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George "geohot" Hotz, circa 2007  (Source: ISEF on FlickrGeorg)
Sony plans to put the DMCA amendments and its foes legal budgets to the test

About a week and a half ago, George "geohot" Hotz and the team of firmware hackers dubbed fail0verflow (Hector Cantero, Sven Peter, "Bushing," "Segher," and other anonymous members) released the root keys for the Sony PS3 via a smart phone hack.  Those keys allow virtually any app to be run on the PS3, a critical step to re-enabling the Linux support that Sony abandoned.

Needless to say Sony was less than enthused.  Claiming the release would promote piracy; Sony yesterday filed a restraining order [blog] against geohot and the members of fail0verflow citing Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act violations and copyright violations.

Today they followed up that up with a full copyright infringement lawsuit [Scribd].  The suit was filed in San Francisco District Court.

Sony claims that geohot, in circumvent its copy protections.  It says that the geohot and the other named defendants:

  • Violated section §1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which forbids bypassing access control measures;
  • Violated section §1030 the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which forbids accessing computers without authorization;
  • Contributed to copyright infringement in violation of section §501 of the Copyright Act
  • Violated trespass, "common law misappropriation", breach of contract, "tortious interference with contractual relations" as per Penal Code §502 of the California Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act (commonly referred to as the California Computer Crime Law)

We're not lawyers, but as Jay-Z says we "know a little bit".  But all of these charges seem pretty tenuous.

The DMCA accusation is weakened by the Library of Congress's recent addition the DMCA, stating that in the cell phone arena it is permissible to:

Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications, when they have been lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset. 

If it is permissible for cell phone apps, it seems unclear why it wouldn't be similarly permissible for gaming consoles.

Similarly, the Computer Fraud accusation seems tenuous, given that geohot and others reportedly owned legally purchased PS3s and thus should be authorized to access them.

Lastly, the California Computer Crime Law violations seem somewhat hard to prove, given that Sony will have to establish their business was being significantly harmed via the distribution of the root keys.

Still Sony is a company with a lot of money and power so geohot, et al better retain top notch legal aid and better find someone(s) (quickly) to bankroll that legal campaign.  Of course, given all of his clashes with Apple, we're guessing Mr. Hotz has a pretty good lawyer on retainer.



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RE: Too late
By Lugaidster on 1/12/2011 6:42:41 PM , Rating: 4
To me the message is, do it anonymously.


RE: Too late
By mattclary on 1/12/2011 6:55:45 PM , Rating: 2
Abso-freaking-lutely.


RE: Too late
By Makaveli on 1/12/2011 7:45:06 PM , Rating: 1
While doing it anonymously is the best idea it just doesn't work with hackers. After they have spent thousands of man hours trying to hack the system and succeed. Everyone must know they did it. The problem is you are telling the lawyers where to find you.

Not only did he do it for the challenge i've seen quotes saying he wanted sony to hire him.

If it was me I would have hacked it and be a ghost in a sea of a billion faces on the internet.

As someone else said all sony has to do it tie you up in court for a few years and your life will be fucked and they will continue to move on and will just step on the next bug that decides to shit on their breakfast.

Money rules the court system and sony will smile and laugh in your face while you are going bankrupt.

At the end of the day i'm glad he did it but I think he could have been smarter about it.


RE: Too late
By vol7ron on 1/12/2011 10:23:23 PM , Rating: 2
Unless, you're part of a community that wishes to fund the court fees.

Not to mention, frivolous lawsuits (as this may be), are often payed for by the plaintiff.

I can just see Jobs saying, "you get geo and others off our back, we'll work out that tv/phone deal you mentioned."


RE: Too late
By Flunk on 1/12/2011 11:03:09 PM , Rating: 1
You just need to do it in a country with less draconian DRM laws. Canada, the UK, most of Europe but not France.


"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates














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