Fair use with respect to ROM cards


Does anyone here know whether it is legally OK to run backup copies of software that we have purchased? In particular, are Pocket Professional cards by Sparcom, or even software by RAMSS, SMI, TDS, Nikon, and other companies who have created software in the form of ROM cards allowed to be backed up?

Even something as a quick pointer to where I could find such info in the manuals, licenses, etc would be just as good. I own quite a few ROM cards, but lack some of the manuals. I do not want to use these cards in my HP48, however, because this would add gradual wear to these cards. Is it legal to run backups while keeping the original in storage?

Thanks ahead of time.


In the good old days, it was OK to make copies of anything, as long as you didn't give those copies away to others. The usual clause was something along the lines of "if you do make copies, and you sell your original licensed copy of this software, then make sure you give all copies to the person you're selling the original to, or else destroy them".

With the advent of the DMCA, the "fair use" issue has gotten a lot more difficult.

Basically, as long as making those copies does not involve circumventing any "copy prevention" scheme, you should still be OK; while the DMCA does have a clause prohibiting the distribution and use of any technology designed to circumvent copy-prevention schemes (*), if the software you're trying to copy predates the DMCA, that clause may not apply.

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer; I'm just trying to share what little I know about these issues. If you really need to know all the fine details, you may have to consult an actual lawyer, or study the law books yourself. These are controversial issues; the law itself is a moving target here!

(Speaking for myself, I don't really care about the fine points of the law; the important part, as far as I'm concerned, is that you should not give away copies of copyrighted software to others, unless you give the recipient the original license at the same time. In other words, if I buy a copy of Microsoft Office 2003, and then give it to a friend, I have to stop using that product myself, and delete it from my PC; otherwise, I'll be breaking the law, because two people are using a commercial software package while only one of them has actually paid for it.

On the other hand, when it comes to making a back-up copy of a DVD (for my own personal use, NOT to give away!), I'm technically violating the DMCA, because the very act of making that copy requires me to circumvent the copy-prevention measures that are part of the DVD standard, but I have no problem with that -- I'm not giving those copies away; I'm keeping them *for myself*. The law calls me a criminal, but I happen to think that that is a bad law, so fuck it.)

- Thomas

(*) Under the DMCA, even the act of telling someone how to get around the PROTECTED bit in HP-41C programs would be illegal.

Edited: 25 Oct 2006, 11:22 p.m. after one or more responses were posted


Thank you for the quick response, Thomas. I guess I am also working under the same guidelines you gave. I have no intentions of giving out copies.


In Germany we have a saying: "Wer viele Fragen stellt, bekommt auch viele Antworten."
Aka: As long as you don't tell anyone - who cares :)


For a backup for your own use, where you aren't using both the original and the backup at the same time, that would almost certainly fall within the scope of fair use, at least in the U.S.

Though if you ask the RIAA or MPAA, they'll tell you otherwise.

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