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Library of Congress Rejects Exemption, Rules JailBreaking PS3 Illegal


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94w ago - As of October 26, 2012 the Library of Congress has rejected a proposed exemption that would allow for the JailBreaking of video game consoles including the PlayStation 3, ruling that PS3 JailBreaking is to be considered illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ([Register or Login to view links]).

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Because the Register determined that the evidentiary record failed to support a finding that the inability to circumvent access controls on video game consoles has, or over the course of the next three years likely would have, a substantial adverse impact on the ability to make noninfringing uses, the Register declined to recommend the proposed class.

Below are the details, to quote: "B. Video game consoles - software interoperability

Because the Register determined that the evidentiary record failed to support a finding that the inability to circumvent access controls on video game consoles has, or over the course of the next three years likely would have, a substantial adverse impact on the ability to make noninfringing uses, the Register declined to recommend the proposed class.

EFF, joined by Andrew "bunnie" Huang ("Huang" ), FSF, SaurikIT, LLC (SaurikIT), and numerous individual supporters, sought an exemption to permit the circumvention of access controls on video game console computer code so that the consoles could be used with non-vendor-approved software that is lawfully acquired.

EFF observed that modern video game consoles are increasingly sophisticated computing devices that are capable of running not only games but "entire computer operating systems." All three major video game manufacturers, however - Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo - have deployed technological restrictions that force console purchasers to limit their operating systems and software exclusively to vendor-approved offerings. These restrictions require a console owner who would like to install a computer operating system or run a "homebrew" (i.e., independently developed) application to defeat a number of technical measures before they can do so - a process that proponents refer to as "jailbreaking." Proponents sought an exemption they proposed would enable interoperability only with "lawfully obtained software programs," proponents asserted that the exemption would not authorize or foster infringing activities.

In its comments, EFF explained the circumvention process with reference to Sony's PlayStation 3 ("PS3" ). Sony's PS3 employs a series of technological protections so that the console can only install and run authenticated, encrypted code. One such measure is the encryption of the console's firmware, which restricts access to the console. The firmware must be authenticated by the console's "bootloader" software and decrypted before it can be used. Once the firmware has been authenticated and decrypted, it, in turn, authenticates applications before they can be installed or run on the PS3. EFF added that Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii employ similar authentication procedures as technological protection measures.

In further support of its requested exemption, EFF recounted that when Sony launched the PS3 in 2006, it included a software application called "OtherOS" that permitted users to install Linux and UNIX operating systems on their consoles. EFF provided examples of researchers who were able to use these earlier PS3 consoles in lieu of other computer systems to conduct various forms of scientific research, citing an Air Force project that made use of 1700 PS3s, as well as two academic projects employing clusters of PS3s to create high-performance computers. Some of these researchers chose to use clustered PS3s because they were less expensive than the available alternatives. In 2010, however, Sony issued a firmware update for the PS3 that removed the OtherOS functionality. PS3 users were not forced to upgrade, but the failure to adopt the upgrade precluded access to certain gameplay features and might make repair or replacement of the gaming system more difficult.

EFF further asserted that none of the three major console manufacturers currently allows the installation of independently developed applications on their consoles unless the developer may require the developer to license costly development tools. As a result, hobbyists and homebrew developers engage in circumvention to defeat technical restrictions in order to create and run games and other applications on the PS3, Wii, and Xbox consoles.

EFF noted over 450 independently created games and applications for Nintendo's Wii available on the homebrew site WiiBrew.org, as well as some 18 homebrew games and several nongaming applications developed for the PS3 - including a file backup program called "Multiman" and an application that transforms the PS3 into an FTP server - and a handful of other homebrew applications for other platforms and handheld gaming devices. EFF pointed out that there is no strong homebrew community for the Xbox360, attributing this phenomenon to a Microsoft development program that allows developers to publish games "with relative ease."

Proponents argued that manufacturers' technological restrictions on video game consoles not only constrain consumer choice but also inhibit scientific research and homebrew development activities. Pointing to the Register's determination in the last Section 1201 rulemaking that circumvention of technological measures on smartphones to enable interoperability with lawfully obtained applications was a permissible fair use, proponents urged that the same logic should apply here. According to proponents, the restrictions on video game consoles do not protect the value or integrity of copyrighted works but instead reflect a business decision to restrict the applications that users can run on their devices.

EFF explained that a "large community" of console jailbreakers currently exists for all three major video game consoles but noted that such jailbreakers face potential liability under Section 1201(a)(1). As evidence of this, EFF cited recent litigation pursued by Sony against an individual and others who developed a method for jailbreaking the PS3. EFF explained that in January 2010, George Hotz (also known by his online name "GeoHot" ) published a method for among other things, that the defendants had conspired to violate the DMCA.

Finally, a few supporters of EFF's proposal suggested potential scenarios in which a console might need to be jailbroken to effectuate a repair but did not provide any specific evidence of actual repair issues.

The proposal to permit circumvention of video game consoles was vigorously opposed by the Entertainment Software Association ("ESA" ), Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC ("SCEA" or "Sony" ), and Joint Creators. Opponents filed extensive comments in response to EFF's request.

ESA characterized video game consoles as "the center of an intellectual property ecosystem" which makes copyrighted content readily and legally accessible, stating that the entire system depends upon effective and secure access controls. ESA explained that there are at least two potential access controls at issue. To play an unauthorized application, the user must circumvent not only the encryption on the console's firmware, but also modify the firmware to defeat the authentication check access control. It added that once modified, the firmware will operate, but the access controls will be circumvented, effectively allowing the console to run unauthorized content.

SCEA's comments focused on its PS3 console (the dominant example addressed in EFF's proposal). SCEA confirmed that the technological restrictions controlling access to the PS3 protect both its firmware and the copyrighted video games that are developed for that system. As explained by SCEA, allowing circumvention of the PS3 access controls would mean that the basic security checks could be skipped and the firmware freely modified to bypass or eliminate the process by which the video games are authenticated for use on the console, thus making it "virtually certain that successful hackers, under the guise of the exemption, will create the tools games."

Throughout their comments, opponents stressed piracy as an overriding concern, noting that once a user circumvents a console's security measures - even for an ostensibly benign purpose - it becomes a vehicle for unauthorized content. In their view, EFF's attempt to limit the exemption to interoperability with lawful applications would make no difference in practice, because "all known methods for circumventing game console [technological protection measures] necessarily eliminate the measures' ability to preclude the play, reproduction and distribution of infringing content."

In support of their contentions regarding the link between circumvention and piracy, opponents provided documentation of console "hacking packages" that come bundled with applications to play pirated content. They further noted, again with supporting materials, that the homebrew channel installed with a popular Wii hacking package automatically includes applications that enable the console to play pirated content. They pointed out, with still further support in the record, that the "Multiman" backup system referenced by EFF as an example of a useful application enabled by jailbroken PS3s is used to decrypt and copy protected PS3 games so they can be illegally distributed. Other documentary evidence submitted by opponents showed that the PS3 FTP file server application described by EFF is used as a means to transfer illegal files. Opponents also furnished multiple examples of advertisements for console jailbreaking services that included (for an all-in price) a library of pirated games.

Opponents pointed to online forums and other sources that specifically referenced George Hotz's hack of the PS3 - described sympathetically by EFF in its proposal - as permitting users to play pirated games and content, and provided representative postings. The documentation evidenced a broadly shared perception in the gaming community that jailbreaking leads to piracy would negatively impact the development of new games.

Possibly referring to Hotz, SCEA elaborated on the hacking issue by commenting specifically on the events surrounding a 2010 breach of its PS3 system. In that case, hackers announced that they had successfully circumvented the technological measures on PS3 firmware, which was accomplished by exploiting vulnerabilities in Linux operating in the OtherOS environment. Although the hackers stated that they did not endorse or condone piracy, one hacker subsequently published PS3's encryption keys on the internet, which were quickly used to create jailbreak software to permit the use of illegally made games. Sony saw an immediate rise in the number of illegal copies but no increase in homebrew development, while sales of legitimate software "declined dramatically." As a result of the hack, Sony decided it had no choice but to discontinue OtherOS and issued a system upgrade that disabled OtherOS functionality for those who wished to maintain access to Sony's PlayStation network.

Mindful of the exemption established by the Librarian in the prior proceeding to permit jailbreaking of smartphones, opponents urged that video game consoles are not the equivalent of iPhones, asserting that the technological measures on game consoles legitimately protect the creation and dissemination of copyrighted works by discouraging pirated content and protecting creators' investment in new games. Opponents distinguished the development of a video game - a long and intensive process "akin to motion picture production" involving a team of developers that can cost tens of millions of dollars - from the relative ease and inexpensiveness of creating a smartphone application. According to opponents, the development of new video games would be significantly impaired without reliable technological protections to protect developers' investments.

homebrew programs, opponents observed that while EFF's request focused on the PS3, the homebrew community for that device is small, as evidenced by the fact that less than one-tenth of one percent of PS3 users (fewer than 2,000 in all) had made use of the PS3's OtherOS feature. In any event, they noted, there are over 4,000 devices on which Linux can be run without the need for circumvention, and homebrew games and applications can be played on a wide array of open platform devices. Opponents further observed that each of the three major video game console manufacturers has a program to support independent developers in creating and publishing compatible games.

Finally, opponents disputed proponents' suggestion that circumvention is necessary to repair broken game consoles, explaining that each console maker offers authorized repair services free of charge for consoles still under warranty for a nominal fee thereafter.

Although EFF sought to rely upon the Register's 2010 determination that modification of smartphone software to permit interoperability with non-vendor-approved applications was a fair use, the Register concluded that the fair use analysis for video consoles diverged from that in the smartphone context. Unlike in the case of smartphones, the record demonstrated that access controls on gaming consoles protect not only the console firmware, but the video games and applications that run on the console as well. The evidence showed that video games are far more difficult and complex to produce than smartphone applications, requiring teams of developers and potential investments in the millions of dollars. While the access controls at issue might serve to further manufacturers' business interests, they also protect highly valuable expressive works - many of which are created and owned by the manufacturers - in addition to console firmware itself.

claimed would be enabled by circumvention might well constitute transformative uses. On the other hand, circumventing console code to play games and other entertainment content (even if lawfully acquired) is not a transformative use, as the circumvented code is serving the same fundamental purpose as the unbroken code. While the second and third fair use factors did not greatly affect the analysis, on the significant question of market harm, the Register concluded that opponents had provided compelling evidence that circumvention of access controls to permit interoperability of video game consoles - regardless of purpose - had the effect of diminishing the value of, and impairing the market for, the affected code, because the compromised code could no longer serve as a secure platform for the development and distribution of legitimate content. The Register noted that instead of countering this evidence with a factual showing to prove opponents wrong, EFF merely asserted that its proposal would not permit infringing uses. The Register did not believe that this response satisfied proponents' obligation to address the "real-world impact" of their proposed exemption. Overall, the Register found that proponents had failed to fulfill their obligation to establish persuasively that fair use could serve as a basis for the exemption they sought.

The Register further found that even if proponents had satisfied their burden of establishing noninfringing uses, they nonetheless failed to demonstrate that video game console access controls have or are likely to have a substantial adverse impact on such uses. Proponents identified two broad categories of activities that were allegedly threatened by the prohibition on circumvention, scientific research and homebrew software development. With respect to scientific research, a small number of research projects involving only one type of gaming console, the PS3, suggested a de minimis impact, if any. This conclusion was reinforced by record evidence indicating that Sony had in fact cooperated with and been a supporter of marketplace.

Nor, according to the Register's analysis, did the record support a finding that Section 1201(a)(1) is having a substantial adverse impact on lawful homebrew activities. The most significant level of homebrew activity identified by EFF appears to have occurred in relation to the Wii, but the record was relatively sparse in relation to other gaming platforms. Concerning the use of video game consoles to operate Linux software generally, the record showed that only a very small percentage of PS3 users availed themselves of the (now discontinued) OtherOS option that permitted users to run Linux on their PS3s. At the same time, there are thousands of alternative devices that can be used to develop and run Linux-based video games and other applications. In addition, the record indicated that developers can and do take advantage of various manufacturer programs to pursue independent development activities.

Finally, as noted above, the Register determined that proponents offered no factual basis in support of their suggestion that users are having difficulty repairing their consoles as a result of Section 1201(a)(1). This appeared to be only a hypothetical concern, as proponents failed to document any actual instances of users seeking to make repairs.

The Register therefore concluded that proponents had failed to establish that the prohibition on circumvention, as applied to video game console code, is causing substantial adverse effects.

Turning to the statutory factors, the Register took issue with proponents' view that piracy was an irrelevant consideration because the exemption they sought was only to allow interoperability with "lawfully obtained applications." The Register explained that she could not ignore the record before her. Even if piracy were not the initial or intended purpose for circumvention, the record substantiated opponents' assessment that in the case of video games, console jailbreaking leads to a higher level of infringing activity, thus sharply distinguishing the case of video consoles from smartphones, where the record did not support the same finding. The evidence also suggested that the restriction limiting the proposed class to "lawfully obtained" applications - which the Register has found effective in other contexts - did not provide adequate assurance in this case. The Register noted that simply to suggest, as proponents had, that unlawful uses were outside the scope of the exemption and therefore of no concern was not a persuasive answer.

Finally, the Register agreed with proponents' assessment that the access controls protecting video game console code facilitate a business model, as many technological restrictions do. But the Register concluded that in the case of gaming platforms, that was not the sole purpose. Console access controls protect not only the integrity of the console code, but the copyrighted works that run on the consoles. In so doing, they provide important incentives to create video games and other content for consoles, and thus play a critical role in the development and dissemination of highly innovative copyrighted works.

NTIA supported the "innovative spirit epitomized by independent developers and researchers whose needs proponents contemplate in this class," but noted that the evidence in the record was insufficient to support the considerable breadth of the proposed class. NTIA asserted that the record was unclear with respect to the need for an exemption to enable software interoperability, and that there was compelling evidence of reasonable alternatives available for research purposes. NTIA was also "cognizant of the proposal's likely negative impact on the underlying business model that has enabled significant growth and innovation in the video game industry."

Although NTIA did not support the exemption as requested by proponents, it did support a limited exemption to allow videogame console owners to repair or replace hardware console and authorized replacement parts are no longer on the market." As explained above, however, the Register found that the record lacked any factual basis upon which to recommend the designation of even such a limited class."

Among these idiot rulings includes unlocking smartphones (which pretty much any handheld device is considered a "smartphone"), jailbreaking tablets, and ripping DVDs for home uses.




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Comments 47 Comments - Go to Forum Thread »

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vallejo18's Avatar
#47 - vallejo18 - 93w ago
I see where you are going, and I agree. My only thing is that why not actually benefit the players as well as the corporations instead of the present result. Greed is what this Law is about, not safety or protection. This (plan stated before) could've been their standpoint in order to reduce the rate of piracy, correction if i said "stop."

Although I do not agree with the current price for games "reasonable" in any country, I'm not too willing to let "things happen." So that corporations who are not really "people" to profit from the common folks for a game and then limit their uses to an extreme. Basically, $300 for a PS3 you can 'borrow'.

BluRay's Avatar
#46 - BluRay - 93w ago
vallejo, I do agree that this law is pointless, I'm not defending It, don't get me wrong buddy. I don't support piracy (I do pirate sometimes though, as I've mentioned before) and I believe there is no argument that can justify It, all I'm doing here is saying games are not as expensive as they seem to be.

CoD was just an example, that applies for everything. You WON'T triple sales just because you're selling It 3 times cheaper. In a hipothetical situation were that actually happens, even so, It would still give Sony less profit.

U3 100k Sales $60 = Y profit, X manufacture cost (Blu Disc, manual, game case, etc).
U3 300k Sales $20 = Y profit, 3X manufacture cost.

The odds are, If the launch price dropped from $60 to $20, the sales would go up by 20% tops, increasing the manufacture cost, yet giving a lot less profit then If it was $60. I understand your argument, cheaper prices would indeed attract more people, but not enough for It to give as much profit as before.

dovez0's Avatar
#45 - dovez0 - 94w ago
That's what happens when you live in Capital Wasteland lol

PS3GAMER20111's Avatar
#44 - PS3GAMER20111 - 94w ago
My country allows all kinds of pirated things (pcs, mac, phones, ps2, ps3, psp, wii, xbox360, music, torrents, apps, software, movies etc.) i just love it. lol

dovez0's Avatar
#43 - dovez0 - 94w ago
Move to canada. They have free healthcare.
we have free healthcare & free prescriptions here in Scotland lol

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