Sony Computer Entertainment America won a preliminary injunction against a hacker who publicized a method for allowing Playstation 3 consoles to install non-Sony operating systems. But the company must still contend with others who might tinker with their machines.
Sony had filed a lawsuit against George Hotz, of New Jersey. Hotz had written a piece of code that allowed Sony Playstation 3 consoles to run other operating systems and, as a side effect, pirated games. He then published the code on his web site.
Sony contends that he violated the company's copyright as well as its terms of service for using the Playstation Network, as well as California law.
As a result of the injunction, Hotz is required to turn over much of his computer equipment to Sony. The information about the code Hotz wrote will be separated and the equipment returned, according to the court order.
But even as Sony won a first round against Hotz, others have managed to modify the firmware that runs Playstation 3s. Soon after the lawsuit against Hotz was filed Sony issued an update to the Playstation 3s operating system, to protect it against such modifications. Loading the update was required for anyone who wanted to use the Playstation 3 network.
But within a few hours a Canadian software developer, Youness Alaoui, had published a workaround. Alaoui says the code he published is actually legal in Canada, and what he wrote doesn't allow for pirated games to be run, so he isn't violating copyright - he says on his blog he isn't providing the code to anyone, only the tools to build it.
On top of that, a Sony employee accidentally tweeted the codes that allow software engineers to modify the Playstation 3's operating system, meaning that anyone who saw them could duplicate -- or even improve upon -- Hotz's or Alaoui's methods, even if they didn't have access to either man's code.
Besides the problem of the cat-and-mouse game Sony is playing with people who might want to modify the Playstation 3, there is the issue of whether it is legal. In the U.S., the Library of Congress, which often decides matters of copyright, said that jailbreaking an Apple iPhone to allow it to use other carriers besides AT&T (and now Verizon), is in fact allowed.
To Hotz and others who modify their consoles, the issue is also that they bought and paid for the hardware and should be allowed to modify them.
Alaoui said he thinks Sony is perfectly within its rights to restrict access to the Playstation Network, which is a service the company provides and has a user agreement. But if someone pays for a console then they should be allowed to modify it, in the same way that when one buys a computer one can run programs on it that are not all approved by the manufacturer.
Sony itself declined to comment; spokespeople for Sony Computer Entertainment America did not respond to emails or calls.
There is still a motion to dismiss to be considered, and the issue of how much information Sony is entitled to subpoena. Hotz's attorney has argued the original requests for discovery were too broad, as they included the identifying information of people who had commented on a video that Hotz posted to YouTube describing his code, as well as those who responded to his tweets. Sony says it needs the information to find out whom the code was distributed to.
To contact the reporter responsible for this story call (646) 461 6917 or email j (dot) Emspak (at) ibtimes (dot) com.