Stuart Freen is a J.D. candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Sony Computer Entertainment America has launched a legal action against a number of computer hackers in an attempt to halt the proliferation of a Playstation 3 security breach. Last month two hacking groups cracked the PS3’s technological protection measures, potentially allowing users to play pirated software on the video game console. The Japanese tech giant responded on Tuesday by asking a California court for an ex parte injunction preventing those hackers from distributing the information.
Back in December, Hacking group fail0verflow presented a novel method for compromising the PS3’s operating system at a conference in Berlin. US hacker George Hotz built on that method to completely bypass the PS3’s technological protection measures, allowing the console to run unauthorized programs. The exploit opens the doors for users to run pirated video games, home-brew games, and even load new operating systems like Linux. Hotz originally rose to fame in the hacking world for ‘jailbreaking’ the Apple iPhone when he was only 17.
In its statement of claim, Sony alleges several violations of the Digital Millienium Copyright Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. At this point Sony is merely asking for an injunction restraining the defendants from distributing the crack, and an order impounding the circumvention hardware. BBC News contacted both the groups, with Fail0verflow arguing that it was not the group’s intention to facilitate piracy, but rather to promote ‘homebrew’ video games (i.e. video games which are made by fans and are not licensed by Sony). Hotz, meanwhile, told BBC News that he believes the action “doesn’t have any basis.”
The hack was posted on Hotz’ website on January 5 and was immediately disseminated around the internet. Sony has announced that it will attempt to patch the security flaw by releasing online updates.
Relatively speaking, the PS3 has done quite well at withstanding hacking attempts. The game console was originally released in 2006, while some industry analysts predict the next round of consoles will be released in 2012. By contrast, the Nintendo Wii was hacked only a month after its initial release.