Bans against reverse engineering, like the one recently announced by Microsoft's Skype unit, are the latest front in the open source vs. proprietary war.
There is little doubt that the law is on Skype's side. As with the whole question of business patents, this is court-made law that legislators are unlikely to overturn. The case is Bowers vs. Baystate Technologies, and it used Massachusetts law to create something like the failed UCITA, legalizing bans.
UCITA, for those who don't remember, was an effort early in this century to impose bans on reverse-engineering under state laws across the country. Activists fought it back. But before they could celebrate their victory, the Court of Appeals for the Federal District, which is generally the high court for patent cases, lowered the boom on everyone.
When you keep people from reverse-engineering something, you are explicitly preventing them from looking at how it works. You are explicitly preventing them from inventing a way around it.
But here's the real problem I have with Skype's decision, or any such decision banning reverse engineering of code.
It's a security risk.