Editorial: SCEA vs. GeoHot Over This Quick?


Editorial: SCEA vs. GeoHot Over This Quick?

By Bobby Blackwolf - April 11, 2011 at 09:39 AM

Use This In Court!
Use This In Court, I Dare You! But I'm Not Going...
Do you own your console, or just lease it? What rights do you have as a consumer of physical hardware you have in your house? The corporations feel that they should determine how and where you use your hardware, consumers feel differently. There are compelling arguments for both sides, and we were all looking forward to hearing what a judge would say.

Unfortunately, that's not happening now. The drama, for now, is over.

Let's take a look at the timeline of events. Sony removes the OtherOS functionality from the PS3's that, honestly, not many people used. Human nature being human nature, people suddenly wanted the right to access something they never would have used, and started raising a stink. Sony's unofficial reason for removing it is because someone came very close to allowing piracy on the system through the OtherOS feature, and it was no longer secure to Sony's stockholders or business partners.

Have you ever been told not to taunt Happy Fun Ball? Sony apparently never learned that lesson. This led people to start poking at the PS3's firmware, finding vulnerabilities, and throwing them into the wild. Now, the PS3 is practically wide open, and the man we can thank for that is George Hotz.

While Hotz was not the only person working on exposing the vulnerabilities, he was definitely the most visible. He also helped expose the iPhone, and that led to an exemption in the DMCA to declare iPhone jailbreaking to be legal. People believed this also was the case for their game consoles, but it isn't. Not right now. George set out to change that.

So, when Sony sued him, he declared he would put up a fight. Sony did some less-than-cool things, such as demanding the IP addresses of everyone who viewed a YouTube video, which gave Hotz the public sympathy he needed. He started taking donations for his legal defense so he could hire good lawyers. He was villified by some in the media for a pre-scheduled trip to South America while his lawyers attempted to get the case thrown out of court because of jurisdiction laws. (No donations were used for the trip, and Hotz was in constant contact with his lawyers during this time.)

So we all trenched in and waited to see what would happen. Would we have more rights as consumers? Unfortunately, for those of us in the peanut gallery, the story seems to be over, as Sony's official PlayStation Blog posted a joint statement about a settlement.

Joint Statement

Sony Computer Entertainment America (“SCEA”) and George Hotz (“Hotz”) today announced the settlement of the lawsuit filed by SCEA against Hotz in federal court in San Francisco, California. The parties reached an agreement in principle on March 31, 2011. As part of the settlement, Hotz consented to a permanent injunction.

Both parties expressed satisfaction that litigation had been quickly resolved. “Sony is glad to put this litigation behind us,” said Riley Russell, General Counsel for SCEA. “Our motivation for bringing this litigation was to protect our intellectual property and our consumers. We believe this settlement and the permanent injunction achieve this goal.”

“It was never my intention to cause any users trouble or to make piracy easier,” said Hotz, “I’m happy to have the litigation behind me.” Hotz was not involved in the recent attacks on Sony’s internet services and websites.

In the action, SCEA accused Hotz of violating federal law by posting online information about the security system in the PlayStation 3 videogame console and software that SCEA claimed could be used to circumvent the security system in the console and allow the playing of pirated videogames. Hotz denies any wrongdoing on his part. Hotz’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction was still pending before the federal court in San Francisco but a preliminary injunction was issued requiring Hotz to take down the postings challenged by SCEA.

“We want our consumers to be able to enjoy our devices and products in a safe and fun environment and we want to protect the hard work of the talented engineers, artists, musicians and game designers who make PlayStation games and support the PlayStation Network,” added Russell. “We appreciate Mr. Hotz’s willingness to address the legal issues involved in this case and work with us to quickly bring this matter to an early resolution.”

So after all of the YouTube raps, public admonishments, DDoS attacks, it all ends with...a whimper. Nothing will be resolved, the language in your EULA will not be changed, and George Hotz will be off the hook. He has stated that any remaining donations that people made to his legal defense will be donated to the Electronic Frontier Foundation - we'll see when that is.

My personal opinion is a little bit of a conflicted one. On one hand, I am a programmer. I have done a little bit of "homebrew" programming myself. I have made a square bounce around on a Game Boy Advance screen, all thanks to homebrew. I like the idea of being able to learn Wii programming thanks to homebrew dev kits. I liked the ability to stream Shoutcast stations on my PSP back before Sony included an internal Shoutcast player. It helped me further my education on how to program for other systems.

On the other hand, I am a programmer. While I do not program in the game industry, I can feel my game colleagues' pain when they see that more people pirated their games than paid for them. I see it all the time in our chat room at All Games Radio - people are proud of how much money they saved by downloading a game and playing it to completion just so they could say "Yeah, I didn't like it, I wouldn't have paid for it anyway." They were excited when they learned they could pirate PS3 games now, they were about to go out and purchase a PS3.

Oh, I'm sorry, did I invoke your "Homebrew is not Piracy" switch? People hate it whenever anybody equates Homebrew and Piracy, but the fact of the matter is, that's exactly what it is right now. Don't believe me? I did a Google search for "PS3 Homebrew Apps" and found this site. Let's take a look at the highest listed apps available for your jailbroken PS3 as of April 11th, shall we?

  • PSVibe - A tunable vibrator. Great.
  • Multiman - Backup+File Manager and AVCHD+BDMV Video Player - "Backups" here mean "pirated copies" and I would assume that the video player strips out the Blu-Ray copy protection to allow you to play your pirated movies.
  • Showtime - A video player for HTPC Media Centers. This is actually legit, as it allows for video formats the PS3 doesn't play natively. I have no problem with this one.
  • IrisManager - Backup manager. Remember, "Backups" is code for pirated games.
  • OpenPS3FTP - FTP server for your PS3, mostly used to manage your backups and videos at this point.
  • ES35's Customize - Flashes customized RCO's and RAF's. These change the look, feel, and sound of your XMB. Not a bad thing, IMHO. No different than reskinning your iPhone but with more options.
  • E3 Goldenfinger - Cheat device, so you can aimbot your way to the top of the leaderboards online.
  • HManager - Another Backup Manager
  • Rogero Manager - Another Backup Manager
  • Package Manager - Listed as an alternative to "Install Package Files"
  • 3.60 Firmware Spoofer - This allows you to spoof your firmware version so you can use your pirated and cheated games on PSN.
  • PSIDPatch - This allows you to change your console's ID so you won't be banned off of PSN anymore so you can continue to play your pirated and cheated games on PSN.

And the list goes on and on. Lots more Backup Managers, custom firmware loaders, and cheat devices. Not a single homebrew game. Only two real homebrew "apps" (the vibrator and the media player.) I'm surprised there are no emulators listed, which can be listed as just a means to play pirated ROMs.

The point I'm making is that, while the THEORY of "Homebrew allows you to run anything you want" is there, the FACT is that everyone is concentrating on allowing you to play your pirated games rather than creating those wonderfully unique apps that could only be done on a jailbroken PS3. I was told that the reason to allow for jailbreaking your PS3 was so you could browse the web while playing a game, and receive Skype calls directly to your PS3 and allow for cross-game chat...If that's the reason to jailbreak your PS3, why isn't that there? Why are "Backup Managers" dominating the app space for the PS3?

It kinda kills your argument of "Homebrew isn't just for Piracy!" when 95% of the available apps for a jailbroken system facilitate Piracy. Just sayin'.

In closing, I'm disappointed that there was no final answer in this case. While I didn't agree with George Hotz's pagentry and demeanor, I wanted to see what a judge decided. I am VERY surprised he caved in this quickly. I would love to know what the terms of the settlement was - but I believe we will never see that. It will be interesting to hear what the reactions are outside of this "joint statement."

Support your game companies. Purchase the entertainment you consume. If you don't think you'd want to pay for it, don't play it. You don't have a "right" to play video games. Go mow a few lawns if you're that broke on cash - the weather is nice and you probably could use the excercise.

UPDATE 6PM ET: For those wondering what the settlement terms are, there are settlement documents online that basically show that nothing changes in terms of Sony, and George Hotz now has a permanent injunction saying that he cannot partake, assist, or disseminate anything to do with circumventing security on ANY Sony Product. This includes cameras, phones, TV's, and the PS3. If he does, stiff fines will ensue and he will be tried in California. None of the stuff Hotz stated he would settle for (the return of OtherOS, public apology, etc) are in the settlement. This is 100% Sony bending Hotz over and telling him like it is.

Also interesting to note that this settlement was reached on March 31st - days before Anonymous attacked PSN. So anybody telling you that Sony is scared of Anonymous and settled to get rid of them is full of it.


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1 Comment



April 11, 2011 at 09:51 AM

Fantastic write up Bobby! I agree with you wholeheartedly here.

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