Sony Seeks Personal Information from Twitter, YouTube Users In PlayStation 3 Hack Case

The notorious 21-year old computer programmer from New Jersey, George Hotz, best known for being the first to crack Apple’s iOS iPhone to run homebrewed applications, is facing legal troubles after releasing a hack variation for Sony’s PlayStation 3 gaming system.

At first believed to be un-crackable, programmers were finally able to crack the firmware of the four-year-old gaming console, allowing gamers to play pirated games, and to run homebrewed third party applications.

 Sony’s PlayStation 3 gaming console remained the only top gaming platform to remain secure, until only weeks ago after new fixes to crack the system were released.

Detailed instructions, including a video on YouTube made by Hotz, along with the required application to jailbreak the PlayStaiton 3 became available online, prompting Sony to take legal action against Hotz for distributing the software allegedly designed to circumvent anti-piracy mechanisms.

Following a recent district court order, Hotz complied by removing both the instructions from YouTube and the application from his personal website, but not before thousands of people already downloaded and installed the files.

Hotz is expected to comply with another court order to surrender his computer to Sony by Thursday as an appeal is not likely to be accepted as the deadline looms.

Hotz is hoping to have all claims (court filing [PDF]) made against him by Sony thrown out.

In July 2010, the U.S. Copyright Office ruled jailbreaking an iPhone or any other mobile device from manufacturer restrictions for the purpose of executing software applications would no longer constitute a federal copyright offense.

The argument here is that a gaming platform is not different.

Hotz merely provided code to allow PlayStation 3 owners to bypass device protection mechanisms (did not distribute copyrighted material such as pirated games) to allow the device to execute software applications (pretty much what the U.S. Copyright Office ruling says). The problem is that the copyright law does not extend past mobile devices.

In a bid to block the hack from becoming available to more people, and to even force users who already jailbroke their PlayStation 3 to remove the hack, Sony late last week filed another court motion to receive personally identifiable information (including Internet protocol (IP) addresses) of users who viewed instructions (such as on YouTube, Google Inc. is the parent company) or downloaded the hack.

In the suit, Sony is also requesting Twitter hand over personal information from users from the computer hacking team “fail0verflow” (including the account @fail0verflow, among others), which is the group that first released the PlayStation 3 hack.

Consumers feel the company is going too far now as the hacked files will likely always be available somewhere on the Internet.

Google and Twitter were not available for comment on whether the companies would comply with Sony’s request.

Sony has sold more than 40-million PlayStation 3 units to date.

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Murad is an engineering graduate from Centennial college in Toronto, Canada. Write to [email protected]
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  • rVln-4

    sony is going down a dangerous path. u cannot begin attacking gamers when that is who u depend on to keep u in buisness. never bite the hand that feeds u. LOL i feel sorry for sony

    • Vincy

      why would u feel sorry for them? only reason i bought the xbox was cuz i could modify it easily and play copied games…they should lower the price of games.

      sony should be happy their system lasted for so long without being cracked as fast as the xbox/wii.

      • rVln-4

        i feel sorry for them because they seem to not know what they are doing and if they take it too far they will lose everything they have built.

  • Dan Livermore

    I have a copy of the files if anyone needs them. So does everyone else. Sorry Sony, but when your idiot marketing department retweeted the encryption code it became public domain. The internet can’t “unsee” something. Ever.

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