Sony sues over PS3 hacking – but will ‘fair use’ argument win the day? – Console news

Playstation root constitutes piracy, argues company – letting slip it has sold 41m consoles – but law precedent set last summer may be on the hackers’ side

Photo by artwork_rebel on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Sony is suing a group of hackers who worked out how to break the Playstation 3’s firmware system so that it could be made to run any applications.

The hack could have allowed any sort of program or game – including pirated ones – to run on the console. Sony argues in its lawsuit that that constitutes computer fraud and copyright infringement – and accuses those involved of “distributing software, tools and instructions … that circumvent the technological protection measures in the PS3 system and facilitate the counterfeiting of video games.”

But one of the hackers caught up in the controversy, George Hotz, told the BBC that he was “comfortable” that Sony’s action would fail. “I’m a firm believer in digital rights,” he said. “I would expect a company that prides itself on intellectual property to be well-versed in the provisions of the law, so I am disappointed in Sony’s current action.”

Hotz, 21, said he had consulted a lawyer and that he felt confident that the action had no basis.

Hotz’s role was to figure out how to break the firmware and, apparently, to demonstrate it on YouTube and discuss it on Twitter.

His defence will probably rest on recent cases which have shown that “jailbreaking” items for “fair use” is legitimate under US law. A landmark case last July allowed such jailbreaking – which gives people full access to the file system of the device – under “fair use”, for personal use, criticism or satire. That, for instance, allows people to jailbreak Apple’s iPhone and use it on other networks.

Hotz has previously “jailbroken” – broken the security on – Apple’s iPhone. He is named along with more than 100 people who belong to a hacking group called Fail0verflow (of which he is not himself a member). That group demonstrated last December that they had worked out how to break through the PS3’s security system, using what they called “simple algebra”.

Legitimate games and movies will only play on the PS3 because the discs provide a password or signature “key” to the encryption system, which recognises them as authorised products. But with the key – essentially a long sequence of numbers – Fail0verflow coders would be able to compile their own custom firmware and then build applications that could run on any system.

However, they did not actually reveal the key at the presentation, at the Chaos Communications hackers conference in Berlin.

Even so, Sony is going after them. The court filing, in the Northern District of California, seeks restitution under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Sony says it has sold “over 41m PS3 systems worldwide since its launch” – a data point that may be found useful.

For an action to succeed under the DMCA, any protection system doesn’t have to be uncrackable, or state-of-the-art; all that’s required is for the company employing it to show that they have made an effort, and that it is non-trivial to crack.

It will be interesting to see how Hotz’s defence and that for the Fail0verflow team plays out: Hotz, being in the US, might have a trickier time of it if he did distribute tools that are shown to break the DMCA. By contrast the Fail0verflow team may have it easier, since they demonstrated the existence of a weakness, but did not actively pursue it. But DMCA lawsuits are notoriously complex.

A couple of areas look less solid for Sony: its claims that the Hotz and the rest broke the Playstation Network’s terms of service agreement, that they interfered with the experience of other PSN members, and that they were trespassing on Sony’s “right” to own the PS3.

You can see the document in the embed below:





Intellectual property


Charles Arthur © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds is updated regularly every day with all latest games industry news.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply