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      05-08-2014, 08:43 AM   #1
rs14smith
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Question Is It Legal?

Hey Peoples,

Does anyone know if making DIYs showing people how to code their cars and whatnot is actual legal? I've seen tons of tutorials, pdfs, videos, etc. around the net showing how to do it using NSCExpert, INPA...etc., but I was just curious since I may start writing some tutorials of my own that will have screenshots of NSC Expert and other software explaining how to do it.

I do believe providing a download link to those programs (NSCExpert, INPA, etc) are illegal...I'm not sure why though?

Last edited by rs14smith; 05-08-2014 at 08:50 AM.
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      05-08-2014, 08:45 AM   #2
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Why wouldn't it be legal. You're not reverse engineering anything just making changes to the software within the parameters provided by the software.
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      05-08-2014, 08:54 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Delta0311 View Post
Why wouldn't it be legal. You're not reverse engineering anything just making changes to the software within the parameters provided by the software.
I agree, I want it to be legal. I'm just asking before I get into making guides.
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      05-08-2014, 12:06 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rs14smith View Post
I agree, I want it to be legal. I'm just asking before I get into making guides.
Coding the vehicle is perfectly legal, just like any other aftermarket modification.

If you're in the Nashville area, I can help you out with coding/programming, map updates for the navigation, etc.
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      05-08-2014, 12:29 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dracon View Post
Coding the vehicle is perfectly legal, just like any other aftermarket modification.

If you're in the Nashville area, I can help you out with coding/programming, map updates for the navigation, etc.
Yeah I know "doing" it is legal, I just wasn't sure if publically teaching others "how" to do it was considered legal. I'm sure it probably is, but just asking just to be asking.
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      05-08-2014, 12:30 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rs14smith View Post
Yeah I know "doing" it is legal, I just wasn't sure if publically teaching others "how" to do it was considered legal. I'm sure it probably is, but just asking just to be asking.
Sharing information on how to code various options is perfectly legal, basically a freedom of speech thing.

Providing links to all the software and tools is probably a gray area (because it technically is copyrighted software).

You would just be providing information on how to use a tool, not providing the actual tool.
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      05-08-2014, 12:35 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dracon View Post
Sharing information on how to code various options is perfectly legal, basically a freedom of speech thing.

Providing links to all the software and tools is probably a gray area (because it technically is copyrighted software).

You would just be providing information on how to use a tool, not providing the actual tool.
That's what I thought, but you said it a lot better than I ever could.

Thanks!
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      05-08-2014, 12:37 PM   #8
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Providing information on how to do it is perfectly legal. Providing the BMW proprietary software is defiantly illegal.
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      05-08-2014, 02:00 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dracon View Post
Coding the vehicle is perfectly legal, just like any other aftermarket modification.

If you're in the Nashville area, I can help you out with coding/programming, map updates for the navigation, etc.
It's definitely not "perfectly legal." The tools used to code the car are illegally obtained and run without licensing or permission of the software developer and/or copyright holder (BMW AG).

Then there's things like retrofits and CIC updates where FSC codes come into play, and things get even less legal. The codes sold are being generated, which is illegal, using software that is illegal, which was created by illegal reverse engineering of copy protection algorithms. All that stuff falls under the DMCA in the US and some equivalent laws in Germany and the EU. Then in the case of map updates, the actual distribution of the map files is also illegal under normal copyright infringement laws.

I'm not touching upon ethics here, because that's a whole other topic. But the actual legality is far less subjective and certainly not "perfectly legal."

To answer the OP's original question, creating tutorials should be legal, so long as you aren't providing instructions to obtain the software.
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      05-08-2014, 05:22 PM   #10
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He can tell how to use the software to do specific things.
He cannot provide links to the software in any way shape of form.

The guide could be for a legitimate use, for someone that has legal access to the software. So a guide would be perfectly legal but only the guide.

There are third party guides for software written all the time.
They just assume a legal copy of the software for the person they are instructing.

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      05-08-2014, 05:50 PM   #11
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Dwells said it well, nothing is legal about coding, I am sure it is part of the intellectual licencing. BMW can void your warranty at any time as soon as they know you changed their coding. If you replace their module with yours and you have your own software in there then you are good, but if you are using their module you are doing something illegal.
After market modifications are not fine with BMW, you warranty is voided or things are not covered if something goes wrong, that is why majority of people do not modify their cars till warranty is over.
The software is also a big issue, lets face it, who has the licence to use this software???
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      05-08-2014, 06:50 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grzes View Post
Dwells said it well, nothing is legal about coding, I am sure it is part of the intellectual licencing. BMW can void your warranty at any time as soon as they know you changed their coding. If you replace their module with yours and you have your own software in there then you are good, but if you are using their module you are doing something illegal.
After market modifications are not fine with BMW, you warranty is voided or things are not covered if something goes wrong, that is why majority of people do not modify their cars till warranty is over.
The software is also a big issue, lets face it, who has the licence to use this software???
I think you're being too general and confusing legality with warranty.

I'm strictly after about coding itself here, not FSC codes, retrofitting and the like that's a wholly different discussion and not the subject of the OP's question.

Aftermarket modifications are 100% legal in the United States, although the dealer reserves the right to void the warranty if it was determined your aftermarket modification caused the problem you are reporting under warranty (see Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act). If you modified your radio and your engine blew, unless BMW could prove the aftermarket radio caused the engine failure, they can't say "OH! You modified your radio, we aren't covering the engine under warranty!" that would be illegal under law. Otherwise, there would be no such thing as an aftermarket for vehicles.

Aftermarket modifications *are* illegal if the modification makes the vehicle violate local laws (such as a non-CARB certified exhaust or intake on a California registered vehicle, or an aftermarket tune which is for off-road use only).

As far as coding goes, the act of changing coding options itself isn't illegal, however, if what you changing during coding caused a failure of a module, BMW isn't legally obligated to cover the damage under warranty if they can prove that the coding modification caused the damage. Or if the options you are changing makes the vehicle violate local laws.

Obtaining BMW software to perform said coding without a license from BMW may not be legal, most likely it is not. However, you don't need BMW's software to perform coding in most cases.

People are making the assumption that BMW owns the protocols used by the ECUs. EDIABAS isn't a BMW-specific protocol, it's a protocol designed by Softing AG, which licenses it to multiple vendors in the automotive space i.e. VW/Audi/Porsche, along with a host of aftermarket vendors like Actia IM+E (which makes VCI's for most dealerships).

Say a shop who owns an Autologic unit, which is a popular aftermarket diagnostics tools for BMW and many other European vehicles. Autologic has the ability to change coding options within the vehicle to enable/disable various features just like NCSExpert does. Again, 100% legal, only difference is that Autologic's software isn't illegally obtained from BMW. They either reverse engineered how BMW did it (which in most cases is legal depending on how the reverse engineering is done) or they licensed the EDIABAS APIs from Softing AG.

So don't confuse the act of coding your vehicle with obtaining the software *to* code your vehicle. Two very distinct things.

Last edited by Dracon; 05-08-2014 at 07:54 PM.
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      05-08-2014, 08:04 PM   #13
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the way I see it .... your car, your decision.
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      05-09-2014, 02:10 AM   #14
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Totally in agreement with Dracon...
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      05-09-2014, 02:28 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dracon View Post
Obtaining BMW software to perform said coding without a license from BMW may not be legal, most likely it is not. However, you don't need BMW's software to perform coding in most cases.
The issue here lies within context. Yes, you can do most things with an Autologic unit. However, how many of the users here have an Autologic unit lying around? Single digits at most.

For the sake of discussion on this forum at least, it means downloading, installing, and using NCS Expert with BMW's daten files. As we all know, those are BMW internal, and BMW holds the licensing and intellectual property rights. There's no two ways around it - downloading NCS Expert and BMW daten files is illegal.

Once again, I'm not speaking to ethics, but solely to legality under US intellectual property and DMCA laws.
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      05-09-2014, 02:44 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwells View Post
The issue here lies within context. Yes, you can do most things with an Autologic unit. However, how many of the users here have an Autologic unit lying around? Single digits at most.

For the sake of discussion on this forum at least, it means downloading, installing, and using NCS Expert with BMW's daten files. As we all know, those are BMW internal, and BMW holds the licensing and intellectual property rights. There's no two ways around it - downloading NCS Expert and BMW daten files is illegal.

Once again, I'm not speaking to ethics, but solely to legality under US intellectual property and DMCA laws.
Absolutely right, it's wholly about context.

I'm not disagreeing on the fact that obtaining the BMW Standard Tools software is illegal. In fact, it's most likely illegal.

You never know what tools some people have and are using, they could have access to an Autologic or they could have written a program that leverages the EDIABAS API from Softing AG to perform various functions (possibly like the tools that BimmerRetrofit produces, etc).

I'm just making the distinction between obtaining the BMW internal illegally and the actual act of changing the coding options on a vehicle.

But more to the OP's original question, coding is legal, writing tutorials about coding is legal, providing copies of BMW Standard Tools/E-Sys and the SP-Daten files is questionable legality but most likely not legal (we can assume it's illegal under common sense but until there's a precedent set in the courts, we'll not know 100%).

I remember reading at one point almost a year ago that there was a court case in the EU where Mercedes tried to sue an individual that had obtained and used Mercedes factory software, but the case was thrown out because the Mercedes factory and dealership software did not have any license agreements with the software.
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      05-13-2014, 08:52 AM   #17
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There are some coding options that would not be legal such as fogs on with high beams, coding out marker lights, etc. Also, if you code something out that the manufacturer has in place such as the I drive warning and you sell the car without that safety warning and something happens, you can be held liable.
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