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-   -   A Legal/Moral Question (https://www.mersenneforum.org/showthread.php?t=5097)

MS63 2005-12-06 20:39

A Legal/Moral Question
 
Where would one stand [b]legally[/b] if one was, for example, a computer retailer and one were to, say, install Prime95 on every system sold, such that it ran as a service, with no icon in the system tray, and with the user as a member of one's team?

The poor suckers ... erm, I mean owners would most likely never know it was there.

[b]Morally[/b] I think it's questionable, but harmless.

rogue 2005-12-06 20:51

No, it is not harmless. Some users would quickly discover it (via Task Manager) when they try to play their games, use Photoshop, etc. and call the retailer. They would spread the word and the retailer would lose business. George would probably become a co-defendent in a class action lawsuit and the GIMPS project would suffer due to bad press. Need I or anyone else say any more on the subject?

Peter Nelson 2005-12-07 00:24

[QUOTE=MS63]Where would one stand [b]legally[/b] if one was, for example, a computer retailer and one were to, say, install Prime95 on every system sold, such that it ran as a service, with no icon in the system tray, and with the user as a member of one's team?

The poor suckers ... erm, I mean owners would most likely never know it was there.

[b]Morally[/b] I think it's questionable, but harmless.[/QUOTE]

NOT HARMLESS TO MY ELECTRICITY BILL!

You would be stealing money from the bill payer to fund YOUR prime quest.

If someone sold me a PC configured in that way and I subsequently discovered it the retailer would be facing a lawsuit for the cost of the extra power, PLUS damages, PLUS legal fees, breach of the Computer Misuse Act (unauthoried use of my system without permission) and other charges, and the full weight of the legal system would probably reign down on them unmercifully. Additionally I would be likely to publicise details of the event in many IT magazines, newspapers and online forums.

This is a very BAD idea. Lawyers would eat you for breakfast!

Now, if instead you installed it as a stability testing tool, told the new owner that the software was installed, that they should read the license agreement, and you would INVITE them to join the GIMPS project and also to join your team, that is a better way to approach it.

However, I don't believe you have an agreement with George to distribute his binaries yourself, so he could potentially sue you for that. Many distributed projects have such policy to avoid outdated or trojan versions of their clients being installed.

The OFFICIAL method to obtain the official prime95 software is by downloading from [url]www.mersenne.org[/url] website. So to stay on the right side of the law, perhaps provide a link so that the end-user can obtain for themselves a copy of the prime95 stability tool which you recommend, can themselves assent to George's terms and conditions, can run it themselves, and if they wish, join your team. You might discuss with them any advantages your particular team offered like stats pages etc, and tell them the agreement of what your team would do with any prize money should it succeed.

nibble4bits 2005-12-07 02:07

"Wild Tangent" :whistle:

MS63 2005-12-07 21:18

I should point out a few things:
I am NOT a computer retailer;
I am English and I live in England;
I am in no way advocating or defending the covert installation of Prime95 or any other software.

I don't entirely agree that users would become aware Prime95 was running. Most users don't even know of the existence of Task Manager, much less what anything running is for. It would be easy to change the name of Prime95 to "explorer" or "svchost" - two real, vital processes - or maybe "sysman" or "winxp" - two I just made up. The casual viewer of Task Manager would hardly question those processes running on their system.

I'm not sure we have such a thing as a "class action" in our legal system, rogue, but I get your point.

We are far less litigious here in England than in the US, thank Goodness. And damages are awarded by a Judge, not a jury, and are, consequently, far more sensible. (I believe that US juries award outrageous damages in the hope that, should they one day find themselves in the same position they too will be awarded an inordinate sum.)

Peter - does a processor use more power the more it is utilised? (I am not arguing the point, just asking.)

A cursory reading of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 would seem to show that the only possible offence applicable would, I think, be "3.(2)(a) to impair the operation of any computer;", and that is debatable if Prime95 works as advertised ie only using 'idle' time. I'm not a lawyer, so I could be wrong.

ColdFury 2005-12-08 02:38

It doesn't matter if they're aware of it or not. Thats like saying its alright to steal something from someone's house if they don't realize its gone.

Running the cpu at 100% usage can have a big big effect on a computer's power usage and heat output. It should be a user's choice to use it if they wish.

cheesehead 2005-12-08 04:04

[QUOTE=MS63]It would be easy to change the name of Prime95 to "explorer" or "svchost" - two real, vital processes - or maybe "sysman" or "winxp" - two I just made up.[/quote]
But that's deliberate deceit. If you really thought your proposal was ethically acceptable, you wouldn't feel a need to deceive the user that way, would you?

[quote](I believe that US juries award outrageous damages in the hope that, should they one day find themselves in the same position they too will be awarded an inordinate sum.)[/quote]
I doubt many jurors do it for that reason. More likely is that jurors perceive that corporations don't respond to anything other than large monetary awards for damages.

[quote]A cursory reading of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 would seem to show that the only possible offence applicable would, I think, be "3.(2)(a) to impair the operation of any computer;", and that is debatable if Prime95 works as advertised ie only using 'idle' time. I'm not a lawyer, so I could be wrong.[/QUOTE]
When one gets picky (as one would in a lawsuit), one finds that Prime95 also occupies certain amounts of memory. Furthermore, memory-swapping and task-switching between Prime95 and other tasks takes a certain amount of non-"idle" CPU time that [i]impairs[/i] response times and wouldn't be necessary if Prime95 weren't running.

Peter Nelson 2005-12-08 13:37

I am English and live in England ALSO!

I can confirm a PC with a relatively powerful processor (say, 3GHz) (as would be sold in a new computer from a seller of computers) uses about TWICE the amount of electricity when running prime95 at full load as opposed to idle.

I and others have personally verified this with measurement equipment (the results are posted for several machines in a thread on this forum).

The proportion will depend on what other components you have in your pc (eg how many hard drives), and the type of processor (eg Prescott consumes much more than a Northwood).

So the additional COST for EACH PC someone "borg"ed in this way could be around £50 PER YEAR in electricity bills (or more).

If you did it to many PCs, the damages you could be sued for would multiply and escalate. I imagine any lawyer worth their salt would add in interest on that sum automatically.

With new technologies like speed step, or de-powering part of the cache when in standby mode, the power usage differential would be even greater.

I think that whilst *some* users would overlook such installation, at least some would smell something strange going on.

Prime95 is designed to be "nice" and use cycles when they are not being used by other tasks. However this mechanism and the operating system scheduler are not perfect, so it is not completely transparent.

George has only recently been working on experiments making prime95 halt if it detects its iterations are slowed by other programs running. Unfortunately it was TOO sensitive, and would pause prime95 during trivial tasks like bringing up the windows start menu.

Also the prime95 software would be impairing my network with traffic to the primenet server periodically (it communicates in http format). It may be a separate offence under communications legislation for unauthorised use someone's network.

I believe that the Computer Misuse Act 1990 could be interpreted to class this as SEVERAL offences.
And in addition to memory usage pointed out already, there is DISK SPACE USAGE (which impairs the performance of the system in terms of its ability to store data). ie save files and log files.

Changing what is on the hard drive is not an offence in the UK provided it does not cause PHYSICAL damage to the drive.

However, running software which impairs the system (or acts like installing prepatory to a future offense) ie installing it to run later could be argued. Intention is important in the legislation, but it could be shown that by installing prime95 you would reasonably known its purpose, and that your installation would use up disk space and memory now and ongoing, thus impairing the system.

There are other offences which may have been committed under trading standards legislation for example.

In any case, once publicised I would imagine the business would have its supply of customers rapidly dry up!

I am not fond of the "sue you" culture, and there are too many lawsuits, and legal people are paid too much in my opinion, but there are some cases where the legal system is useful to discourage acts of stupidity like this.

In this case, if someone wants to install prime95 they should get permission first. That in fact is one of GEORGE's terms and conditions (his license) permitting you to have and use prime95. You need permission from the OWNER of the computer, unless that is you yourself. If someone disregarded this condition, George would be entirely within his rights to withold any prize money or credit for discovery for a new prime. If only ONE of the owners found your installation, and emailed George with proof this would be sufficient to disqualify ALL your machines and stats. And that is what you would deserve.

I'm relieved to hear it was a hypothetical question, as you do not sell computers.

There is a thread elsewhere in the forum where someone in USA installed prime95 on many computers of the phone company he was working at. He was arrested by FBI had his computer equipment confiscated for years, lost his job, and was charged.

I would not advice anyone to voluntarily go through that experience ;-)

MS63 2005-12-09 11:59

[QUOTE=Peter Nelson]I am English and live in England ALSO!

I can confirm a PC with a relatively powerful processor (say, 3GHz) (as would be sold in a new computer from a seller of computers) uses about TWICE the amount of electricity when running prime95 at full load as opposed to idle.[/quote]WOW!!!

Since discovering GIMPS I've been leaving my computer on twenty-four hours a day SPECIFICALLY to keep Prime95 running.

[quote]The proportion will depend on what other components you have in your pc (eg how many hard drives), and the type of processor (eg Prescott consumes much more than a Northwood).

So the additional COST for EACH PC someone "borg"ed in this way could be around £50 PER YEAR in electricity bills (or more).[/quote]I have three hard-drives and a 3[b][i]E[/i][/b]Ghz P4 Prescott, but what's a few quid between friends? :smile:

[quote]Also the prime95 software would be impairing my network with traffic to the primenet server ...

And in addition to memory usage pointed out already, there is DISK SPACE USAGE (which impairs the performance of the system in terms of its ability to store data). ...[/quote]I think you'd be hard put to show that any network traffic or disc usage had "impaired" your system use.

[quote]... withold any prize money or credit for discovery for a new prime. ...[/quote]As it happens I have little interest in credit and even less in the prize. Being the first and, for a time, only person EVER to know - with some certainty - that some [size=4][color=blue][b]2P-1[/b][/color][/size] is prime, or even that it's not, gives me a great thrill. THAT is my reason for participating in GIMPS.

[quote]There is a thread elsewhere in the forum where someone in USA installed prime95 on many computers of the phone company he was working at. He was arrested by FBI had his computer equipment confiscated for years, lost his job, and was charged.[/quote]Scarey!

nibble4bits 2005-12-10 12:30

It's simple: Add some kind of mechanism for them to install it themselves. Having advertisements for free stuff would not hurt your reputation or legal standing so long as it wasn't collusion or a direct competitor. You'll have less people involved but still will recieve a few volunteers.

MS63 2005-12-10 13:12

[QUOTE=nibble4bits]It's simple: Add some kind of mechanism for them to install it themselves. Having advertisements for free stuff would not hurt your reputation or legal standing so long as it wasn't collusion or a direct competitor. You'll have less people involved but still will recieve a few volunteers.[/QUOTE]Excellent idea, nibble. :smile:


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