A look at Sony’s ongoing war against hackers

phillip_torrone_aibo

[Phillip Torrone] recently wrote an article over at Make regarding Sony and their “War on Makers, Hackers, and Innovators“. In the article, he traces Sony’s history as a well-liked hardware company that once produced innovative products, to its current state as an enemy to all who would dare wield a screwdriver and soldering iron. He took quite a bit of time scouring the Internet to dig up very specific examples of Sony’s perceived assault on the hacking community. That’s not to say he simply lambasts the company and leaves it at that. Rather, he reflects on their past as a staple in nearly every American home, how they have changed since venturing into the content business, as well as what we might be able to do as hackers to change the way Sony treats its customers.

One specific example he mentions is the lawsuits that plagued the Sony Aibo modding scene, a case very near and dear to his heart. This scenario is one where the voice of the people was eventually heard, though too late to make a difference. He laments the loss of interest in the platform by the modding community as a clear cut example of the disastrous nature of Sony’s litigious nature.

You should definitely take a moment to read the article if you have the time. [Phillip] brings up some very good points, giving you plenty to consider the next time you make an electronics purchase, large or small.

We’d love to hear your take on the matter as well.

Comments

  1. · says:

    @Zeno Arrow: Sorry, Nintendo do region restrict their portable games – just not the obvious way. For instance, their inane “friend code” system is restricted to regions, so if you bring your FF3 for NDS cartridge overseas it will refuse to communicate with those you meet, even though you can play it in their consoles.

    That said, Sony are actively attacking me for being a *bystander* in a fight they picked needlessly. I’ve been locked out of PSN since April, not for modifying my machine, but quite the opposite – using it as designed and bought. This is clearly a type of customer they fear and feel a need to punish.

  2. Ugly American says:

    Vote with your wallet. Starve Sony.

    Those overpriced Sony TVs? The glass is made by Lucky Goldstar-Phillips and then Sony puts it in a fancy case and box and spends money on advertising and lawsuits instead of innovation and engineering.

    Cut out the middle men and buy manufacturer brands directly. There’s no reason to pay Sony, HP or Dell a cut when all they do is put their name on things other people make and mark up the price.

  3. Anon says:

    But Sony is going after our ownership of hardware itself!

    In the current class action suit regarding the removal of OtherOS, SCEA lawers argued that they are free to actively destroy the products they sell.

    There argument is that they only provide a 1 year warranty, and outside that warranty the customer can have no expectation for the device to work as designed… That is their argument for crippling the PS3.

    Now they just updated their terms and conditions to include: firmware updates, which they can push in the background and at any time, are the customer’s problem if a bad flash occurs.

    This is already happening with the recent update, where anyone who had upgraded their hard drive according the the instruction manual included with the PS3, had their console bricked. And Sony say it’s the customer’s fault, pay to get it repaired.

  4. cantido says:

    @Zeno Arrow

    >> what parts of the DMCA are applicable here?

    The DMCA prohibits reverse engineering of copy protection schemes etc. Locked bootloaders etc can be argued to be copy protection schemes and reversing the keys or breaking the bootloaders security chain would likely come under the DMCA.. of course you would have to argue this in court.
    IIRC the US isn’t all that friendly to reverse engineering in the first place.. isn’t it only allowed for interoperability?

    >>CFW without Sony code then how can they
    >>claim to have a software patent on it?

    Would it be possible to write CFW that doesn’t contain any Sony code? I don’t think so.. and would anyone bother using it if you did? The Xbox chips shipped with legal cromwell based BIOS which were quickly overwritten with hacked official BIOS images. Again.. if software patents come in Sony would just need to patent the way their loaders and firmware formats work and there is no issue, any compatible firmware would infringe on their patents.

    Back in the day(TM) Nintendo consoles needed the Nintendo logo in the cart roms or they wouldn’t boot. So copying a Nintendo game wasn’t just copyright infringement but also trademark infringement.. clever bastards ;).

  5. nes says:

    PS3s and some Sony TVs are currently banned from import into Europe due to a patent dispute with Lucky Goldstar over Bluray playback. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer conglomerate IMHO.

  6. cj says:

    > Cheaters drive away legitimate users and will eventually lead to less players on PSN and a decrease in game sales

    I think the freedom to mod is more important than psn or game sales. The freedom to modify your own property is more important than connecting to a shared game.

  7. Zeno Arrow says:

    @cantido
    “The DMCA prohibits reverse engineering of copy protection schemes etc. Locked bootloaders etc can be argued to be copy protection schemes and reversing the keys or breaking the bootloaders security chain would likely come under the DMCA.. of course you would have to argue this in court.
    IIRC the US isn’t all that friendly to reverse engineering in the first place.. isn’t it only allowed for interoperability?”
    So do the reverse engineering in a country where the DMCA doesn’t apply. Problem solved.

    “Would it be possible to write CFW that doesn’t contain any Sony code? I don’t think so.. and would anyone bother using it if you did?”
    Of course you could write a CFW without Sony code, it’d be a fair amount more work but it’s possible at least.

    “Back in the day(TM) Nintendo consoles needed the Nintendo logo in the cart roms or they wouldn’t boot. So copying a Nintendo game wasn’t just copyright infringement but also trademark infringement.. clever bastards ;).”

    An interesting strategy, certainly. How did the knock-off NES carts from Hong Kong and the like get around it?

  8. Nitori says:

    I never thought I’d see the day Microsoft became a more open company then Sony.
    I think it has a lot with Sony’s BMG and the Sony DADC who’ extremely unskilled programmers are known for steaming piles of dog flop such as securom micro managing the electronics side.
    The only way to save the company would be to split the two halves.

    As for this weak argument ” Cheaters drive away legitimate users and will eventually lead to less players on PSN and a decrease in game sales.”

    Well you just don’t let a known cheater join your games or get a bunch of your buddies and kill him every time he respawns that’s all.
    It’s what you do on the PC side.

    As for the remark NES games needed Nintendo logo to boot that’s bull there was a simple lockout chip but this was quickly reversed engineered and cloned.
    There are ways to reverse engineer thoings and have a water tight case esp before the failure known as DMCA was passed.
    You just have two groups of people one documents what the item to be reverse engineered does then this documentation is given to the second group who makes a piece of code that does what was documented.
    This was how Compaq produced the first nearly 100% compatible PC clone without requiring IBM’s bios.

  9. Decius says:

    @Zeno arrow,

    The Developers/hackers/modders who create Custom firmwares can create programs to apply the necessary patches to Said Firmware that YOU your self would download from Sony, or another site hosting the correct firmware.

    This way it’s only the end user who wants to apply and mix the code and run it, the developers do not provide a direct source of Sony’s code being used with injunction to theirs being hosted.

    And of course, we have some skilled developers in Canada who are out side the DMCA doing just that :)

  10. Kecil says:

    “Cheaters drive away legitimate users…..”
    the people who cheat through means of modifying their consoles rarely are of your garden variety gamer. they are few and not enough to make such an argument valid. and once a game dies down past a point its just the people who do crack games that are left playing until the servers are dead. when someone mods a game system they want it because of the added features that includes because of the pure shackled power that lies under that plastic casing so many things that could be done. and if that includes the ability to load a modified ISO that gives certain benefits that might be seen as unfair so be it

    “PS3s and some Sony TVs are currently banned…” HAHA no #ing @&%# seems a pretty good sign (among a plethora of others) to me that something needs to be addressed on Sonys’ side.

    Praise the wisdom that Ugly American is speaking the only thing that Sony truly innovates anymore is their game system(even then only in tune with current times) everything else is commissioned by other companies. it’s understandable up to a point but they are throwing away old faithfuls for the new generation hoping the addage “ignorance is bliss” will protect them.

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