Microsoft buys Skype, attacks reverse engineer with bogus takedown notices and florid language

Microsoft-owned Skype has launched a campaign to shut down programmers who use reverse-engineering to understand its protocol and make interoperable products. Their PR agency calls this "nefarious attempts to subvert Skype's experience." Unfortunately for Skype and Microsoft, "experience" is not something the law protects -- after all, if a Skype user wants to talk to another person who uses a third-party Skype client, why would the law want to prevent that? Meanwhile, it appears that the sourcecode over which Microsoft is asserting copyright was created by the reverse-engineer they're harassing.

The day of publishing his initial details, Google's Blogger (where his blog is hosted) received a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) notice that two of his blog entries had to be removed: the post about his success in reverse-engineering the Skype protocol and then a second post about more technical details.

The complainant issuing the DMCA notice was in fact "Skype Inc" and the basis for the complaint is "Source code. The publication of this code, in addition to infringing Skype's intellectual property rights, may encourage improper spamming activities." (Google publishes DMCA complaints to

Skype issued a second DMCA copyright notice after this researcher published more Skype related code. Those files have since moved to being hosted elsewhere. Skype is claiming copyright on the code even though the open-source code was written by the researcher. Another DMCA takedown attempt regarding the same work was issued again in early August when the researcher tried doing a DMCA counter-notice, and he ended up putting up links again to this "copyrighted" work.

Skype Goes After Reverse-Engineering (via /.)


  1. I remember reading an analysis of this code when it was first published and the author concluded that it was most likely a leak rather than reverse engineered. This seems like a pretty legitimate move by Skype/Microsoft to me.

  2. And that the same time they announce a SDK for allowing third party clients to be made.

    Still, with a entrance fee it is unlikely that anything Linux based will get such a client any time soon.

  3. Provided the code was clean-room designed (which does not seem to be given), the DMCA has no jurisdiction over this. The DMCA deals with two things: 1) copyright and 2) circumvention of copy-protection mesures.

    1) the code was not copied, so copyright complaints do not apply
    2) Skype does not implement copy-protection measures, therefore the DMCA has no relevance to this.

    Of course the DMCA gets absused like there’s no tomorrow anytime anybody finds something on the internet to whine about. Unfortunately DMCA counterclaims, while helping to migitate the impact of DMCA takedown notices, does not incur any cost for the fraudulent originator of DMCA takedown notices, so there is no inhibiation to just sending takedown notices whenever you feel like it.

    1. Fraudulent DMCA takedown notices can create substantial liability. Michael Crook much? Of course, you have to be willing to litigate it.

      Skype has stated, on the record, that the code was copied. A counter-notice would be stating, on the record, the the code was not copied. If at this point the code stays up, the host has no liability, but Skype could sue the researcher. Of course, most hosts ignore counter-notices, so it rarely gets to that point.

      If the researcher reposted the code in question without filing a counter-notice, it would strongly suggest that they are unwilling to state for the record that the code is original, and hence strongly suggest that it is not.

  4. Hang on, what if two third-party users wanted to chat over Skype? They’d be using Skype’s resources, without Skype getting any benefit. Surely the law would want to prevent that?

    1. Skype is P2P. The resources being used are the users own computers, and the computers of others. So you are not really using Skype Inc. resources in any measurable way.

    2. Technology in general does not enjoy any special protection of reverse engineering and tinkering. Telecommunication systems are no special case. The only special case with the DMCA and ACTA are copy protection mechanisms.

      If Skype feels whiny about that somebody would enjoy their services without skype being compensated, they can try to claim dammage from that party (and not the producer of the tool to do it). However they have to prove their case in court, and show what damage they suffered for every single case unless they band together and lobby a law trough that makes that process easier for them.

  5. I… am tired of this shiat.  Honesty and truly tired of it.   This whole “Hey, even though you’re making a client for our service for a platform we don’t support, have no intention of ever supporting and don’t consider it commercially viable to contemplate support for it we’re going to DCMA and sue your ass back in to the stone age.”  and all the other variations of it.  Some of these companies need a legal boot to the head. 

    1. What platform isn’t being supported? It’s available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and every mobile and tablet platform.

      1. Does it matter what platform does or doesn’t have a Microsoft-issued client?  If someone thinks they can build a compatible client that some users will prefer – special features that appeal to a niche audience, better UI accomodations for the disabled, ability to port it to some Arduino-based hardware gizmo you’re developing in your basement, whatever – what’s your objection to letting them?

        Also, is there a client for Solaris? Linux on PowerPC?  NetBSD?  Yes, I realize not a lot of people use any of those platforms, so Microsoft shouldn’t be expected to support clients for them, but should they be stopping others from developing them?

      2. It was more a statement aimed at ALL shenanigans corporations are pulling. As to platforms not being supported? Atari ST, Amiga, DOS, Linux command line, WinCE 3, Java… Commodore 64. Plenty of people have done crazy crazy things with utterly obsolete platforms and OS’s, none of which are remotely commercially viable.

  6. And the consumers who are on the wrong side of the exclusivity fence, many even actually wanting to pay for an official- full featured skype client, continue to lose.

  7. I don’t give a damn what happens to Skype. They are charging more now for international calls than regular suppliers do. It has become another ripoff,

  8. “nefarious attempts to subvert Skype’s experience.”
    Fuck nuclear power – there’s enough spin in that sentence to power generators for generations to come.

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