Intellectual Property

Saw a post here about copyright, intellectual property, and the automotive business.

Which kind of piques my interest.

I work in a company that sells widgets for installation in automobiles. I've worked on units that were all proprietary-code on a custom microcontroller.

I've also worked on units which use a mix of Open Source code, Open Source toolkits for proprietary code, licensed code, and all-proprietary code. (Those tended to be big, on-dashboard infotainment units. It's not really a radio, it's the little brother to a tablet PC. With all sorts of custom hardware connections for talking to FM/AM/XM/DAB radio receivers, CD players, USB connections for MP3, Bluetooth-HFP, Bluetooth-A2DP, etc.)

I've got a minor nit to pick with the article from AutoBlog.

Though the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was signed in 1998, cars typically at least one programmable micro-controllers by that time.

Almost all cars since model-year 1996 support ODB-II technology. That requires, at minimum, and engine controller which includes some control software.

Predecessors to ODB-II have been in the field since the early 1990s. Many of these also used programmed micro-controllers.

Thus, the assumption that things have changed since 1998 doesn't really make sense to me.

The complexity of code, and range of features controlled by the code, have both risen drastically since 1998. However, the fact that cars contain some copyrighted software hasn't changed since then.

Nor has the fact that niche markets exist for custom coders who want to tweak that software. Even if the niche is now much larger than it used to be.

I do know that such aftermarket modification might make the project I work on less profitable. Or it might be more profitable, depending on how the aftermarket modifications affect demand for this project.

It's an odd legal question. Do the intellectual property rights of the manufacturer mean that it is illegal for tinkerers to poke at the software, and try to improve it?

What is the difference between modifying a car's hardware and modifying its software?

No comments:

Post a Comment

I like thoughtful feedback; I prefer polite feedback.

I don't like screeds.

Comments older than a few days will have comments go into moderation.