Hacker Mods Old Calculator to Access the Internet, CASIO Files DMCA Complaint

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A hobbyist electronics hacker who took a cheap standard calculator and modified it to access the Internet has been hit with a DMCA copyright complaint. According to CASIO, the project uses its copyrighted source code but the developer informs TorrentFreak that his code was written entirely from scratch.

Hobbyist electronics hacker and YouTuber ‘Neutrino’ only has 10 videos on his channel but many are extremely popular.

Back in April he constructed his own interactive and contactless handwash dispenser to help people avoid the coronavirus and earlier this month published an absolute gem, transforming an old CASIO scientific calculator into something better.

After a not inconsiderable amount of work, Neutrino’s device was able to communicate with similar devices nearby and even connect to the Internet. Pretty impressive for a supposed amateur.

As standard, the CASIO calculator chosen for the project can be picked up on eBay for just a few dollars but other components are also required, as listed on Neutrino‘s YouTube channel. After desoldering the solar panel and various other steps, Neutrino managed to squeeze an OLED display into the space, along with a WiFi module and other goodies.

“Since we were in lockdown I wanted to do something really fun, which can keep me occupied for a week or two,” Neutrino informs TF.

“I did not have many components to work with so using this calculator (CASIO fx-ms991) was not a problem, because it was roughly 5+ years old and it was given by my uncle.”

Gizmodo published an article on the invention earlier this month, highlighting that it could potentially be used to cheat in exams. Neutrino says he doesn’t want that but does hope that the hack will inspire others to learn and participate in the ‘maker community’.

But now, just a couple of weeks after winning plenty of praise, the project has also attracted the attention of an anti-counterfeiting organization working for CASIO.

REACT describes itself as a not-for-profit organization with over 30 years experience in fighting counterfeit trade. “One of our main objectives is to keep the costs of anti-counterfeiting actions affordable,” its site reads. A wide range of high-profile companies are listed as members, from Apple to Yves Saint Laurent and dozens in between.

This week REACT wrote to Github, where Neutrino has his ‘Hack-Casio-Calculator‘ repository, with a demand that it should be completely taken down for infringing its client’s intellectual property rights.

“I am writing on behalf of CASIO, which is a member of REACT (also known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Network ). REACT actively fights the trade-in counterfeiting products on behalf of its members,” the complaint reads.

“It came to our attention that the below-mentioned repository is using copyrighted source code in order to modify Casio’s copyrighted program.

“The code the repository contains is proprietary and not to be publicly published. The hosted content is a direct, literal copy of our client’s work. I hereby summon you to take expeditious action: to remove or to disable access to the infringing content immediately, but in any case no later than ten days as of today.”

The full DMCA notice submitted to Github is available here and claims that the “entire repository is infringing” and that hosted content is a “direct, literal copy of [CASIO’s] work.

The repository has been disabled by Github in response to the complaint so validating the notice’s claims is not straightforward. That being said, Neutrino informs TF that the claim is nonsense and all work is his own.

“They accuse me of using copyrighted source code in order to modify CASIO’s copyrighted program. But my code has nothing to do with it,” he explains.

“The code was written completely from scratch and all the libraries included in my source file were open-source. Everything was clearly mentioned in the [now removed] readme file of my GitHub repository. They also allegedly accuse me by stating that ‘The entire repository is infringing’, but in reality whatever the original content they pointed out has nothing to do with my code.”

Neutrino informs us that he has already filed a DMCA counternotice with Github to get his project back. While he may yet be successful, this is just the type of action that has ‘freedom-to-tinker’ proponents throwing their hands up in despair wondering why big corporations have nothing better to do.

Unfortunately, these types of complaints can discourage people from being innovative or sharing their ideas and knowledge, the exact opposite of what Neutrino hoped to achieve. CASIO may somehow feel it’s in the right here but it does seem just a little bit petty.

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