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Electronic Frontier Foundation Reports on Sony / GeoHot PS3 Case


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183w ago - Since the news first broke of Sony taking legal action against PlayStation 3 hacker GeoHot, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has now posted a report on their views of the current pending case.

To quote: "Sony v. Hotz: Sony Sends A Dangerous Message to Researchers - and Its Customers

For years, EFF has been [Register or Login to view links] that the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act can be used to chill speech, particularly security research, because legitimate researchers will be afraid to publish their results lest they be accused of circumventing a technological protection measure. We've also been concerned that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act could be abused to try to make alleged contract violations into crimes.

We've never been sorrier to be right. These two things are precisely what's happening in Sony v. Hotz. If you have missed this one, Sony has [Register or Login to view links] several security researchers for publishing information about security holes in Sony's PlayStation 3. At first glance, it's hard to see why Sony is bothering – after all, the research was presented three weeks ago at the Chaos Communication Congress and promptly circulated around the world.

The security flaws discovered by the researchers allow users to run Linux on their machines again – something Sony used to support but recently started trying to prevent. Paying lawyers to try to put the cat back in the bag is just throwing good money after bad. And even if they won – we'll save the legal analysis for another post – the defendants seem unlikely to be able to pay significant damages. So what's the point?

The real point, it appears, is to send a message to security researchers around the world: publish the details of our security flaws and [Register or Login to view links] with both barrels blazing. For example, Sony has [Register or Login to view links] to immediately impound all "circumvention devices" – which it defines to include not only the defendants' computers, but also all "instructions," i.e., their research and findings. Given that the research results Sony presumably cares about are available online, granting the order would mean that everyone except the researchers themselves would have access to their work.

Not content with the DMCA hammer, Sony is also bringing a slew of [Register or Login to view links] Computer Fraud and Abuse Act claims. The basic gist of Sony's argument is that the researchers accessed their own PlayStation 3 consoles in a way that violated the agreement that Sony imposes on users of its network (and supposedly enabled others to do the same).

But the researchers don't seem to have used Sony's network in their research – they just used the consoles they bought with their own money. Simply put, Sony claims that it's illegal for users to access their own computers in a way that Sony doesn't like. Moreover, because the CFAA has criminal as well as civil penalties, Sony is actually saying that it's a crime for users to access their own computers in a way that Sony doesn't like.

That means Sony is sending another dangerous message: that it has rights in the computer it sells you even after you buy it, and therefore can decide whether your tinkering with that computer is legal or not. We disagree. Once you buy a computer, it's yours. It shouldn't be a crime for you to access your own computer, regardless of whether Sony or any other company likes what you're doing.

Finally, even if the researchers had used Sony's network, Sony's claim that it's a crime to violate its terms of use has been firmly rejected by courts in cases like [Register or Login to view links] and [Register or Login to view links]. As those courts have recognized, companies like Sony would have tremendous coercive power if they could enforce their private, unilateral and easy-to-change agreements with threats of criminal punishment.

Sony's core arguments – that it can silence speech that reveals security flaws using the DMCA and that the mere fact of a terms of use somewhere gives a company permanent and total control over what you do with a device under pain of criminal punishment – are both sweeping and frightening, and not just for gamers and computer researchers. Frankly, it's not what we expect from any company that cares about its customers, and we bet it's not what those customers expect, either."



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Comments 43 Comments - Go to Forum Thread »

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moja's Avatar
#38 - moja - 138w ago
Great discussion guys.

So, I think first that free spirited ones are the ones who developed and sold the first reliable methods. Not to dig into semantics, but I think of a free-spirited person as someone who thinks/acts outside of the regular rules of life. Along those lines, these business people, whether developing the hack themselves or marketing the team behind it, are just as free as the non-profit hackers, and I don't blame them at all.

Sure, it would be nice if teams who engineered devices around hacks could get paid while the rest of the information is freely developed (like past/other scenes), but in all fairness I should be able to do what I want with information/ideas/work that I come up with and make a buck if I so desire. I don't necessarily agree with that decision, but I understand it. These are the fundamentals of the battles going on at the root of all scenes. Sorry to get so philosophical, but you guys brought up some good points.

CS67700's Avatar
#37 - CS67700 - 138w ago
It would flourish from everywhere, you would have to pay for every single pkg you install on your console. You really want that ?
I don't think so.

Hacking devices shouldn't be made "legal", because it isn't. The world is messed up man, everything is an excuse to make a few bucks these days. Crappy companies are awaiting for this to happen, and make even more money on this.

Most peoples hack their devices because they can't/don't want to afford brand new video games (its freaking expensive), not because of homebrew (that's gotta be around 1% of the PS3 scene).

So why would i pay to hack my device ? doesn't make sense.

krawhitham's Avatar
#36 - krawhitham - 138w ago
If it becomes legal, it might become a business for some peoples. CFW with advanced possibilities, or the new and latest FW jailbroken for a few bucks, know what i mean ?

Don't let this crap happen, a scene should be underground. This is how it worked (and it worked well until now) and this is how it should remain.

The PS3 scene is just messed up, its the first scene with so many dramas. I honestly hope trashes like Mathieulh and other fame leechers won't be following to the PS4 scene and so on. They should die with this scene and never appear again.
It already is a business, and if it wasn't we have nothing. The free spirit hackers were not the 1st to release something that allowed home brew or backups. Business people were, and then the free spirit hackers acted like vultures and rip everything and released it for free. Yes they have made great improvements, but when the scene stalled it was once again business side that brought us the JB2 dongle. It is always the business side that makes the 1st strides, people like Math talk a good game but never release anything useful until someone else does and then he tries to take credit for it all.

HeyManHRU's Avatar
#35 - HeyManHRU - 138w ago
Lol, I can already imagine the retail advertisements. "PS4, only $599 to rent for your entire lifetime".

Neo Cyrus's Avatar
#34 - Neo Cyrus - 138w ago
I just hope that Sony are more clear the next time they release a console. They need to explicitly state that the PS4 is for rent, not actual sale.

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