Coffeehouse Thread

49 posts

Forum Read Only

This forum has been made read only by the site admins. No new threads or comments can be added.

Microsoft irony and double standards at it’s best.

Back to Forum: Coffeehouse
  • User profile image
    Sourcecode

    Not meant to be flame bait but rather start a serious discussion.

    I have been pondering posting this for a bit, and decided I need to for my own sanity. I may regret it and I’ll take what ever hits I need to. Just please tell me I’m reading all this wrong.

    I noticed this and perhaps I’m making mountains out of mole hills here but did I just read this right? MS helping people steal copyrighted art work? One video says hey guy’s can’t steal our ribbon idea unless you pay, but for the record here is a handy utility to steal art work from starving artists, convert it into another format so you can use it.


    video and link




    mswanson wrote:
    For context, Adobe does make the Flash file format specification available: http://www.adobe.com/licensing/developer/. Unfortunately, their license was too restrictive for my needs, so I had to use other[1] publicly available information on the internet (and there's a lot of it) to build the SWF2XAML tool. It's also important to note that I've built a converter, not a player. My goal is not to play back Flash content.

    The inspiration for this tool came from many of the early adopters I've been working with over the past couple of years. A lot of them have content in the form of SWF files, and they want to use some of that content in their WPF applications. In many cases, they no longer have the original Flash project files (.FLA). So, this tool was built to help solve those needs.



    [1] read: find a way not to pay for the right to do so.

    Wouldn’t you think if they didn’t have the fla they probably didn’t to begin with?

    UPDATE:
    Sourcecode wrote:
    

    mswanson wrote:
    
    Sourcecode wrote:
    So now it's easier to pillage someone else’s work? Great... Ahh… gotta love the irony here MS helping people steal copyrighted art work and port it to a useable format.

    Just cause they may say they no longer have the fla doesn’t mean they had it to begin with. I can’t believe I’m reading this.



    Believe it, Sourcecode. In a few very large cases that I'm aware of, third-parties were hired to deliver thousands of small Flash animations, but they never thought to obtain the original FLA files. Today, when they're considering an update to WPF, they find themselves out of luck. This tool allows them to preserve some of their investment in those assets.



    I don't want to cause any grief for you but I really need to post something about this in the coffehouse to get other opinions. It’s not as much a tool problem as a double standard thing that really kind of itches me wrong.

    Please come and join the discussion there.




    My response here ***:

    Mr Swanson; I understand the benefit your customers my get from such a tool.  However don’t you think that it’s a little, just a little hypocritical of MS to provide such a tool to do it considering all the efforts your company makes to protect their intellectual property rights. I mean I’ve read stuff about site designs being the same as live.com and people getting all in an uproar over an icon that looks the same as one of Microsoft’s, yet MS writes a tool to do this stuff. Not only that but goes around corners with out rewarding the just parties in doing so.

    I’m not trying to get anyone in trouble here but what kinds of example is this setting/delivering. Sorry if this comes as being down on you which I’m not, unfortunately your name is on it.

    ***

    Shame I honestly thought I’d seen it all. I realize that there is a lot of tools that will decompile a swf, but not once did i think MS would condone such an act, nevermind going as far as making it that much easier to accomplish.

    Hey Rory what was it you were grilling W3bbo about here? Is this not just as bad if not worse then his acts. Especially coming from a corporate company such as MS.

    Pot; meet kettle.

    Baffled:|

    p.s. Flame away if you must. IMO this is unacceptable on the part of Microsoft. Way to set an example guys.

  • User profile image
    Sourcecode

    mswanson wrote:
    
    Believe it, Sourcecode. In a few very large cases that I'm aware of, third-parties were hired to deliver thousands of small Flash animations, but they never thought to obtain the original FLA files. Today, when they're considering an update to WPF, they find themselves out of luck. This tool allows them to preserve some of their investment in those assets.


    One more thing.

    I forgot to mention that I have a client that lost/misplaced all of their XP-Pro licenses, and they have no proof of purchase. I’ll just go ahead and torrent them as a service to my clients, since that seems to be ok.

    I suppose we can paint things any color we like, but it doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Smiley



     

  • User profile image
    ScanIAm

    It's a bit disingenous (I can never spell that word) but frankly most software can be used for good and evil.

    I'm willing to speculate that Bittorrent will eventually end up as a valid distribution method even if it can be used as a way to steal IP.

    What's a little bit annoying is this idea that if I make a picture/song/movie, then I should be paid in perpetuity for every use of it.  This is a recent concept and it only exists because we let it.  Used to be, musicians would play shows to make money.  Now, we have one hit wonders who are able to spend the rest of their life living off the effort of 1 weeks work.

    Does that sound fair?  No.  And that is why I don't much care for the whining I heard from Irascian and Rory in the thread you mentioned.  If you want money, do work.  The fact that someone takes your idea and improves on it should never mean that you deserve a cut.  If you want a cut, then improve it yourself. 

    The world is full of people who actually do work every day, and we don't much appreciate it when we see you living a life of luxury because you've convinced the legal system to subsidize your lifestyle.

  • User profile image
    Arowin

    How about we look at this a little differently....

    Lets just say they made a program to convert one format to another (which they have)

    What is the difference between that and Photoshop??? Or notepad for that matter. Is it a crime to convert a text file to an XML file??

    Are we going to ban photoshop because it can be used to convert jpegs to bmps????

  • User profile image
    Sourcecode

    Arowin wrote:
    How about we look at this a little differently....

    Lets just say they made a program to convert one format to another (which they have)

    What is the difference between that and Photoshop??? Or notepad for that matter. Is it a crime to convert a text file to an XML file??

    Are we going to ban photoshop because it can be used to convert jpegs to bmps????


    Wrong! They made a program to decompile a compiled/protected document into a useable format.

    Your comparing apples to oranges here.

    Edit:

    Instead of following the rules of the game like many others, and like they insist the rest of the world do, they choose to bend the rules to their liking. If it was FLA to XAML then yes you would be correct and i would not have thought less of it.

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    Sourcecode wrote:
    
    Instead of following the rules of the game like many others, and like they insist the rest of the world do, they choose to bend the rules to their liking. If it was FLA to XAML then yes you would be correct and i would not have htought less of it.


    Mind you there are decompilers already. However does this mean someone can write a DRM WMA to MP3 convertor now?

    Anyone want to bet this gets pulled quickly?

  • User profile image
    Sourcecode

    blowdart wrote:
    
    Sourcecode wrote: 
    Instead of following the rules of the game like many others, and like they insist the rest of the world do, they choose to bend the rules to their liking. If it was FLA to XAML then yes you would be correct and i would not have htought less of it.



    Mind you there are decompilers already. However does this mean someone can write a DRM WMA to MP3 convertor now?

    Anyone want to bet this gets pulled quickly?



    DRM WMA to MP3? It seems if I can find the info on the net to do it why not.

    Yes there are decompilers but that is not the point here. The point is that they squawk and scream when someone miss uses their IP. Take the licensing for the ribbon idea. I mean come on, and on the same page as decompiling a swf into a useable format. I just see that as a huge double standard.

    They preach, and preach then oh wait but it’s ok if it’s not ours…Look we’ll even give it away free. We have nothing to loose but everything to gain so that makes it ok.

  • User profile image
    mswanson

    Good discussion, guys, and I'm happy to participate. Of course, you probably know where I stand on this issue. The top request that I receive for converters is easily SWF to WPF/XAML. But, it's not that folks want to wholeheartedly convert everything, because that doesn't often make sense. They want to use some of their existing assets in a new WPF application. After all, WPF isn't primarily an animation system...it's a way to develop next-generation applications and user experiences.

    I'm obviously not an Adobe/Macromedia spokesperson (perhaps someone from Adobe can add to this discussion), but I'll tell you what I currently understand about the FLA and SWF file formats. The FLA file format is a proprietary and closed format, and as far as I know, there is no specification available for it. The SWF is simply the published version of a FLA file. The file specification is available at (seemingly) no cost from Adobe, so price isn't the issue. But, if anything is documented and available, it is clearly the SWF format.

    Although I can't peer into the FLA file and make any sense of it, I'd speculate that it contains a lot of useful authoring information that would make a conversion (like the one SWF2XAML implements) much more straightforward. As a matter of fact, it's the first thing I looked at when I began my experimentation months ago. By the way, there is nothing that I've seen in the SWF format that ever encrypts or scrambles the content for protection.

    Another way to think about the relationship between FLA and SWF is this: in Photoshop, I save my project files with a PSD file extension (Photoshop's native format), but when I publish them, I can publish to a number of formats: JPG, GIF, PNG, etc. There's nothing inherently "protected" about the bits in these files. As a matter of fact, any standard web browser can parse and display them. But, just because you can right-click on an image on a web page and select "Save As...", does that mean that web browsers were built to enable people to steel copyrighted material from others? Of course not.

    There is a clear difference between a tool's features and abilities and what a person can legally do with the tool. For example, photocopiers, VCRs, and cameras aren't (by themselves) illegal. But, a person can certainly perform illegal acts with all of them.

    In the case of the companies I'm referring to (who I'd name, except I'm not sure they'd want me to), they simply don't have the original FLA files. There's nothing nefarious about their motives. You'd recognize every one of the companies, and I doubt you'd believe that their motives were anything but legitimate.

    The SWF2XAML tool is simply a way to reduce the challenges a customer or partner may have in reusing their assets.

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    Cyonix wrote:
    

    Bah this thread is stupid...

    It’s not Microsoft that takes action against people for converting files from DRMed formats. When has Microsoft ever taken someone to court for decompiling?

    Microsoft hasn’t taken any action against the guy who made Reflector...



    *cough* FairUse4WM

  • User profile image
    Cyonix

    blowdart wrote:
    
    Cyonix wrote: 

    Bah this thread is stupid...

    It’s not Microsoft that takes action against people for converting files from DRMed formats. When has Microsoft ever taken someone to court for decompiling?

    Microsoft hasn’t taken any action against the guy who made Reflector...



    *cough* FairUse4WM
    Good point, but my reflector comment still stands.

  • User profile image
    Cyonix

    Bah this thread is stupid...

    It’s not Microsoft that takes action against people for converting files from DRMed formats. When has Microsoft ever taken someone to court for decompiling?

    Microsoft hasn’t taken any action against the guy who made Reflector...

    How about you take a deep breath, think about what you’re posting and stop loosely link stuff.

    I as a web developer have run into the very problem of only having the swf file on the server and the fla file gone missing (due to either web designer moving on or backups being lost).

  • User profile image
    Deactivated User

    Comment removed at user's request.

  • User profile image
    will

    Cyonix wrote:
    
    blowdart wrote: 
    Cyonix wrote: 

    Bah this thread is stupid...

    It’s not Microsoft that takes action against people for converting files from DRMed formats. When has Microsoft ever taken someone to court for decompiling?

    Microsoft hasn’t taken any action against the guy who made Reflector...



    *cough* FairUse4WM
    Good point, but my reflector comment still stands.


    Well, the guy who wrote Reflector (Lutz Roeder) actually works for Microsoft.

    From his site:
    Lutz Roeder
    Bauhaus-Universitaet Weimar, Dipl.-Ing.
    Bauhaus-Universitaet Weimar, Ph.D. student, unfinished.
    Microsoft Research, Intentional Programming Team.
    Microsoft Expression "Sparkle" Team, since 2002.

  • User profile image
    Antitorgo

    blowdart wrote:
    
    *cough* FairUse4WM


    That is a different comparison. WM files are encrypted SWF files aren't.

    This whole "double standard" argument is one of the stupidest I've seen on C9. Some guy at MS writes an incredibly useful tool and you guys complain that it might be used to steal copyrighted work? It is a tool to convert from one file format to another. Why not say the same of ZIP compression? Or those gosh darned evil DVD burners...

    If this tool decrypted some encrypted SWF content, then I could see this being a different story, but AFAIK, that isn't the case.

  • User profile image
    Rory

    Well, since you called me out (for reasons that aren't clear to me), I guess I'll respond.

    Here's my response: You're misinterpreting everything.

    You brought up the issue of MS wanting to protect its IP and how it's ironic that someone from MS would also write a tool to convert one file format to another. This is not irony. Nor is it having double standards.

    The justifications for the tool are perfectly reasonable, and it seems the tool was built in response to customer needs. Do you *really* think that someone from MS would write a tool with the intention of stealing IP? Or that this is in any way comparable to the subjects discussed in the Office UI video? Or that it somehow relates to my distaste for people who steal music and other media?

    If I were to argue on your terms and in your style, I'd just go ahead and say that we might as well drop the ability to download files from web sites since those files could potentially be stolen. Hey - you might also accidentally see someone else's private information, so maybe we should snag your peepers while we're at it. Sounds pretty stupid, right? Well... so does your argument (hey - you said you expected flames).

    You might have noticed in the other thread to which you linked that I stated a dislike for people who steal music - I did *not* state a dislike for the tools. I myself have a podcast which is distributed through a bittorrent feed, and I'm glad about that - it's good for the listeners, and it's good for our bandwidth consumption. Win-win. The tool itself is not an issue - it's the people driving it.

    And I can directly relate to the need for tools like this. I've worked on projects before where the source code was either lost, corrupted, or whatever - for whatever reasons, the source code was unavailable. In these cases, I've used tools to decompile *my own binaries*.

    You can point fingers and say I'm an idiot for having screwed up that badly. That's OK - because I wasn't stealing anything, and I don't care what you think of me as long as I can get my work done.

    This tool is clearly meant for a very specialized purpose, and that's to convert files in a proprietary compiled format to another format that's useable for the IP owners. If another person chooses to use it in another way, then that person is to blame - not the tool.

    I'm finding it hard to believe I'm even writing this.

    Did you *really* need to have this explained to you? It leaves me with the impression that you've either never done any professional development before, or you've done so little that you've never lost source code on your own or encountered a client who had (I've done both).

    Wow.

  • User profile image
    Rossj

    mswanson wrote:
    The SWF2XAML tool is simply a way to reduce the challenges a customer or partner may have in reusing their assets.


    That's a fair point I guess, although is there any possibility (now that you have code for conversion one way) for a XAML to SWF conversion tool?  It'd be really handy for me to get my XAML into SWF.

  • User profile image
    Rossj


    Rory wrote:
    or you've done so little that you've never lost source code on your own or encountered a client who had (I've done both).


    Hey that's not fair - this week, for the first time in over a decade, is the first time that I've been faced with a binary artifact with no source.  I love ILDASM.

    Maybe he's worked in places that are professional enough to not lose the source code in the first place? Wink

    ___

    Edit: Thought I'd update my opinion now that I've thought about it a little more.

    I have to agree with those suggesting that you can't/shouldn't blame a tool for how it is used. Having said the tool is fairly obviously an effective way for users to convert existing content in SWF to XAML, and you *could* view it as an attempt to remove concerns about moving to XAML when customers say "but we've invested so much in SWF". There probably isn't anything wrong with that.

    Currently the tool doesn't support ActionScript or FLV, so there is a large number of SWF files that it 'cannot' convert (effectively) to XAML, instead just leaving access to individual frames in the SWF.  As you guys probably know implementing ActionScript (and all of the associated libraries) isn't a small undertaking and unless the code donated to Mozilla was used not really a one man job unless you can wait a while.

    I can see where sourcecode is coming from though, it is easy to see how it will be abused, but I don't really blame that on the author of the tool or the tool itself.  I asked before whether the tool might also generate SWF files from XAML files, a cynical person (not me - maybe blowdart Wink ) might assume that it'll never happen because Microsoft want people moving to XAML, and not giving them the option to move away* - personally I reckon that if it doesn't already do it, Mr Swanson wouldn't be averse to implementing it Smiley

    Using a reverse engineered copy of the spec because the original has unacceptable license terms is also not really a biggie (depending on whether the terms are *really* restrictive) - Microsoft never went after Aspose for reverse engineering the Word and PPT specs and provide fantastic tool for generating Word files (where word automation itself has always historically sucked for server-side generation of docs) - you might get the impression I like the Aspose products, I do - not perfect but better than all of the alternatives.



    * I know I am being unrealistic here - I can dream, but wouldn't it have been *really* cool for Microsoft to work with Adobe on targeting SWF from XAML and persuading Adobe to move to a more unified platform (and pushing Adobe to implement the promised hardware acceleration sooner). Sometimes the thought of Microsoft working *with* another big company in the interests of pushing *technology* forward gives me goosebumps - although Microsoft are probably not the only company who tend towards NiH or NBBU (Not Bought By Us).

  • User profile image
    Sourcecode

    Cyonix wrote:
    

    Bah this thread is stupid...

    It’s not Microsoft that takes action against people for converting files from DRMed formats. When has Microsoft ever taken someone to court for decompiling?

    Microsoft hasn’t taken any action against the guy who made Reflector...

    How about you take a deep breath, think about what you’re posting and stop loosely link stuff.

    I as a web developer have run into the very problem of only having the swf file on the server and the fla file gone missing (due to either web designer moving on or backups being lost).



    I consider it promoting copyright infringement. Sorry you find this thread stupid. See below...

Conversation locked

This conversation has been locked by the site admins. No new comments can be made.