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Electronic Frontier Foundation Reports on Sony / GeoHot PS3 Case


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184w 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."



Stay tuned for more PS3 Hacks and PS3 CFW news, follow us on Twitter and be sure to drop by the PS3 Hacks and PS3 Custom Firmware Forums for the latest PlayStation 3 scene updates and homebrew releases!

Comments 43 Comments - Go to Forum Thread »

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ps3hen's Avatar
#28 - ps3hen - 139w ago
About time, though its a year late

NTA's Avatar
#27 - NTA - 139w ago
It's kind of like a double-edged sword imo. PS3 sales would increase but people would pirate games. Devs would have the freedom to release their firmware primarily for homebrew, such as GH and KaKaRoTo, but some Devs will also take advantage of this and release firmwares with backup ready capabilities. Discs can be easily broken, especially when a bunch of people come over and don't know how to behave sometimes. Little kids are especially destructive lol...

elser1's Avatar
#26 - elser1 - 139w ago
too many people that know everything have there opinion, just like they have rear, and thats where thier opinions sprout from.. this is good news. i doubt this will effect me in australia as we are still in stoneages for this type of thing..

people like barryk know what they're talking about so how bout some respect.. or you can always go to a trash talking forum.. here at ps3 news we hope for better than that.

KickYoAss's Avatar
#25 - KickYoAss - 139w ago
Don't be mad. Quit acting like $400 or even $500 is a lot of money, I put damn near half of that into savings every week!

Bending over and taking it from Sony? Go buy your brokeass a xbox off of craigslist plz.
Wow, I'm sure he's sorry King KRaZE. I hope no one ever writes another upsetting comment for you. I bet you have a few lamborghinis too. Who gives a flying chili-bean fart what you put into savings every week? You're being an "old fashioned."

PS3 News's Avatar
#24 - PS3 News - 139w ago
Previously the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) reported on the Sony / GeoHot PS3 case, and now they are seeking (PDF) to widen exemptions won in the last DMCA rulemaking to allow for the JailBreaking of smartphones, electronic tablets, and video game consoles including the PlayStation 3 system.

To quote: Copyright Office Should Expand Legal Protections for JailBreakers and Video Artists

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the U.S. Copyright Office today to renew and expand the critical exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) granted last year in response to EFF's requests to protect the rights of American consumers who modify electronic gadgets and make remix videos.

In the exemption requests filed today, EFF asked the Copyright Office to protect the "jailbreaking" of smartphones, electronic tablets, and video game consoles – liberating them to run operating systems and applications from any source, not just those approved by the manufacturer. EFF also asked for legal protections for artists and critics who use excerpts from DVDs or downloading services to create new, remixed works. These exemptions build on and expand exemptions that EFF won last year for jailbreakers and remix artists.

"The DMCA is supposed to block copyright infringement. But instead it can be misused to threaten creators, innovators, and consumers, discouraging them from making full and fair use of their own property," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry.

"Hobbyists and tinkerers who want to modify their phones or video game consoles to run software programs of their choice deserve protection under the law. So do artists and critics who use short excerpts of video content to create new works of commentary and criticism. Copyright law shouldn't be stifling such uses – it should be encouraging them."

EFF's requests are part of the Copyright Office's rulemaking process, convened every three years to consider exemptions to the DMCA's prohibitions on "circumventing" digital rights management (DRM) and "other technical protection measures" used to protect copyrighted works. While this ban was meant to deter copyright infringement, many have misused the law to chill competition, free speech, and fair use. Exemptions are meant to mitigate the harms the law has caused to legitimate, non-infringing uses of copyrighted materials.

"We were thrilled that EFF won important exemptions to the DMCA in the last rulemaking," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "But technology has evolved over the last three years, and so it's important to expand these exemptions to cover the real-world uses of smartphones, tablets, video game consoles, DVDs, and video downloads."

In drafting the requests, EFF had the invaluable assistance of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Organization for Transformative Works.

The Copyright Office will hold hearings on the proposed DMCA exemptions in the spring of 2012, with a final rulemaking order expected in October 2012.

For the full exemption requests:
[Register or Login to view links]

For more on DMCA rulemaking:
[Register or Login to view links]

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