Warwick, RI asked in Copyright for Rhode Island

Q: Can I get legally charged for reverse engineering an application and posting statistics presented in the code?

There is a game - Warframe - that I was wondering if I were to reverse engineer statistics from the game, would this fall under Fair Use as research and news? Or would the developers be able to legally charge me for copyright infringement?

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1 Lawyer Answer

Brian Lehman

Answered

A: The answer is, as it oft is in the law, maybe. First, let's clarify some terms. Only the state or federal government "charges" you and they do so with criminal laws. Everyone else is merely a witness to the crime, at most, which is legally committed against the state. That is why it is "The People v." the defendant.

In civil cases, you are sued by a private party for violating civil laws.

Here, the Warframe game may have a set of "Terms and Conditions," which you may be violating be reverse engineering. You'd have to look at the contract you agreed to when you signed onto the game. Sure, they could sue you for violating it, or they might decide it is not worth the time and money.

Would you be violating a criminal law? This area is in flux particularly because of the Computer Fraud and Abuse

Act (CFAA). Part of it criminalizes anyone who “knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization." CFAA has been used to prosecute violations of Terms of Service agreements including Aaron Swartz even though he was then a research fellow at MIT with authorized access to the involved database.

Would you be accessing a protected computer by reverse engineering?

Regardless, why not reach out to the company and see if you can get permission? They might say yes or maybe they would hire you if you ideas and skills are good enough.

If not, maybe run exactly what you want to do by a lawyer who specializes in this area? Lawyers associated with https://www.eff.org/ might be particularly good on this question.

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