Tag Archives: copyright

Zynga and CrowdStar, copying or coincidence?

Software Analysis & Forensic Engineering Corporation today released a case study of Online IP Screening between Zynga’s FarmVille game and CrowdStar’s Happy Aquarium game. The study shows some interesting correlation between the source code for the two games. SAFE Corporation is officially announcing its SAFE Online IP Screening service that is targeted at social games and other online applications. The screening service is a subscription service to regularly examine online applications for signs of copying. In this first case study, we already found surprising results. Even after the normal process of eliminating correlation due to third party code, commonly used identifier names, automatically generated code, common algorithms, and common authors, correlation remained. Was this intentional? Illegal? Acceptable? Coincidence? Decide for yourself: see summaries of this and other case studies here and register to download the full case studies here.

One unique feature of online applications is that often the full source code is downloaded to the user’s machine. This makes it easier for your competitors to copy your code. It also makes it easier for us to detect that copying. Learn more about SAFE Online IP Screening here or email us for details about how we can protect you from unauthorized copying and dissemination of your code.

SAFE introduces CodeSuite-LT

CodeSuite-LT® is a less expensive, limited version of the full CodeSuite tool. Each tool in the suite produces a readable report that can be used to find copying. CodeSuite-LT includes BitMatch, CodeCross, CodeDiff, CodeMatch, FileCount, and FileIsolate. It also includes the ability to filter results using SourceDetective. CodeSuite-LT does not produce a database and does not allow post-process filtering of results. Instead, it generates an easy-to-read report that can be used to pinpoint copying.

Which is Right For You?

Which product is right for you, CodeSuite or CodeSuite-LT? Click here for a table that compares the features of both programs so you can choose the right solution.

The age of copyright trolls?

Robert Zelnick, an attorney at McDermott Will & Emery, recently wrote an interesting article on Righthaven LLC, a company that buys up copyrights and then licenses them to, or threatens legal action against, organizations and individuals that post them on the web. This article about the new “copyright troll” is interesting and illuminating. There are, however, a few oversimplifications and at least one point overlooked. First, “don’t copy” is just too simple a solution. As an expert witness in copyright litigation, I know that things can look the same without being copied. Also, there are the fair use exceptions that leave lots of wiggle room. So even if someone doesn’t copy at all, there’s a chance of being hit with a lawsuit because two texts are surprisingly similar. And not copying at all means society will lose important works of commentary, satire, and news.

Second, Zelnick doesn’t foresee the possible ultimate business model of Righthaven. While I don’t agree or disagree with Righthaven’s motives, I believe I see where they’re going. Jerome Lemelson was perhaps the first patent troll, but definitely the first to reach $1 billion in personal fortune from his effort. My understanding is that he started by bringing actions against small companies that could not easily defend themselves and Japanese companies that didn’t understand U.S. patent law. These companies saw his royalty fees as small compared to the costs of hiring lawyers to study and defend the patent infringement suits he brought. After amassing a huge war chest, Lemelson went after bigger and bigger companies and sought bigger and bigger payments. The more capital he had, the easier it was to win these battles.

While Righthaven will probably never collect the multimillion dollar awards that Lemelson did, consider that nearly everyone in the world writes. There are thousands of novelists, thousands of journalists, thousands of researchers, and millions of bloggers. And copyright also applies to artists, filmmakers, and computer programmers. Righthaven, and companies like it, can potentially collect more than Lemelson even hoped for, and at less expense.

I believe that Righthaven and its business model should not be underestimated. The solution to protecting yourself is more complex than simply not copying. The exciting part is that this new business model will create new areas of legal effort and will require the best technology to allow the protection of both copyrights and free speech.

SAFE Corporation announces CodeScreener online software plagiarism detection

CodeScreener: Online Plagiarism Detection for Software


 SAFE Corporation has developed an online plagiarism detection service for software. The CodeScreener™ service is built on SAFE Corporation’s court-tested CodeSuite® forensic software and patented source code correlation technology. CodeScreener is designed to streamline the plagiarism detection process, giving you a thorough analysis of each file and a consistent set of correlation metrics. It’s online, it’s interactive, and it’s much less expensive than standalone CodeSuite. Contact our  Sales Department to get a free evaluation license.

Multiprocessing CodeSuite-MP

Until now there were two ways of running really big jobs of CodeSuite. One was to simply run it and wait for as long as it took. Really large jobs can take as much as a week or two. The other option was to run the job on CodeGrid, our framework that distributes the job over a grid of networked computers. CodeGrid shows an almost linear speedup for each computer on the grid, but it requires someone to maintain the computers and the network and that can be a daunting job. Now there’s a third option;, CodeSuite-MP allows you to run multiple jobs on a single multicore computer. We’re seeing a near-linear speedup for the number of cores, and there’s no special maintenance required. We’re even seeing a near-linear speedup using virtual cores. If you want to get a license for CodeSuite-MP, contact our sales department.

The DMCA exemptions

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act has been praised by some, vilified by others. Many don’t know that the DMCA specifically allows copying of protected works by researchers, libraries, nonprofits, and academic institutions. Also, the Librarian of Congress is required to issue exemptions from the prohibition against circumvention of access-control technology when such technology prevents people from making non-infringing uses of copyrighted works. The current exemptions, issued just last week are described below. Note that all of these allowable uses assume that the person copying the work has purchased the work or has otherwise rightfully obtained it.

  1. To copy short portions of movie DVDs for the purpose of criticism or comment, specifically:
    • Educational uses
    • Documentary filmmaking
    • Noncommercial videos
  2.  To enable computer programs that allow cell phones to run software applications written for other cell phones (known as “jailbreaking” or “rooting”).
  3. To enable computer programs that allow used cell phones to connect to a phone network as long as it is authorized by the operator of the network.
  4. To run video games on personal computers for the purpose of testing for, investigating, or correcting security flaws or vulnerabilities.
  5. To bypass broken or obsolete dongles that prevent a program from running.
  6. To enable an ebook’s read-aloud function or screen readers that convert the text into a specialized format.

The Report Generator (RPG)

The Report Generator (“RPG”) is a new program from SAFE that automatically generates draft expert reports and declarations for litigation. Reports have several generic sections such as an expert’s experience and descriptions of the technologies involved in the examination, which can be shared amongst reports. By automating the compilation of the generic information into a formatted and structured draft report, the expert can focus on performing the analysis and writing the case-specific arguments.

When using the RPG, an expert selects the type of case, type of report, types of technologies involved, types of tools used, and expert background profiles from a GUI. Then a Microsoft Word draft report is generated that includes all of the selected generic information intermixed with blank sections where case-specific information should be filled in manually.

Currently, many experts either dig through their prior works to find specific descriptions or write them from scratch each time. Maintaining a library of generic report elements is a challenge, especially when multiple experts are involved. RPG acts as a version control system between multiple experts who can upload and download detailed descriptions of experts, technologies, and tools from a central server. The reports are generated according to specific formats, so an entire team of experts can easily produce reports that are consistently formatted with the most up-to-date descriptions.

RPG also keeps synced descriptions of CodeSuite, so it can include the most up-to-date descriptions and pricing of the tools without having to search the S.A.F.E. website or CodeSuite help files.

If you’re interested in trying out RPG, contact our Sales Department.

DUPE: Depository of Universal Plagiarism Examples

In 2003 I created the CodeMatch program that very quickly became a de facto standard in software IP litigation. I created a test bench of purposely plagiarized code that could be used to independently and objectively compare the results produced by different plagiarism detection programs. Some in the academic community claimed that my tests were biased toward the algorithms used by CodeMatch, which explained why CodeMatch fared so well compared to the other programs. However, these same critics, despite my requests, never produced their own set of standard tests.

Although I believe that the standard tests I have used are not biased, it occurred to me that there could be a better way to eliminate even unintentional bias. The solution would be to take the source code for certain open source programs and announce a new open source project that would involve purposely plagiarizing the code. Programmers from around the world would be invited, perhaps in a competition, to change the source code while retaining the functionality. The original programs and the plagiarized versions submitted from others would be stored in a database known as the Depository of Universal Plagiarism Examples or DUPE. Plagiarism detection programs would then be run on DUPE and comparisons of the results could be made to determine which programs best detected copying. Also, important statistics about plagiarized code could be determined, as well as patterns identified in order to improve the plagiarism detection programs.

SAFE Corporation has begun looking into creating this database. However, we realize that we would like to work with partners in academia and industry. We believe that there are several key issues that need to be resolved in creating DUPE. These are:

  1. Choosing appropriate open source projects.
  2. Creating a minimum definition of software plagiarism.
  3. Creating the database.
  4. Determining policies including who can access it, how it will be used, and who will maintain it.
  5. Determining how to run the tests, how to generate the results, and how to distribute the results.

Please contact me if you’re interested in working on this important and groundbreaking project.

Interesting software IP cases of 2009

Here is my list of the most interesting software IP cases of 2009,
in chronological order:

SAFE Corporation is looking for great ideas

There are a lot of unanswered questions about source code, and we want to work with you to figure them out. We realize that currently accepted algorithms for analyzing, comparing, and measuring source code leave a lot to be desired in many cases. Also, there are a lot of techniques that have never been studied on large bodies of modern code. For example, measurement techniques developed in the 1970s were probably tested on assembly languages and older programming languages like BASIC, FORTRAN, and COBOL. Do they still hold on modern object oriented languages like Java and C#?

If you have a research idea relating to code analysis, and you can use the SAFE tools, let us know. Email Larry Melling, VP of Sales and Marketing with your ideas. If they pass our review process you’ll get free licenses to our tools, free support, and help getting your results published. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.