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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: Good job Sony
By nikon133 on 1/13/2011 3:40:35 PM , Rating: 0
It is almost as if some people here - this being a PC dominant web site - are supporting GeoH secretly hoping that consoles will go PC way with piracy and exploits, thus forcing game developers to start paying more attention to PC as consoles' advantages will be lost.

I really hope Sony will manage to stop this exploit from going rampart. While in theory I wouldn't mind having VLC-like media player on my PS3, chance of loosing hack-free online gaming is for me much bigger downside than getting unlimited media playback on PS3. If nothing else, I can mitigate lack of decent media player on PS3 by connecting HTPC to a TV (which I already did). I cannot mitigate loss of hack-free gaming at present, PS3 being the most safe on-line capable gaming system.


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