Sony is clearly not happy.
As any business hoping to turn a profit should, Sony goes to great lengths to stop both the act of piracy and other practices that may encourage or enable piracy on their systems. They bullied “Bleem!” out of business for producing a Playstation 1 emulator for the PC and Dreamcast, and have raided and shut down hundreds of retailers selling hardware that enables the ability to play illegally copied software. March of 2010 saw Sony remove the ability to install the alternative Linux operating system on the Playstation 3, over potential piracy woes. In August, a hack for the Playstation 3 rapidly spread that allowed any USB device to force the PS3 in to a special debug mode that allowed the execution of unauthorized software. Sony quickly issued a patch to fix that exploit. That may have been enough for pirates, as a few weeks ago, a group calling themselves “fail0verflow” revealed they had fully cracked the Playstation 3’s copy protection method. To sum it up, not since the Sega Dreamcast has a game console’s copy protection been so thoroughly cracked, and short of releasing a Playstation 4, there is very little Sony can do about it at this point.
But that’s not stopping them from trying. Yesterday, January 11th, Sony issued two documents to the “fail0verflow” group – a grand total of 36 pages worth of legal jargon. “fail0verflow” member George Hotz (“Geohot”) has posted both for public view on his personal website. Sony means business, as evidenced by part of the legal threat that is literally a restraining order against distributing information about the “fail0verflow” hack. Given that one of the documents is named “Proposed Order”, it is likely that Sony’s legal team has not actually registered an official lawsuit with “fail0verflow”, and is simply threatening potential action. They have made it clear, however, that should the “fail0verflow” team ignore these legal threats, Sony will hit them hard in an effort to curb this as quickly as possible.
The law may be on the side of “fail0verflow”, however. As we reported on earlier, Microsoft recently lost a case regarding a man installing homebrew-modified Xbox 360 hardware as the plaintiffs could not sufficiently prove the defendant’s legal intent. And in July 2010, a federal court ruled that “jailbreaking” an iPhone to run typically unauthorized software was perfectly legal. In the end, it may be Sony’s insistence on calling the Playstation 3 a “Computer Entertainment System” that could be their undoing – the definition of a “computer” conjures up images of Windows, Macintosh and Linux operating systems, which are typically open for anyone to develop software for, free of charge.
That’s not to say Sony is above playing dirty, however. In the aforementioned “Bleem!” lawsuits, Sony alleged production of a retail Playstation emulator for the PC was illegal. Sony launched multiple simultaneous lawsuits against “Bleem!”, and “Bleem!” won every single one – but the extensive legal costs of so many lawsuits took their toll, forcing the company to file for bankruptcy. Regardless of how legal or illegal “Bleem!” was, Sony still ended up having the last laugh. “fail0verflow” may win their battle, but they could still end up losing the war.
Only time will tell how this all pans out, but it could have serious ramifications either way – stay tuned.