Sony has every right to be upset about Goerge Hotz (GeoHot) jail-breaking the PS3. After all, this is the same man who jail-broke the iPhone and got away with it. In that case, the U.S. Copyright Office determined that the jail-breaking of mobile phones didn’t infringe on any copyrights, thanks in part to a request made by Electronics Frontier Foundation for an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
It’s no wonder then that Sony opted to pursue legal action in an attempt to keep this from happening again. This is no doubt a legitimate concern, since Hotz has gone so far as to claim Sony’s Xperia Play is his next target, though that particular statement has been removed from his blog, no doubt under advice from counsel or due to a direct request from Sony.
This legal battle has been filled with all kinds of news, and even a few bizarre twists and turns from both sides of the playing field. In an effort to bring everyone up to speed, some of the most important and colorful stories have been compiled into this post.
Sony’s initial action in its battle against Hotz was to request a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the US District Court for the Northern District of California. If granted, it would prevent Hotz from being able to distribute the PS3 jailbreak, among a number of other requests. The aim of the restraining order was to curb the spread of the jailbreak, but by then it was too little too late. It had been already spread around the internet like wildfire.
The following day, Sony sued Hotz on eight claims which included:
- Violating §1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which forbids bypassing access control measures.
- Violating the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which forbids accessing computers without authorization.
- Guilty of contributory copyright infringement for encouraging and helping others to crack PS3s.
- Violating the California Computer Crime Law, which is the state computer fraud act.
- Violating the PlayStation Network’s Terms of Service.
- Interfering with Sony’s relationships with other PSN customers.
- Trespassing on Sony’s ownership right to the PS3.
- Misappropriating Sony’s intellectual property.
Despite it doing little to ease the spread of the encryption keys after they had been posted on the internet, the US District Court for the Northern District of California eventually granted Sony’s request for a TRO, despite claims from Hotz’s legal team that the court had no jurisdiction to do so. The TRO stated that Hotz was temporarily restrained from:
“Offering to the public, creating, posting online, marketing, advertising, promoting, installing, distributing, providing, or otherwise trafficking in any circumvention technology, products, services, methods, codes, software tools, devices, component or part thereof …”
What this means in laymans terms is that Hotz talking about the jailbreak publicly, be it in person or online, in a capacity that directs users how to do it or where to find information on how to do it, is strictly forbidden. The TRO also ordered that Hotz submit for impoundment, “any computers, hard drives, CD-Roms, DVDs, USB Stick and any storage device on which any Circumvention Devices are stored in Defendant Hotz’s possession, custody, or control.” Sony was going to get access to Hotz’s personal hard drive.
Despite their attempt to curb the spread of the encryption key, Sony itself became one of its worst perpetrators of the code in an unwittingly hilarious goof up by the employee who manages the Twitter account of famed PlayStation mascot Kevin Butler. In an attempt at a humorous response to a tweet the Kevin Butler account received, the employee retweeted the very code Sony was trying to stop from spreading.
Sunk your Battleship indeed, Mr. Butler — a truer statement couldn’t possibly be made about this incredible mistake. The offending post was quickly removed, but its legacy continues to live on.