GNU Keyring for PalmOS and Safekeys: introduction

introduction | user interface similarities | internal similarities | apparent violations | reapertech's response | who is reapertech?

These pages document the remarkable similarities observed between two software products: GNU Keyring for PalmOS by Martin Pool, and SafeKeys, published by Reaper Technologies. Reaper Technologies claim copyright of SafeKeys in their license document.

As of 9 September 2000, Reaper Technologies have removed the SafeKeys page from their web site. As their license allows redistribution, I am making their original and unmodified package available on this site as solely for the purposes of evaluating these claims. You are welcome to run and compare the two applications to verify the information on this pages, even if SafeKeys turns out to be illegal in general. (Warning: there are bugs in this pre-release version of GNU Keyring and apparently also in SafeKeys, so you should not use them for day-to-day data storage.)

There are very substantial similarities between the two products. The basic concept, of a keyring of private information secured by a master password is the same, but it's a design that could be reinvented independently.

More interesting is that the user interface is almost exactly the same between the two products. Except for one small enhancement, and changing the product name, they're almost identical. In fact, so many details are the same that it took me as the author of GNU Keyring only a brief look at SafeKeys to see not only that it was related, but what precise version it derives from.

They also exhibit many of the same bugs. While the user interface could be the same through careful cloning of externally-visible features, the bugs could almost only come about through copying at the code level. Somebody would have to make exactly the same decisions and mistakes as I made to develop the same bugs.

I am a little amused that I was humble enough to call this a buggy pre-release version, whereas Reaper Technologies granted it a version number of 1.3.548, implying it was a solid and post-release product. They're very kind.

There are numerous other small and inconclusive similarities, including the filenames. GNU Keyring uses filenames in the format keyring-VERSION-LANGUAGE.prc, where LANGUAGE is a two letter country code. I made this change in version 0.9, when Keyring first added support for national languages that now include German and Spanish, as well as the original English. The SafeKeys binary is called SafeKeys-1.3.548-en.prc, despite that they only seem to have English language support.

If SafeKeys does incorporate code from GNU Keyring for PalmOS, then it would have clearly violated the license of GNU Keyring, and therefore Reaper Technologies would have breached the copyright of that program. However, Reaper Technologies have denied that this is the case.

I encourage you, the reader, to download both applications, draw your own conclusions, and let me know what you think. I will also publish the response from Reaper Techologies because I want you to have a completely balanced and objective picture.

Copyright © 2000 by Martin Pool. All rights reserved.
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