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EFF accuses Sony of 'abusing' Computer Fraud act

Mon 24 Jan 2011 8:47am GMT / 3:47am EST / 12:47am PST
HardwareLegal

Rights group claims PS3 firm is "sending a dangerous message" in hacking case

Sony Computer Entertainment

Sony Computer Entertainment is a Japanese videogame company specialising in a variety of areas in the...

playstation.com

Online rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation has spoken its mind on the ongoing Sony vs George Hotz case.

The EFF contests Sony's pursuit of legal action against the hackers responsible for undoing PlayStation 3 security measures earlier this month.

In an open letter, the group claimed that it had often warned 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."

The group felt that the real purpose of the case was "to send a message to security researchers around the world: publish the details of our security flaws and we'll come after you with both barrels blazing.

"Sony is actually saying that it's a crime for users to access their own computers in a way that Sony doesn't like."

The case meant that "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."

The lawsuit is currently delayed, pending its judge's decision on which US state it should be held in.

6 Comments

Christopher McCraken CEO/Production Director, Double Cluepon Software

111 257 2.3
"Sony is actually saying that it's a crime for users to access their own computers in a way that Sony doesn't like."

The case meant that "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."


This is the heart of the matter right here. I've been saying this for awhile now. The fact of the matter is, yelling piracy, hacker and "the sky is falling" at the top of your lungs only serves to distract the issue away from the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter here is: consoles are a computer, and sony would very much like a precedent set that forbids you from using anything from a debugger to a screwdriver on them. Much like Apple, with their new screw design.

This has never ever been about piracy. Piracy is a concern on any platform to be sure. But the underlying and most important issue here is consumer freedom to do what you want with the hardware you buy. Not rent. but buy.

It will be interesting to see if the EFF now puts its money where it's mouth is, and actually puts forth some representation for the people involved beyond an ami brief.

Posted:3 years ago

#1

John McGrath Student - Computer Games Development BSc

13 0 0.0
Surely once the hardware is bought and payed for you have no contractual obligations to the manufacturer, rather it's the other way round in the case of the warranty. If the hardware (including OS) was 'leased' then it might be a different matter.

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,196 1,176 0.5
The problem is, this is more of an ego clash, period. If this was about tinkering with one own PS3 and pretty much shutting the hell up about it (i.e., NOT publicly dropping info that's obviously going to be used primarily by those who would abuse it) or, at BEST, making sure you weren't doing things that would affect/annoy and yes, embarrass Sony, THEN it would be at least "respectable".

Should Sony sue because it was publicly embarrassed, Nope. Should they sue because they see a potential threat to their bottom line? They have every right to, just as an individual has to sue any company that intentionally does something that can affect them in a similar manner. Personally, I hate the legal system in this country for a ton of reasons, so I'm hoping this nonsense gets wrapped up in a manner that shuts both Sony AND Hotz up about the results.

Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo REALLY don't give a rat's ass what you do to your own personal console (hell, they don't have to fix them if you void the warranty) AS LONG AS YOU DON'T TELL EVERYBODY ELSE HOW TO DO IT. There have been console case modes, screens built into systems, systems turned into other systems, Ben Heckendorf's amazing work and others that never get this sort of attention and in fact, help sell more consoles to those who want to do that sort of customization.

this Other OS thing is entirely different, as it started because of Hotz tinkering with it, which forced Sony to remove it (why? because they didn't want to deal with the results of those folks who'd take the info and use it maliciously). Yes, the big picture isn't about piracy UNLESS you mean to use the security breach for that purpose. Should Nintendo NOT have sued the folks selling R4 devices just because there's maybe one person out of a thousand who only stuck a bunch of homebrew games on the card and not a DS/GBA/GB rom?

Win or lose, all Hotz is doing here in the end is helping bring any future hammers down on anyone caught tinkering with a console in a manner that a company might deem not quite right. While I'd say none of the big three will go bananas if someone hacks a PS3/360/Wii/whatever into a garage door opener, mini Hubble telescope or functional time machine they'll go nuts, however if you say "this isn't about piracy!" when it's CLEAR that the results will LEAD to piracy (and that seems to be more often than not).

Also, If Hotz claims he discovered an issue with the PS3's security, why didn't he pick up a phone, write a letter, or find some other "old school" means of bugging Sony about it? I'm sure that question will come up should this case not be settled out of court (which again, would be the best possible outcome in my book). Of course, Hotz will probably break any sort of settlement non-disclosure agreement (in the spirit of "the scene, man!") and end up shuffled back into court to face the music, whereupon more fists will be raised in his defense as the PS-whatever gets hacked my multiple mask-wearers, this time in real-time in a few public places. Now THAT'S a flash mob...

Er, anyway... moving on...

The two guys arrested here in NYC last week for hacking into iPads and gathering about 1000 or so users' data (including a few celebrities and politicians) claim they were only "exposing a security flaw". Which is fine until you get to the fact that they had all that personal data and hadn't bothered to contact Apple about their "discovery" when they were caught. Hell, if it were YOUR credit cards, home/work addresses and other personal info in the hands ot two strangers, I'd bet no one here would be cool with that. I'm actually watching that case as it plays out because they're probably going to use some of the logic that Hotz is during their trial...

Yes, security issues are indeed important (and hell, just WAIT for the cloud computing hack to drop), but trying to force a company to make new hardware (so it can be hacked again by the same folks down the road) isn't necessarily a good thing. On the other hand, as Hotz is supposed to be getting a free W7 phone from Microsoft to play around with, I guess part of his "unintentional" blackmail scheme has worked.

The really FUNNY thing is... if you tell a die-hard console hatin' PC gamer "ANY console is a computer", they tend to wave you away, scoff and yell about how the PS3 and 360 aren't even CLOSE to their $5000+ rig with the overclocked video cards, ion-powered cooling system and quadruple monitor support.

That particular battle will NEVER end, it seems... ;p

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Andrew Ihegbu Studying Bsc Commercial Music, University of Westminster

473 187 0.4
Remember when those dudes fount the Peter Jackson's King Kong hack for the 360. That let you get into the console and play copied games. Microsoft didn't let out a peep.

Then some guys announced that they had patched the DVD player chip to read burned disks. Still nothing from Microsoft but an XBL update to stop patched chip users playing online.

Then they beat the hypervisor security.... etc etc etc you get the drift.

Why did MS say nothing. Because the more MS react to the situation, the more public the situation becomes. The details of the hack are already online, and no matter how many people you take to court, there will still be someone else to revise the method to get around your latest protection modifications.

Just think, if Sony hadn't gone to town on this and made it a big deal, we probably would have forgotton that it had ever happened. To this day I still dont know anyone with a cracked Xbox 360 and I dont doubt the result would be the same in PS3Ville (reference to another overzealous business that likes lawsuits too much).

Posted:3 years ago

#4

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany

846 732 0.9
"Once you buy a computer, it's yours."

Wrong for the PS3: you pay the license, which is like a lifetime rental. That argument is invalid.

Posted:3 years ago

#5

James Stanard Principal Engine Programmer, Eat Sleep Play, Inc

6 0 0.0
In the U.S. we have the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which among other things, makes it illegal to deliberately circumvent copy protection mechanisms of digital devices. Ordinarily, if you did such a thing you wouldn't get caught. But if you end up telling everybody exactly how you did it and then hand out the keys to the platform, you're asking for somebody to finally enforce this law. I doubt it will work around the world, which is why there's the question of jurisdiction.

While the PS3 is technically a computer, I would hardly call it a "PC". The PS3 is more of a content delivery device. It was for a long time sold at a loss in order to make back the difference through the sale of licensed products. As soon as you take away the ability for Sony to make back their money through game sales, you sink their battleship. They have been hoping that the "long tail" of the PS3 will ultimately pay back their early investment in the platform. I think they have a right to fight to protect their interests. It's bad for the whole game industry if any of the major players pull out.

Posted:3 years ago

#6

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