French Court rules it legal to reverse engineer the Skype protocol
Skype protocol reverse engineering ruled legal in French court
Microsoft By Lee Mathews Oct. 23, 2013
Microsoft has lost a legal battle today, and no, it wasn’t with an Android OEM. This fight was with a French company that’s going to reverse engineer the communication protocol utilized by Skype.
De ja vu, right? The Skype protocol was laid bare in 2011 by Russian coder Efim Bushmanov after three years of on-and-off tinkering. It happened again last year, too. You can read all about Ouanilo Medegan’s work on his personal blog.
The big difference between this new reverse engineering attempt and the one that landed Bushmanov in hot water with the Skype team is that it’s already been cleared by the French courts. That the court would give this new project the green light isn’t surprising. Both EU and French law allow for reverse engineering under certain circumstances.
But while it’s exciting to think that programs like IM+, Trillian, and Pidgin might one day soon have built-in Skype messaging, there’s a good chance that won’t happen.
For starters, reverse engineering the Skype protocol may actually make it easier for Microsoft to prove patent infringement at a later date. A reputable open source project like Pidgin wouldn’t risk putting a legal bullet in the chamber of Microsoft’s revolver, and neither would a commercial project like IM+ or Trillian.
The EU directive is also very specific about the whys and hows of reverse engineering. It’s very strictly limited to looking at the bits that allow for interoperability, and the de-obfuscated code can’t be shared. Those working with the code also can’t deliver something that infringes on any copyrights that might exist.
So while the actual reverse engineering has been given the green light, Microsoft will definitely be watching and waiting to pounce when the time is right.