DMCA Takedown Issued Over Casio Code That Wasn’t

Earlier this month, we posted coverage of an ingenious calculator hack that took a Casio calculator and put an ESP8266 module and an OLED display in the space occupied by its solar cell. Controlled by a pair of unobtrusive Hall effect devices, the calculator could have been used as an ingenious cheating device but was to us the epitome of a well-executed hack. We may have liked it but it seems the folks at Casio didn’t, because they’ve issued a DMCA takedown notice for the project’s GitHub repository.

Editor’s Update: [Tom Fleet] reports that GitHub has completed the DMCA review and found the code repo does not infringe on Casio’s IP. However, it appears the copyright claim on the YouTube video has not been resolved and that video remains unavailable. However, that video is still available on the Internet Archive.

This is a picture of Barbra Streisand, who might almost be the patron saint of unintended consequences. Unknown author / Public domain
This is a picture of Barbra Streisand, who might almost be the patron saint of unintended consequences. Unknown author / Public domain.

We’re not lawyers, but if you’d care to visit our original coverage and watch the video in full, you’ll see that the ESP does not in any way tap into the calculator’s functions. The epoxy blob over the Casio processor is intact and no wires connect to the calculator mainboard, so it is difficult to imagine how any Casio code could have found its way into a repository full of ESP8266 code for the Arduino IDE. A quick search for “Hack-Casio-Calculator” on GitHub, at the time of publishing, turned up the relevant code despite Casio’s takedown, and we can’t see what they’re on about. Maybe you can?

Over the years there have been many attempts to use the DMCA on projects in our community. Some have been legitimate, others have been attempts to suppress exposure of woeful security, and still more have been laughably absurd. This one seems to us to edge into the final category, because it is difficult to see how the project described could contain any Casio code at all. It would be entirely legitimate to  issue a DMCA takedown had the epoxy blob been removed and Casio’s code been retrieved from the calculator chip (and we’d certainly cover that story!), but as far as we can see taking a scalpel to a calculator’s case and stuffing a module behind the solar panel window does not come close.

It’s evident that Casio do not like the idea of one of their calculators being turned into a cheating device, and we understand why that might be the case. But to take the DMCA route has served only to bring more publicity to the affair, and those of us with long memories know that this can only lead to one conclusion.

Thanks [Tom] and others for the tip.

97 thoughts on “DMCA Takedown Issued Over Casio Code That Wasn’t

      1. I understand that French is a popular language in certain circles. 😉 sadly, they tighten down the screws every version.

        And sellers on amazon/ebay never show the backs without the case.

        P.s. stay away from the yellow ones. Aka stolen classroom goods.

        1. Ndless to say, it’s not worth talking about.

          The caclulator company industry is designed to use one or two good master chip and later fry, nuke or lock down parts of the chip.

          It starts to get ridiculous.

          Same with Nvidia and ATI where one or two resistors would lock down an entire firmware or GPU capability. So instead of paying a hefty sum of say $350 per two sli’d 770 GTXs you would have to pay 1-2 k for a Grid Workstation GPU.

          Pretty stupid and fairly queer of them.

      2. TI did that probably because they don’t want to be banned from classrooms for allowing custom firmware that enables cheating. Now they can tell the people in charge that they went the extra mile to ensure conformity. The influence of the education system on calculator development is the root of all evil.

      3. Way back when I was on my schools ACM technical talk committee, we had him give a talk about his TI work. I still have the recording somewhere, It was a great presentation.

      4. I understand the logic behind “I paid for the hardware” and thus one should have full access to it. However getting frustrated, putting blame on a company, and saying they’re wrong is actually wrong. In a literal sense you paid for hardware with encryption keys efused on the device and nowhere was the hardware advertised to be open. What I mean is there’s a distinct difference between the secureboot enabled STMicro MCU shipping in production hardware that you actually paid for versus the unlocked MCU of the same model number that you order from digikey that you wish you had.

        1. You are speaking nonsense gibberish like some sort of corporate shill.

          You are a wage-slave working for social media contracted to say anything from them recieving bad attention. Due to their overarching greed and hubris.

          They don’t care about you or the logic you had to construct. Presently, if you were told to say up is down you would.

          This is NOT the hill you want fight on. The only reason Casio and TI can get away with this shit is because they are attempting to “defend” their multi-million dollar contracts.

          Because Phucket Island you. They could be replaced by an ARM chip at 1/10th the cost.

      1. That would require evidence that Casio does not in fact hold the copyright to Casio code. It is next to impossible that claim is true, let alone there is evidence for it.
        This is the only claim within a DMCA take down request covered under penalty of perjury, specifically that they hold the copyright to the thing they claim they hold the copyright to. There is no legal requirement that the thing they hold the copyright on, and what is being taken down, are related to each other.

        Also please take note that I don’t agree with the DMCA, this is just how it is written.

        1. This is a suspiciously contrived interpretation of law. Following this reasoning, it would be acceptable to claim that this car here is my stolen blender, and it should thus be seized.
          This only happens because thewhole process happens outside of court, between defenseless individuals and corps with unlimited resources.

          1. 1. Casio can claim they own the copyright to their calculator, because they almost certainly do.
            2. Casio cannot claim to own the copyright to some independently developed code for ESP32.

            It’s easier to show perjury if the claims are false. If the take down notice is carefully worded such that Casio is claiming they have the copyright, and that your program infringes on it in some material way. Then that is supposed to be enough. (IANAL)

            Shoddily done and done in a harassing or bad faith manner, that is going to make a counter suit far more likely to succeed. I think it boils down to exactly details of the notice and the tedious details of how DMCA is applied today.

    1. It’s not nonsense. It’s perjury.

      “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.” This is a lie, and it is perjury.

    1. Most like will get taken down because its a go to court and potentialy lose and have to pay for the court fees
      and/or fine or just take it down in knowing that can get rebuilt by anyone with half a brain.

  1. There should be increasing repercussions for unrighteous claims like this. 1 unjust claim, 1 week banned from filing any more claims. 2 wrong claims in a specified timeframe, 1 month ban. 3, a year. This will let single users/company’s still pursue righteous claims. But stops these company’s that just want to cash in on settlements without even looking at what they are claiming.

    1. I wish there just simply wasn’t such a concept as intellectual property ownership. We can’t own ideas; that’s not how human thought works. Everything is built from existing fragments, and as we lock them down we only chip away at the realm of the possible.

      1. That would kill any small entrepreneur. Imagine if Microsoft stole Facebook from Zuckerberg, or Google from Brin and Paige. Do you think any of them could have competed with Microsoft?
        Fact is, ideas have ownership. Not everyone can come up with them. There is work that goes into them, and they are a limited resource. Saying that you cannot own intellectual property would either kill any chance normal people have to open a business, or would completely stifle any innovation.

        1. I have to agree. I think that what can and cant be claimed as patented needs to be limited, and that penalties need to be strict against trolls, scaled to the size of the companies they represent (even a large company should be capable of fuxing themselves out of existence for filing too many frivolous lawsuits).

          But ideas and the ability to execute on them are the engineering equivalent of writing music, painting a picture or carving a statue. They are the art. They are just as valuable. There has to be some protections.

        2. What about Facebook was a new idea? It’s just a ripoff of some frat kids’ idea to rip off MySpace.

          Google’s unique idea was their search algorithm. As far as I can tell it’s only protection was that they kept it a trade secret. If they patented it then you could read all about it on the USPTO website. Or.. Google Patent!

          While I do see your point I think the concept of intellectual property has been ruined to the point of doing more harm than good. There are too many broad patents, too many “with a…” patents. Too many patent trolls. A new entrepreneur can’t afford to hire enough people to do enough research on existing patents and even if they did they could never afford to fight one of the big corps in court. And the patent offices just keep rubber stamping bad patents that they probably don’t even read.

          It’s been this way for a long time too. Just look what happened to Edwin Howard Armstrong. That’s at least one life ended early due to the patent system. At this point we are probably 100 years behind where we would be technologically if it were not for patents.

    1. DMCA needs a near total reboot. Even the copyright office thinks that it’s broken beyond repair and being frequently abused by trolls, corporations and platforms alike.

  2. This is probably just posturing for show, they don’t want those in academia thinking their product is hackable for cheating on tests. Of course every school I ever attended had some kind of devil’s bargain with TI and only allows the ancient and overpriced TI83 for anything.

  3. Love the fact that an enormous company can misuse DMCAs with zero repercussions and get exactly what they want forcing any host to censor anything that they feel might not rEfLeCt PoSiTiVeLy on their brand

  4. As a former customer of Casio I must say, that I had terrible experiences with their customer “service”. I never again bought anything from Casio and never will. So quite frankly I’m not surprised. Please don’t buy from these w*****rs

    1. About a year ago I’ve bought myself the Casio EX-S770 camera f.r about 300 euros. Around summer it already broke down because somehow sand got into the camera. I found that weird, because I only was near a beach. That cost me 100 euros, because Casio said, this wasnt covered by warranty. I got it back two months ago. Today the next fault happened: The screen died. It’s just dead. Without a display the camera is practically worthless. I am just enraged that I’ve spent so much for a camera that broke down twice this year. And now I have to deal with the Casio customer-service again. I’m not ready to spend more money on that.

  5. Aside from the fact that the DMCA notice is utter bs and send to be more of a threat than a legal case, I wonder how the DMCA has jurisdiction outside the US because the person who made this seems to be located in India. At best they can take down the GitHub code from being accessed from inside the US

    1. Unfortunately, the US thinks their laws apply to everyone anywhere, while no other country’s laws apply to them anywhere. But no cynicism required in this case: Github is a US company with their servers likely hosted in the US.

    1. Do people still buy calculators? between my phone app and a spreadsheet, I’m well covered.

      The claim is obviously false, as the epoxy blob in very unlikely to contain any Casio source code.

          1. Heh, yah, I gots 3 flavors of fancy graphing calcs, 2 other programmables, and the default angle mangler I whip out (trig functions etc) is the dollar store ASAKI, 56 functions! 10 Digits!

            Probably because it’s Dumb AF and I don’t have to spend 5 minutes re-familiarising myself with which way round it does it’s algebra. Hammer-hammer-hammer-result !

      1. I do for quick quotes and book keeping at work, a physical calculator is much faster than a touch screen for me. that said, when I need to do anything more than basic maths and percentages, I use the computer thats just to the left of said calculator.

  6. Everyone takes their pot shots but it seems it wasn’t Casio making the fuss. The article credits REACT for this, and it’s not (yet) obvious whether REACT was prompted by Casio to get involved or if they’re being opportunistic something-justice-warriors. Casio will probably try to save face by making a press release about it, anyway. REACT will probably try to save face by repeating “we take infringement very seriously” as if that somehow legitimizes knee-jerk nonsense.

    This reminds me of the Barberton Police who couldn’t simply spend another thirty seconds gaining a proper awareness of a situation before pointing a gun at my head.

    1. Having been one of the people who submitted this tip, I find this to be an important point. REACT is authorized on Casio’s behalf to make these claims, so Casio should be able to take action to reverse this, but it does appear they authorized REACT to take this action, even if they didn’t specifically request this one. REACT needs to be mentioned, but Casio should be held responsible for authorizing a group to take this action.

    1. Any host in the US is legally required to respond to DMCA requests. One popular alternative, GitLab, has their own policy: It’s actually worse than GitHub’s, because they don’t publish every DMCA request publicly. If you decided to host your own server, a company could just send a DMCA takedown request to your hosting provider and get your entire site taken down.

  7. What surprises me is that in this case there is no presumption of innocence. The repository was shut down without any investigation. Isn’t that a violation of civil rights?

    Nevertheless I wrote a mental note: Next time you hack an equipment, be sure to hack the counterfeit.

    1. There are a great many cases in which presumption of innocence is not applicable. Ever get a speeding ticket? It’s totally unconstitutional (the non-presumption of innocence, that is), but everyone seems to accept it as just the way it is.

      1. You’re barking up the wrong constitutional tree. The court presumes you’re innocent, not the police. In fact, the cop that’s ticketing you should know you’re not innocent, otherwise he’s harassing innocent people or perjuring himself. If you’re paying a fine without contesting it, that’s on you. You could get a lawyer (or foolishly represent yourself) and fight the fine, even going so far as to demand a jury, but odds are you won’t have any evidence to counter whatever is presented against you. This includes any statements you may have made. (There is a reason most traffic stops begin with the phrase, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” )

  8. This is probably because Casio, much like TI and HP, depend on the education market in the US for profit. If one of their calculators is known for being easily modifiable to allow cheating, chances are it will be banned. There may even be a chance all Casio calculators will banned. Casio don’t want that repository taken down because of copyright. They want it taken down because it makes them look bad.

    1. If they were worried about looking bad, maybe they wouldn’t make up a bunch of provably wrong things about the contents of the repo. I’m still going with Hanlon’s Razor. also, REACT

      1. They don’t care about looking bad to you, me, or any other developer. They care about looking bad to the people that say which calculators are banned in classrooms and which are allowed. That’s where the money is. This stunt of theirs will mean a few hundred people at most won’t buy their calculators. Now compare that to the volume they would lose if they’re not allowed in classrooms any longer.

        1. “Oh no, everyone will assume that Casio == problem and banishing that name == solution.” I can’t see any reason for it to have been built in a Casio other than availability and convenience; copycats will be creative with whatever they have. So this is ridiculous. Here’s a rhetorical question: would Casio[‘s representatives] be correctly anticipating widespread narrow-mindedness, or are they just projecting their own stupidity? The joke is that some comments here seem to already be either anticipating or projecting that onto Casio[‘s representatives]. Don’t assume, and especially don’t assume that everyone *would* make the same assumptions, and be even more insanely cautious before convincing yourself that they *should*.

          1. I was talking about Casio and their representatives, not the government. I said the preemptive problem solving strategy you expect them to be applying here doesn’t make very much sense to me. What I seriously think is that speculating about why this happened or trying to deconstruct the association’s (or this company’s) motive is silly. Maybe that’s not a poker face. Maybe that’s their only face, and their mindless mistake can be taken at face value, and acting mindlessly is something they do on Tuesday. We don’t know.

          2. “I was talking about Casio and their representatives, not the government.”
            Umm… no. This is exactly what you said:
            “would Casio[‘s representatives] be correctly anticipating widespread narrow-mindedness, or are they just projecting their own stupidity?”
            So unless you mean that Casio’s representatives would be expecting widespread narrow-mindedness from themselves, you were not talking about them.

            The “preemptive problem solving strategy” doesn’t make sense to you because you fail to realise that the people Casio are trying to appease are not us, it’s the government. The authoritative bodies that decide which calculators are allowed in classrooms and which aren’t. Those bodies have no attachment to Casio and would drop them at the first sign of trouble coming their way. That’s what Casio is doing: trying to kerb any damage to their reputation even before there are any rumors of said damage. Because when that happens, those governing bodies have to make reports justifying their decision to allow Casio calculators in classrooms and explaining why they didn’t take action. No one wants that.

            If this were TI, things would be different. But Casio is small potatoes. Not worth the trouble. That’s why Casio is going above and beyond, trying to be as quiet as possible and cause as little trouble as possible *for the government*. They couldn’t care less that a very small community of hackers is upset.

          3. I think that you are proving my point about everyone ultimately not knowing what other people are thinking. The joke is that I’m trying, while Casio is not trying, to actually communicate.

            To be clear, what I thought you meant and what I meant when I say ‘the government’ was “elected and appointed officials who run an entire society”, not “people who run learning institutions”. That second group are the only ones who I suppose ought to care, but (back on topic) I would never expect Casio (and/or REACT) to be so terrified of anyone in charge of anything that they scurry around, desperate to silence anyone who shows that Bad Things can happen in the vicinity of their trademark, all while LYING about it. Isn’t that a Bad Thing, too? Shouldn’t they be careful to follow all the same principles as everyone, in order to continue being a respectable producer of useful tools? That is what I said is ridiculous.

            So you can add Occam’s Razor to Hanlon’s– all this is overkill. At face value, without access to more evidence, someone made a stupid mistake. That’s the simplest explanation. I wish someone else would stop trying to convince everyone that it’s reasonable, understandable, and maybe even not that stupid after all.

          4. “I would never expect Casio (and/or REACT) to be so terrified of anyone in charge of anything that they scurry around, desperate to silence anyone who shows that Bad Things can happen in the vicinity of their trademark, all while LYING about it. Isn’t that a Bad Thing, too?”
            As we’ve seen from other commenters, it’s not technically a lie. And what the people in charge see, if they even see anything, is a company making very sure their calculators are secured.

            “I wish someone else would stop trying to convince everyone that it’s reasonable, understandable, and maybe even not that stupid after all.”
            No one here said anything even remotely close to that.

        2. Not that they’d see it this way, but if a kid’s smart and skilled enough to pull off a hack like this to cheat in math class, he (or she) is probably smart enough to not need to cheat in math class.

          1. True, but it proves that those calculators can hide cheating devices. And how long until kids can just buy a modded one?
            Now, i don’t agree with what Casio is doing at all. But you can see how it could threaten their access to the classrooms.

          2. Fanciest calculator in the world won’t save a school, book or student from the hubris, stupidity and disinterest of apathetic teacher.

            You don’t know what you are talking about.

        3. Maybe one should point those deciding instances to this issue and ask them what else Casio claims that might be totally wrong. Like, beeing not useable to cheat, or suitable for exams, or whatnot. Then Casio might look bad to the people that matter

    1. That’s like calling Sony a stereo manufacturer. Imagine giving up a revenue stream. “Nah, sorry. I mow lawns fer sure, but raking leaves? Not my thing and I’m kind of insulted that you even asked.”

  9. It seems to me that the DMCA needs penalties for misuse of takedown requests issued with it. If the attorneys high-fiving themselves for finding a “live one” had to pay, say $25,000, every time they scr*w up, they’d most certainly be more careful about it.

    1. That’s the key I think – while the legal bunnies get paid what ever the outcome with no consequences it will happen continually each frivolous claim needs to be met with a hefty fine.

    2. Bloated dead weight companies with middle management, accounting, HR and Legal depts attempting to justify thier existences. Yeah, this is abuse.

      False claims should force them to pay restitution to holders and independent IP owners and contributors.

      The very least have their ability limited and unable to shoot people with the DMCA remember this was Bill Clinton’s and the democrats fault!

  10. This seems like a case of lawyers googling “casio hack” turning up this repo, and issuing a takedown notice with no actual engineer reviewing it before hand. Once sound technical minds review this, i’m sure it will be overturned.

  11. Oh, good ol’ copyright laws.

    It can and will be used by big boys to do what ever they want to. They always can say “sorry ’bout that, some copyright monitor company did mistake” after many many weeks, when DCMA bullshit is finally handled and complaints revoked.

    But when you develop some Linux-modules for embedded devices, then you find some bigass company is using your GPL’ed work but does publish sources, nobody gives a flying fck. No, the big company just harasses you about “reverse engineering their product which is direct violation of licenses”.

  12. First every Casio model, though. And put it somewhere where they have a email filter to delete all DMCA notices.
    Casio is completely misusing DMCA, they need punishment.

  13. sigh
    After some minutes of searching, the officer asked the man, “Are you *sure* you dropped your keys near this lamppost?”
    The man said, “No! I dropped them over in the street.”
    “Well then why are you looking on the sidewalk!?”
    “Because over here I can see the ground.”

    1. The Streisand effect: trying to hide something only makes it more famous. In this case it probably means: trying to stop people from making Casio mods will only make more people want to make Casio mods.

  14. “Editor’s Update: [Tom Fleet] reports that GitHub has completed the DMCA review and found the code repo does infringe on Casio’s IP.”

    I looked on twitter, where does it acknowledge the infringement in that post? What did I miss?

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