Sony's War With GeoHot: The Good, The Bad and The Hilarious

Sony's War With Geohot A Father And Son Story

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.

Sony Kevin Butler PS3 Encryption Key Fail

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.

Continue to page 2 of Sony's War with GeoHot: The Good, The Bad, and The Hilarious!

GeoHot Raps

One of the most bizarre twists came when Hotz took to rapping about his court case with Sony in an attempt to win an amateur rap contest being held on YouTube. It's not the worst rap ever made, but Hotz takes some liberties when he compares himself to Eminem and dares Sony to use the video as ammunition in the court room.

It's not exactly the image you would expect someone trying to defend their character in court to portray. He likens the whole affair to what happened to now defunct Lik Sang, a modchip manufacturer who was shut down by a prolonged legal battle with Sony. Lik Sang's website remains to this day a single page detailing the circumstances surrounding the company's closure.

Another line in the rap refers to a veiled attempt to get hired by Sony after jailbreaking their system saying, "Thought you'd tackle this with a little more tact, but then again f**********s, I don't know Jack." The Jack referred to here is Jack Tretton, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America. The bit about tact probably refers to his own request for Sony to contact him if they wanted their next console to be secure, a request he made when he posted the Metldr root keys. What Hotz is likely insinuating is that giving him a job would've been better solution than suing him.


Suing Hotz wasn't the only reaction Sony had to the whole affair of the PS3 jailbreak. In the middle of this month, a post went up on the PlayStation Blog discussing an official statement from Sony regarding the use of custom firmware on its consoles.

"Notice: Unauthorized circumvention devices for the PlayStation 3 system have been recently released by hackers. These devices permit the use of unauthorized or pirated software. Use of such devices or software violates the terms of the “System Software License Agreement for the PlayStation 3 System” and the “Terms of Services and User Agreement” for the PlayStation Network/Qriocity and its Community Code of Conduct provisions. Violation of the System Software License Agreement for the PlayStation 3 System invalidates the consumer guarantee for that system. In addition, copying or playing pirated software is a violation of International Copyright Laws. Consumers using circumvention devices or running unauthorized or pirated software will have access to the PlayStation Network and access to Qriocity services through PlayStation 3 system terminated permanently."

"To avoid this, consumers must immediately cease use and remove all circumvention devices and delete all unauthorized or pirated software from their PlayStation 3 systems."

This post would precede a series of console bans for gamers running custom firmware on their consoles. A number of users using jail-broken consoles were sent the following email warning them of the impending ban:

"A circumvention device and/or unauthorized or pirated software currently resides on your PlayStation(R)3 system. Immediately cease use and remove all circumvention devices and delete all unauthorized or pirated software from your PlayStation(R)3 system. Failure to do so will result in termination of your access to the PlayStation(R)Network and access to Qriocity(TM) services through your PlayStation(R)3 system."

Users who did not comply with the request were sent the following email after having their PSN account banned:

"Notice: Access to the PlayStation(R)Network and access to Qriocity(TM) services through your PlayStation (R)3 system has been terminated permanently due to the use of unauthorized circumvention devices and unauthorized or pirated software on your PlayStation(R)3 system."

"This use violates the terms of both the "System Software License Agreement for the PlayStation(R)3 System" and the "Terms of Services and User Agreement" for the PlayStation(R)Network/Qriocity(TM) and its Community Code of Conduct provisions. In the unlikely event that this termination was in error, contact your local consumer support centre."

Since then it has been reported that hackers have managed to reverse the ban on their consoles by worming into the PlayStation Network. Worse than that, the same exploit can apparently be used to ban other consoles from the network as long as the perpetrator has access to the victim's console ID.

These bans were likely in retaliation to the leak of Killzone 3 well in advance of its release. Sony no doubt wants to tackle this issue as heavy handed as they can in an attempt to keep third party developers from being overly concerned about the safety of their software.

George Hotz Asks for Help From Internet Users

Hotz, meanwhile, appealed to the masses to help him fight the case. His angle was that his intent was never to support piracy on the PS3, but rather the creation of homebrew content. After consulting with his legal counsel he opened up a fund to accept donations for his legal defense. The campaign turned out successful, and as a result Hotz was able to hire a couple additions to his legal team, as well as cover his already mounting legal fees.

This leads us to the most recent bit of news. Sony has begun its search for additional legal counsel which will focus on creating and maintaining an anti-piracy program for the video game giant, as well as maintaining contact between a number of Sony affiliated anti-piracy groups. Two jobs have been posted on SCEA's website for a Senior Corporate Counsel and Senior Paralegal for Anti-Piracy and Brand Protection.

Sony's definitely taking piracy more seriously than ever now, and is preparing for the long haul as it fights to protect its copyrights, its software, and the software other developers release on the PS3. While we can't be sure of how this legal battle will end, we will definitely be here to keep you posted as this hot topic continues to unfold.

How do you feel about Hotz's claim that he is innocent in this whole affair, as his intentions were to support the development of new applications and not their theft? How do you feel about Sony's approach to the the whole affair, suing when they could've just as easily showed interest in Hotz's talent to help secure their consoles?

Our amazing header is courtesy of a forum post made by misthero at the PSX-Scene forums.

Sources: Geohot, PlayStation Blog, Kotaku, CVG, Destructoid, Wired, Engadget

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