Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sony hammers researchers with DMCA

On the Deeplinks blog at eff.org Corynne McSherry and Marcia Hofmann report on the case of Sony vs Hotz. The implications of the case are broad reaching and frightening. Sony is suing researchers for the crime of exposing security holes. The researchers found security holes that allow users to run Linux on the Playstation 3 - something Sony allowed until recently.


This is the ultimate result of the Digital Millenim Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA makes it a crime to circumvent security measures on electronic media and devices - even if you have purchased the device and are exercising rights granted to you by other laws. Copyright fair use and modifying your own equipment on your own network for otherwise legal uses are two examples.


Sony is also suing under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) because the the researchers violated the terms of use for the Playstation Network - even though it appears the researchers used their own network, not Sony's. As McSherry and Hofmann point out, Sony is suing the researchers for using computers (PS3's are computers) they bought in a way Sony doesn't like. If Sony wins this case we could find ourselves facing criminal charges for installing software that didn't come with the computer or connecting our television to the wrong provider.


You think that sounds farfetched? Sony is suing these researchers because they installed Linux on Playstation 3's. Something Sony allowed until recently, but now is willing to go to court to prevent. If Sony wins how long before Dell insists you can't install Linux on their computers, or HP decides that you can't install Open Office, AbiWord, or any other replacement for Microsoft software?