Renowned Hacker Says PlayStation Suit Highlights Absurdity of Digital Copyright Law

Copyright, Intellectual Property January 14th, 2011

, BroadbandBreakfast.com

A reknowned hacker and 21-year-old whiz kid who was the first to unlock an iPhone says in a Thursday cable television interview that Sony’s lawsuit against him for his latest Sony PlayStation 3 hack only serves to highlight the absurdity of a landmark digital copyright law.

Speaking on G4 television Thursday, George Hotz wondered why it’s legal to hack, or jail-break Apple’s iPhone, but not Sony’s PlayStation 3.

“I think this case is about a lot more than what I did and me,” he told G4 Attack of the Show’s host Kevin Pereira. “It’s about whether you really own that device that you purchased.”

“Currently, the difference is that the [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] says specifically mobile phones, but I think the same precedent should apply to whatever closed system [there is] where the manufacturers controls all the software that runs on it … if you can jailbreak one closed system, why can’t you jailbreak another?” he asked.

Hotz published the code for his hack on his web site last week. The code enables people to run third-party applications or pirated games on the PlayStation 3.

He said that he doesn’t support piracy, and that he tried to make it so that his hack wouldn’t support pirated games.

“I made a specific effort while I was working on this to try to enable homebrew without enabling things I do not support, like piracy,” he told Pereira.

Sony responded with a lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California Tuesday, asking a judge for the removal of the code and the confiscation of Hotz’s computer equipment.

A hearing over the issue is scheduled to take place today at 9 a.m.

Hotz’s lawyer told the judge in a Thursday filing that the procedure is pointless because the code has already spread across the internet.

Last July, the U.S. Copyright Office explicitly exempted iPhone application developers and anyone else from being sued for breaking through the encryption on the iPhone’s operating system in order to run third party applications not approved by iPhone maker Apple.

Under the DMCA it can be a civil and criminal offense to traffic in devices that can break through digital locks.

The U.S. Copyright Office revisits the issue every three years and considers new situations and grants new exceptions to the anti-circumvention rule as specifics are presented to the office for rule-making.

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