September 10, 2003
Mr. E.D. Markham
10 Industrial Way
Amesbury, MA 01913
Dear Mr. Markham,
I have received your letter dated August 29th regarding the web site I
maintain with information about the BSB format.
It is my intention to adhere to all Canadian laws with regard to copyright
and other "intellectual property". However, it never been my understanding
that a file format is in and of itself copyrightable. Perhaps you could be
more specific about the property rights you are claiming.
While I am not prepared to remove my BSB related web site until such time
as you have more clearly demonstrated some legal right to request it, I
will immediately notify my clients and users of my software (that I am
able to reach at least) of your concerns. I will also immediately add options
to allow them to build my software without the BSB read support if they so
Once again, it is my wish to not contravene any laws, or to infringe your
property rights. As soon as you can demonstrate to my satisfaction that a
real issue exists, I will move to bring myself into compliance.
PS. My postal code is L4C 5E2, not LFC-5E2 as you have referenced.
PPS. I would appreciate an email at the address below confirming your
receipt of this reply-by-fax.
Geospatial Software Developer
In the section on "What is Not Protected by Copyright", it says: "Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration."Available at http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/circs/circ1.html.
Some have suggested that decompressing BSB files might be construed as circumventing the use of protection mechanism; however, the DMCA specifically excludes considering mechanisms that have significant other use than as a protection mechanism. The compression of the image clearly primarily serves to reduce the image size, and only incidently to protect it. This is discussed in the following email exchange involving another software developer:
Note: Maptech has not raise a DMCA issue at this time.
To: Frank Warmerdam (warmerdam _at_ pobox.com) From: Mike Higgins (higgins _at_ monitor.net) Subject: Re: GISTrans: Maptech / NDI BSB Chart Format I did it! I just wrote a program that reads NOAA BSB chart files and converts them to BMP files! BMP files are not the final goal of my project, but it served as a proof-of-concept. Next I will want to write routines to extract pieces of the file at full resolution for printing, and routines to filter pieces of the chart for display at lower resolution on the screen. (One of the terrible things about most chart display programs is that they all sub-sample the charts instead of filtering it down). How did I figure out how to read the BSB files? If you recall, I have been trying to reverse engineer the file formats of those nautical charts. When I am between projects I often do a WEB search for the BSB file format to see if someone else has published a hack for them. Monday I hit a NOAA project status report that mentioned some guy named Marty Yellin who had recently completed writing a program to convert BSB files to other file formats! I searched for him and found him mentioned as a contact person for some NOAA program. I was composing a letter to him in my head, or considering calling the NOAA phone number and asking for his extension number, when I saw another NOAA status report indicating that he had retired in 1998. His name showed up in a few more reports, one of which said that he was the inventor of the BSB file format, that it was patented (#5,727,090), and that the patent had been licensed to Maptech (the ev** company that will not allow anyone using their file format to convert them to non-proprietary formats). Patents are readily available on the WEB at the IBM patent server and this one is in the dtabase! I printed up a copy of the patent and of course it describes very nicely (despite the usual typos and omissions of referenced items in the figures) how to write one of these BSB files! I was considering talking to a patent lawyer about the legality of using information in the patent to read files without getting a license, when I noticed that the patent is only claiming programs that WRITE the file format. I have noticed this before in RF patents where they describe how to make a receiver and never bother to claim a transmitter. The logic is that the transmitter is no good to anybody unless they license receivers from the patent holder. But I think they did it backwards here! They should have claimed a program that can READ the described file format. Now I can read the files, build programs that read the files, and even sell them without violating the claims in the patent! As long as I never try to write one of the evil BSB files, I'm OK!!! If you ever need to read these BSB chart programs, drop me a note. I would be happy to send you a copy of this conversion program. ... later email ... Well, here is my little proof of concept program. I hereby give you permission to distribute it freely, modify for you own use, etc. I built it as a "WIN32 Console application" which means it runs in an MS DOS box under Microsoft Windows. But the only Windows specific stuff in it are the include files for the BMP file headers. If you ripped out the BMP code it should compile under UNIX or anyplace else. I'd be overjoyed to have you announce it to GISTrans or anywhere else. I'm philosophically opposed to the proprietary treatment of the BSB file format and I want to break it open! Chart data for the People!