For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

Two of our regular Kats are currently on blogging sabbaticals. They are David Brophy and Catherine Lee.

Friday, 15 August 2003

WORMS, FAKE WORMS AND COPYRIGHT [written by Ilanah and Jeremy]

The IPKat’s readers are probably aware of the MSBlast worm, which has been making its way around the internet and is due to launch an attack on Microsoft’s website tomorrow. Disturbingly, a rather nasty pop-up advert has appeared on certain sites that mimics the effect of the worm. A box appears containing an error NT\AUTHORITY SYSTEM error message stating "Windows must now restart because the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) Service terminated unexpectedly". The box is the same as that which appears when a computer is infected with the worm. It then begins to count down from 60 seconds to 50 seconds, at which point the user is informed that his system is vulnerable and he is invited to purchase Computer Shield antivirus software. The user is then “mousetrapped” in the site and cannot escape from it. The way to get rid of the site is to press CNTRL + ALT + DELETE. When the Windows Taskmaster appears, end the Internet Explorer/Computer Shield task.

The IPKat wonders whether the familiar grey box in which Windows warnings appear is itself a work which attracts protection as a copyright work, or whether the appearance of that box, in relation to an offer made by another software company, is an act of passing off. If the answer to either of those questions is “yes” and Microsoft is in a mood to sue, the legal profession would receive a timely boost to its flagging fortunes.

A further issue which remains for the courts to determine is that of the legal protection of real computer worms and viruses. Throughout the European Union, patent law prevents the patenting of inventions “the commercial exploitation of which would be contrary to public policy or morality”; likewise European Union trade mark legislation prevents the registration of signs which are “contrary to public policy or accepted principles of morality”. These provisions would likely prevent a malicious worm or virus being patented, though their effect on worm and virus names is uncertain. Copyright law however, at least in the UK, does not appear to have the same statutory bars. It is probable that copyright does in fact subsist in worms and viruses but that the courts will simply refuse to lend their support to its enforcement.

Recipes for worm cakes, worm bread, and worm burgers
How to deworm computers, dogs and children
What Shakespeare thought of worms here



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