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In recent years, litigation over software in the United States and elsewhere has skyrocketed. Partly that's due to the 1998 case State Street Bank & Trust v. Signature Financial Group, which established that most kinds of software are patentable. Partly it's due to the fact that you can easily and surreptitiously make a copy of copyrighted source code and put it on a flash drive or send it by e-mail. And partly it's due to increasing reliance on computers and the increasing value of the software that runs businesses and equipment. Clearly, it's in society's best interest to resolve these lawsuits as efficiently and equitably as possible. But settling such disputes can get exceedingly technical, and few people have the expertise to parse source code- the human-readable form of a program, to determine what, if anything, has been illegally reproduced. A program that runs something as simple as a clock radio can have thousands of lines of code; a more complicated device, such as an airplane, can have millions. That's why automatic software forensics tools are so useful. Just as software for analyzing DNA has become crucial in resolving criminal cases and paternity suits, tools that can quickly and accurately uncover illicit software copying are becoming key to copyright infringement litigation.

Published in:

Spectrum, IEEE  (Volume:47 ,  Issue: 10 )

Date of Publication:

October 2010

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