I want to distribute a list of MD5 file checksums of closed source software, in the form:

<checksum> <filename>

The purpose of this list is to help forensic researchers to identify whether installations have been tampered with.

Am I allowed to do distribute such a list? Or does it depend on the given license?

Generalized, this question is about whether metadata is copyrighted by the owner of the original IP. It was partially asked here but went unanswered.

  • You might want to say what exactly you want to do with this list. I can't see any objections based on copyright, but there may be other objections. – gnasher729 Jun 6 '17 at 22:48

Copyright protection only extends to things requiring a modicum of creativity to construct. A checksum-computing program can be so protected, but the results of running a file through such a program is entirely automatic (well, almost certainly is), and involves no creativity. So the number of not protected.

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    Thanks! I understand I can't claim any copyright. But what about the original IP owner, does her copryright extend to meta data such as hash checksums of her files? – Willem Jun 5 '17 at 21:35
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    No, since even if the author of the program computed the checksum, there is no creativity involved in doing so. If there were a compression method that reduced a program to a manageable integer from which it could be recreated, that would be a problem: a checksum is not such a thing. – user6726 Jun 5 '17 at 22:04
  • The checksum/hash or even encrypted code is a direct result of the original work, and not derivative. Since the author presumably created the code, and the resultant executable with checksum and/or hash, why would it not be different than a copy of an encrypted Hollywood movie that was copyrighted? – mongo Jun 6 '17 at 15:05
  • Then again, the original work can be reproduced from an encrypted copy but not from a checksum. Perhaps, a unique identification number of a painting would be a better analogy? Especially if the unique identification number is not assigned by the original author but by a third party (me). – Willem Jun 6 '17 at 23:00
  • If the thing or a reasonable facsimile can be recreated from a number, the number of a "derivative", which requires permission. A modern equivalent of a Köchel number, or an ISBN, does not embody the work that it refers to. – user6726 Jun 6 '17 at 23:47

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