Will SCEA’s Legal Action Against Geohot Open the Floodgates for Future Lawsuits?

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A Background

A while back, famed iPhone hacker George Hotz aka Geohot, was able to jailbreak the PlayStation 3. His main goal, he says, was to bring back the "Other OS" option, which was removed by Sony last March due to piracy concerns on their console. This upset many users who enjoyed having that option on their system.

Geohot and team failoverflow were able to jailbreak the console, and Hotz then released the PS3 Root Key online along with the following message:

"props to fail0verflow for the asymmetric half 
no donate link, just use this info wisely 
i do not condone piracy

if you want your next console to be secure, get in touch with me. any of you 3.
it‚Äôd be fun to be on the other side. 
…and this is a real self, hello world

shouts to the guys who did PSL1GHT 
without you, I couldn’t release this"

Sony didn't like that and decided to take legal action. They were also able to get a restraining order against Hotz and team Failoverflow. Though Hotz contends that Sony has no basis for a lawsuit.

Today, we learned that Sony is demanding that YouTube gives up the hackers' personal information, as well as information of anyone who has visited the video or posted on it.

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Legal Action?

Some may rememeber that back in July, the U.S. Copyright Office ruled that Jailbreaking a device is legal. Of course, as with any law, there are probably 1,000 more pages to that with various 'buts.'

CNET had a very intersting FAQ about this, where they mentioned a company taking legal action, if they wanted to:

Section 2(c) of the Apple iPhone Software License Agreement bans any attempt to "modify" the iPhone software or to reverse-engineer it.

What that means is that Apple can still legally–if it chooses–protect its phones from jailbreaking. The contract formed between the user and Apple (and the user and the wireless carrier) when the iPhone owner agrees to the user licensing agreement is binding, says Tom Sydnor, a senior fellow with the Progress and Freedom Foundation who takes an expansive view of copyright law.

Sony has similar things going on with their software (link):

You may not sell, rent, sublicense, modify, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile, or disassemble any portion of the Property.

We don't claim to be legal experts, and there are probably a million caveats. Still, based on what we know, that sounds as if Sony is basically saying that by agreeing to those terms you are entering a contract with them. In a sense everyone who buys the system an agrees to those rules in enterting a contract with Sony and can be the target of a lawsuit for such action. (Legal experts in the audience, please clarify if we are off the mark, we'd sincerely appreciate it.)

They also mention the following: 

SCEA reserves the right to bring legal action and to participate in any government or private legal action or investigation relating to your conduct, which may require the disclosure of your information.

Basically, it seems like Sony will pretty much keep doing what they're doing. It's in their end user agreement.

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What Next?

Maybe Sony is just making an example of these guys. It's hard to tell. Still, we think it's a definite way for Sony to open up the floodgates of legal action if they end up gaining any ground.

This means companies like Apple, who have in the past tried to put a stop to jailbreaking may follow through and decide to take legal action themselves. In one of those bad case scenarios, they could go after Saurik and shut down Cydia.


But It's My Machine, I Paid For It!

Yeah. We aren't saying we disagree. Still, when we agree with those terms of service we never read, we are basically telling those companies that we will play by their rules or agree to suffer any consequences. It's tough, because disagreeing to those terms basically renders our systems useless (especially in the case of the PlayStation 3 where many of the games require you be connected to PlayStation Network, regardless of whether or not it has online play) and agreeing means we agree to whatever the heck they feel like throwing in there. Heck, we are even agreeing that it's okay if they change the rules. Either way, the terms will always be in their favor.

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