I was under the impression that reverse engineering can mainly be legally prohibited in two ways: via copyright law forbidding the making of copies; and via an end-user licence agreement (EULA) specifically prohibiting reverse engineering.

I've come across a software licence that permits unlimited software copying (under certain conditions) & doesn't explicitly prohibit reverse engineering. I'm based in the UK, and thought that if UK law governed the agreement, that I would then be able to reverse engineer the software (under the certain conditions).

It just so happens that Californian law governs the licence so I'm slightly unsure as to whether it would be legal to reverse engineer the software in the UK.

  • Copying and reverse engineering are two different, unrelated activities. Why would copyright law imply a prohibition of reverse engineering? – Iñaki Viggers Jun 27 '19 at 19:51
  • @IñakiViggers because most copyright laws explicitly deal with the issue of reverse engineering, usually by allowing it. – Dale M Jun 28 '19 at 2:15
  • If you can't make a copy, you can't reverse engineer. That's my understanding as to why copyright (largely) affects reverse engineering. – Mark Fernandes Jun 28 '19 at 4:41
  • @MarkFernandes There is no need to make copies of a lawfully acquired software in order to perform reverse engineering, especially if the disassembled code stays in RAM. Anything short of recording [significant] portions of machine/disassembled/decompiled code elsewhere (be it in a file, paper, stone, etc) falls short of making copies of the software. The term "significant" is inexact and for sure controversial, but my point is that reproducing trivial opcodes (for instance, think of "mov rax,01h") does not violate copyright merely on grounds that a software includes them. – Iñaki Viggers Jun 28 '19 at 10:28
  • It is not clear what end result you are attempting to achieve by reverse engineering and/or copying, and what you want to do with what you achieve by those means. Those facts matter critically to the legal outcome. – ohwilleke Jun 28 '19 at 17:16

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