outside the one they intended? I think not.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Futurecast... (Score:2, Insightful)
    by rongen ( on Friday September 01, @10:41AM EDT (#44)
    (User #103161 Info)

    Wow, these guys never get tired of trying to maintain the status quo...

    I remember someone telling me about how easy it was to rip people off when buying the first electronic goods in North America (way back!). Basically, the public's knowledge level was very low. No-one knew how well these things SHOULD work so they just accepted the low level of usability and the fact that they broke easily.

    A few years go by and suddenly people are tinkering and learning about the internals of thier devices (not everyone but a few). Electronic hobbyist magazines became popular and suddenly the quality of manufactured goods started increasing to meet consumer demand. There wasn't much of a monopoly back then (maybe GE? I don't know) so the market really was driven by consumer choice.

    As an aside, the same thing seems to be happening in operating systems and software, etc, today...

    Anyway, I think it is obvious that when people know how things work they want them to work better, or more efficiently, or they want to change them. Companies normally HATE that! One reason they might is because there may be plans to incorporate "direct buying" into printed material soon (or maybe just consumer tracking) by printing codes in catalogs that are subtly different for different geographic areas or whatever. I don't know, I am just speculating....

    It's easy to see how a couple of intelligent, inquisitive people could ruin any chance for these companies to pull things like that on the sly. Thanks guys, we owe you one!


    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    there IS no license agreement of any kind (Score:4, Insightful)
    by mrbill ( on Friday September 01, @10:41AM EDT (#45)
    (User #4993 Info)
    When I got mine (two of them) from Radio Shack,
    they just handed me the Cue:Cat in a baggie
    w/a CD-ROM, and a catalog. There is no legal
    license agreement saying I have to agree to
    anything to use the hardware - *ONLY* if you
    install the software (on a Windows box) do you
    have to agree to anything. I dont see where
    they have a case here. Nothing is being
    reverse-engineered, its only being decoded and

    I'm going to write them - I was planning on
    writing a review of the unit in conjunction
    with the Sun PS/2 keyboard interface box and
    Sun's PCi pc-on-a-card product for PCI-bus
    SPARCstations (I actually got it to work).
    Now, I'll throw it in a drawer, and put up
    mirrors of this guy's code alongside my
    DeCSS archives.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Anybody else got them? (Score:1)
    by yakfacts on Friday September 01, @10:43AM EDT (#49)
    (User #201409 Info)

    In the style of 2600 (okay, not the best example ATM) we could just mirror them all over the net until their FedEx budget dries up.

    I wonder how this all works? How do they make money on the product--they're giving them away at the Rat Shack, right? If we understood this, perhaps we would understand their reluctance.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    What about outside the US? (Score:2, Interesting)
    by DaisyEmmett ( on Friday September 01, @10:43AM EDT (#50)
    (User #91197 Info)
    I would like to know what would happen if this code (and others which the US courts have seen fit to ban) is placed on a web site outside the US. US lawyers can send me as many cease and desist letters as they please, I live in Holland.

    What I would like to see is an article or interview on how Intellectual Property law is handled across national boundaries. If something is illegal in the US, can we just post the information in Holland, or Thailand, or China, or Hong Kong, or Australia, etc? It seems to me that many of the problems the Open Source community is facing with respect to Copyright, IP, etc, could be resolved by placing the information outside of the jurisdiction of the complaining authority.
    Can anyone say data haven?

    One of the things which annoys me most about Slashdot is that everyone assumes that the world consists of a) The United States of America b) Canada c) Some other places. Obviously, the US plays a leading role in the software industry, and Slashdot is based in the US. But honestly, go look at a map of the world, you'll find there are actually other countries as well, some of them with their own capital cities and everything! Some of them even have their own legal systems!

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Where's the code? (Score:1)
    by Kether on Friday September 01, @10:43AM EDT (#51)
    (User #56079 Info)
    someone have a link to a mirror?

    anyone have a savehaven account they can pop this on? I *HATE* it when you go to look for some source and find its been pulled. one would think it would be almost impossible to cleanly pull a piece of code off the net. one would think there would be a copy sittin in Google's cache or something. I'm still searching for mp3enc-mpi.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Let's see (Score:2, Insightful)
    by Jaeger (jaeger(at)festing(dot)org) on Friday September 01, @10:44AM EDT (#55)
    (User #2722 Info)
    What portion of their Windows-based app does this circumvent? Registration. So you don't have to type in your vital marketing data so they can sell you out to all their valued marketing partners. Maybe this is their most important revenue stream, so obviously they want to protect it. Does anyone else find it ironic that the previous story is Amazon appending their privacy policy?

    Is this device covered by some sort of EULA (not the software, but rather the device) that prevents reverse engineering? If not, than they have nothing to sue over, besides standard legal manipulations that we're all familiar with. This needs to be delt with quickly and appropiatly, by retaining legal council and verifying that they have no legal leg to stand on.

    Is this a forbringer of a day where reverse engineering is illegal? Where everything is sealed and consumers own nothing but rent them from major corporations? Maybe not, but it's enough to make one wonder.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Not a cease and desist (Score:3, Insightful)
    by Jeffrey Baker ( on Friday September 01, @10:44AM EDT (#56)
    (User #6191 Info)
    That isn't a cease and desist letter, it is just a letter from some lawyers. A cease and desist letter would have the words "cease and desist" along with the word "demand" in it somewhere. There would also be a list of causes of action, as well as a date by which you must respond. This letter just looks like an attempt to make a bunch of hackers without lawyers start getting afraid of businessmen with lawyers.


    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    intellectual property? (Score:1)
    by 20000hitpoints ( on Friday September 01, @10:45AM EDT (#58)
    (User #175978 Info)
    The real issue is this: it's obviously illegal to take something someone else did and make money off it. What these people want to do (DVD, etc) is make it so it's illegal to do anything that CUTS INTO THEIR PROFITS. So then it follows that they can make it illegal to be a competitor! Everyone wants a monopoly now.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Other than intended purposes... (Score:1, Interesting)
    by Zibby on Friday September 01, @10:46AM EDT (#61)
    (User #94201 Info)
    Is it just me, or did they just alienate a large group of people who would actually use their product? Shouldn't the fact that the programmer worked in support for their server be a good thing? That's the intent isn't, basically selling "advertising space" on their servers, so if I'm reading my issue of Linux Journal and see a product I want more info on, I can scar the barcode in the ad and my computer will take me to more info.

    I wish they put some thought into it first. Like, hey...we just got support in a new operating system, and we didn't have to pay to develop the drivers or anything. Wow, neat!

    What they're actually seeing is: Oh no! Now someone can use our product for something other than we intended for.

    Well, nobody got a cease and desist order for Furby Autopsy, or various Tickle Me Elmo and Barney mutliations. Maybe Matel should have come after me for hanging my action figures infront of a space heater. I tell you, those He-Man action figures looked really cool while they melted!

    BMW doesn't care when James Bond drives his brand new car off the top level of a parking ramp. Boeing doesn't complain when yet another disaster movie shows a 747 crashing down. You think that would hurt the pockets more than someone writing a driver for a simple bar-code scanner...

    "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Cease and Desist? why? (Score:5, Insightful)
    by zerodvyd ( on Friday September 01, @10:46AM EDT (#62)
    (User #73333 Info)
    My company uses tethered barcode scanners on a regular basis, in fact each of my in-process workstation have one connected. These puppies cost about $300 a pop, connect to PS/2 port and provide a pass-through for standard keyboard attachment to it. What's even better is that the piece of hardware will scan just about any barcode, decode it, and send it as if it were a keyboard input stream ...with a hit to the enter key at the end of the input string.

    these have no driver requirements whatsoever
    they work on every OS I've tested them on (NT, 9x, *nix/x86)

    Why did this CueCat (yup, next is the CueDog right? or CueMouse?) require so much effort to just dump for free into the hands of the end user??? Call me crazy, but if I were going to hand something out for free, I wouldn't devote any time to serious development like a minor encryption scheme... I bet the next version of it is supposed to have an IP address per CueCat.

    This kind of thing should be covered under Fair Use. Though I'll lay money (in the hands of EFF) that they'll continue blithely on their prosecution path and try to pull the DMCA down on the developer's head because it defeats a 'digital copy protection' scheme of some format.

    If they're angry that they lost money on the development of the device, they have nobody to blame but their own developers and marketers. KIS - Keep It Simple.

    If I get my hands on one of these things I do have a door that doesn't like to stay open, sounds like an adequate door stop. Will I get a Cease and Desist order too?

    the only dangerous mind is a closed mind
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Tee Shirt ??? (Score:3, Funny)
    by preferred_nick on Friday September 01, @10:47AM EDT (#63)
    (User #136626 Info)
    So where do I get a tee-shirt with the code ???:)
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    The issue appears to be the name... (Score:1)
    by kylerk ( on Friday September 01, @10:47AM EDT (#64)
    (User #69856 Info)
    I think they are complaining about the use of Cue Cat not the creation of the barcode software. Any others agree? Ken
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    A solution (Score:1)
    by SpacePunk ( on Friday September 01, @10:47AM EDT (#65)
    (User #17960 Info)
    The solution to such actions is a boycott of CueCat, and companies that are in league with it.

    Boycott Radio Shack.
    Send customer service feedback that you are doing so.
    Send email to digitalconvergence that you are doing so.

    The url for contacting Radio Shack is,2050,,00.html
    The url for contacting digitalconvergence is

    I've already sent mine to them.

    The battle doesn't just have to happen in the courts, it can also happen at their profit margins. Remember to tell as many people as you can to also boycott Radio Shack. Geeks made em, geeks can unmake them.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    I've learned something from DeCSS (Score:1)
    by bsdbigot on Friday September 01, @10:47AM EDT (#66)
    (User #186157 Info)
    Download the code, specs, whatever as soon as they come out, then don't share with people you don't know. I know this is a little anti-community, but... it becomes increasingly difficult for the owners of the original product (CSS, CueCat) to persecute/prosecute because they don't know who has the code.

    Disclaimer: I do not endorse or support illegal behavior. All behavior should be legal. ALL HAIL DISCORDIA!

    This message written by a Pope.
    <:) L
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Clearly trying it on (Score:5, Informative)
    by streetlawyer (johnsaulmontoya@MAJORPORTALENDINGINEXCLAMATIONPOIN) on Friday September 01, @10:48AM EDT (#68)
    (User #169828 Info)
    Subject: Not everything which resembles a c&d letter, is one

    One to be filed in the round file, methinks. A cease-and-desist letter worth paying attention to would have said exactly what IP was being infirnged (clue: none is) and used the words "cease", "desist" and "remove". This is just something threatening dire consequences in unspecific terms.

    Charitably, one might assume that they are putting a marker down; they don't know whether they might have a problem with flying butt monkeys, but they do know that if they ever need to prosecute in future, they'd better not be found in proof that they knew about this software for a while, but did nothing about it.

    Irritating, perhaps, but part of the price we have to pay for a common-law based system. The alternative would be for there to be government-provided coding licenses and prior restraints of what code you can write.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    ROTFL! (Score:2, Funny)
    by Kaa (freedomdotnet!kaa) on Friday September 01, @10:48AM EDT (#70)
    (User #21510 Info)
    I took a look at the letter and nearly fell out of my chair laughing. Here are some pieces:

    "It further includes not only the direct infringement made by, but also any infringement which induces others to perform. The longer that continues its improper activities, the longer damages will accrue."

    and further on

    "both we and Digital Convergence intend to continue monitoring the activities of".

    improper activities of flying butt monkeys! monitored by our learned friends at Kenyon & Kenyon!! ROTFL!

    Kaa's Law: In any sufficiently large group of people most are idiots.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • Re:ROTFL! by Nidhogg (Score:2) Friday September 01, @11:55AM EDT
    • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    another thought (Score:1)
    by 20000hitpoints ( on Friday September 01, @10:50AM EDT (#75)
    (User #175978 Info)
    Pretty soon it will be illegal to say to your friend "Dude, 'Gladiator' sucked, don't go see it." The movie studio will sue you for cutting into their profits.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    perl decoder (Score:2)
    by TheTomcat ( on Friday September 01, @10:50AM EDT (#76)
    (User #53158 Info)
    I found a perl based cuecat decoder on freshmeat this is NOT a mirror, but at least it's something.

    "If there is hope it lies in the proles." -George Orwell, 1984
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Hmmm... Can I send it back? (Score:1)
    by lenski on Friday September 01, @10:52AM EDT (#78)
    (User #96498 Info)
    I received one of these CueCats for being a Forbes subscriber, and thought it was a neat little item...

    If I cannot get it to work on my system (meaning under Linux) then it has absolutely no utility: for me, for the Digital Convergence folks (the people who seem to have come up with the concept) or for Tandy (who built it).

    It's too bad, really... I hope people like this get a clue someday. Is it their intention that *only* Windows users use their product? Or (more likely) They want *only their software* handling the transactions so they can limit people's use of the device to accessing the paid "CueCat enabled advertisements?"

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Cease and Desist doen't mean much... (Score:4, Interesting)
    by sterno ( on Friday September 01, @10:56AM EDT (#88)
    (User #16320 Info)
    Correct me if I'm wrong lawyers in the audience, but a cease and desist letter really doesn't mean anything. That is to say, I can send you a cease and desist letter to tell you to stop drinking Pepsi. It doesn't mean I have any legal merit in a lawsuit and it doesn't mean I will sue you, but it is essentially an official threat.

    Now, CueCat, I'm guessing is concerned that RadioShack will stop giving away the scanners because they can be hacked to work with competing barcodes. Thus they'll stop sending money to cue cat. But I don't see any legal basis for there case. I mean no copyrights were infringed, no licenses broken. Reverse engineering (outside of the realm of the DMCA possibly), is a long defended right. If CueCat does sue, I can't imagine they'd stand a chance.

    That being said, if one cannot afford the lawyers and take the risk of being sued, then this may be a somewhat moot point (and you know cuecat is hoping for that). So, everybody get your check books ready, looks like we're gonna have to send some more funding to smack down the dumb corporations.

    Disclaimer: IANAL (I Am Not a Lama)

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    An email I just sent to (Score:3, Interesting)
    by The Infamous TommyD ( on Friday September 01, @10:57AM EDT (#89)
    (User #21616 Info)

    I am writing to express my utter disgust with your corporation's heavy handed
    tactics against innocent programmers trying to use the CueCat on other
    operating systems. The free CueCat software that has been developed and
    posted to the Internet in no way infringes on your intellectual property. It
    is simply a driver for the device! I am certain that no use was made of your
    copyrighted material (i.e. software that came with the cuecat) to learn to
    decode the cuecat's output. (It really is not a difficult thing to do simply
    by analyzing the output of the device.) Also, note that users of the cuecat
    are not required to sign any form of non-disclosure agreement so no
    "intellectual property" could be released there. As for Trade Secrets, do you
    think that someone broke into your property to steal a secret that could be
    decoded by anyone with a pencil, paper, and a bit of time?

    Obviously, we aren't talking about patents here or trademarks. So nothing is
    left. Your use of the legal system to stifle free development of software that
    supports your device is utterly reprehensible and you deserve to be sued for

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Distribute! (Score:1)
    by adipocere on Friday September 01, @10:58AM EDT (#91)
    (User #201135 Info)
    Let's hustle this baby into Freenet, Gnutella, and any other good repositories of "stuff that THEY don't want you to have." Hell, push it to some newsgroups, even throw it in or something to make sure it gets lots of exposure.

    It'll probably show up in the next Master Hackers Secrets CD or the like.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Only in the US? (Score:1)
    by jqs on Friday September 01, @10:58AM EDT (#95)
    (User #67745 Info)
    Does anybody know if RadShack will distribute these in Canada? If not, anyone South of the Border wanna pick me up one?
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Useless Use Of Cat award goes to... (Score:1)
    by Dom2 ( on Friday September 01, @10:58AM EDT (#97)
    (User #838 Info)
    It bugs me when people use cat(1) when they don't need to. What the hell is wrong with:

    % wc -l *.[ch]

    It saves 1 process!

    Anyway, with that little bit off-topicness over with, I'll head back over to
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    What they are protecting (Score:5, Informative)
    by Desdinova77 ( on Friday September 01, @10:59AM EDT (#101)
    (User #184164 Info) Has a link to their privacy policy. There they admit they collect 'demographic' data and makers of the decode program acknoledge that your 'id' number is sent and can be replaced witha generic code. They dont care about the scanner or the software. They property they are protecting is thier ability to track your internet usage.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    My GF thinks the cue:cat is cute (Score:1)
    by ascheuch ( on Friday September 01, @10:59AM EDT (#102)
    (User #30478 Info)
    Because I subscribe to Forbes, they gave everyone a cue:cat to use. They are going to have advertisements in the magazine with links to URL's where you don't have to type anything in ... just swipe the cat.

    When the package came in the mail, I was just going to throw the stupid thing away. But my girlfriend took one look at that and said, "that is _cute_!!" So, from that point on I had to install the cat on my computer and let her scan merrily way. I guess this is a form of cheap entertainment.

    It's too bad that someone cam up with an actual _use_ for the stupid device. I'll probably get sued because I have a linux box in the same room that my GF uses to scan the ads in the magazine.

    ... sigh ...
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    Sue them first (Score:4, Insightful)
    by Greyfox ( on Friday September 01, @11:01AM EDT (#105)
    (User #87712 Info)
    I'm fucking sick of this.

    1) Sue them seeking a declaratory judgement that you're not infringing on anything.

    2) Once you win that, sue them in civil court for harassment.

    Someone had to put all that chaos there!

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    My email to (Score:1)
    by Darnit (epenne at on Friday September 01, @11:01AM EDT (#108)
    (User #75420 Info)
    Why are you sending cease and desist letters about Linux software for the
    Cue Cat?

    According to your site:

    ":CRQ software is the wave of the future... so don't delay, get yours

    Why would linux users be excluded from the wave of the future?

    Also according to the website:
    "Find a new world of content online now that ANYTHING can be Internet

    ANYTHING does not include Linux?

    By stopping the :Cue:Cat from being used in Linux, you are attacking a
    large part of the market you hope to attract to the technology.

    Linux users are by nature "early adopters". The CRQ and Cue Cat
    technology cannot survive without early adopters. I assume you chose
    Radio Shack as one of the original outfitters of Cue Cat because much of
    their market can be considered technologically informed early adopters.

    Now you need to either release Linux drivers for the Cue Cat or allow the
    software that is available for Linux to continue being released.

    Either way you choose, your encryption has already been reverse engineered. More software will be released with or without your consent.
    Please don't follow the ways of DeCSS and turn this into a big ordeal.
    Embrace the Linux community and the Linux community will reward you with
    praise and adoption of the technology. Attack the Linux community and you
    will be scorned and flamed all over the internet.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
  • 16 replies beneath your current threshold.
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