Sony sues George Hotz, Fail0verflow over PS3 hacks

It took Sony a full week to respond to the news about hacking group FailOverflow’s discovery of the PS3 “root key”, which allows homebrew developers to sign their own applications. And though corporate representatives have been quiet regarding the situation with the exception of one short statement, Sony’s legal team has been hard at work, just as we suspected.

Sony sues George Hotz, Fail0verflow over PS3 hacks

George Hotz (AKA Geohot), a hacker well-known for jailbreaking the iPhone and iPad, announced yesterday evening that he had been served with a temporary restraining order and a “complaint for injunctive relief and damages based upon violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act” (DMCA) from Sony’s lawyers for releasing the PS3 root key, signing tools, and homebrew examples on his website. The papers also name Hector Martin Cantero, Sven Peter, and “Does 1” from the Fail0verflow team, for similar posts on their own sites.

“This motion seeks to close the door for rampant piracy that Defendants have illegally pried open in violation of federal and California law,” reads the motion for the temporary restraining order filed yesterday in the United States District Court of the Northern District of California.

The “complaint for injunctive relief” accuses Hotz and the Fail0verflow team of the following:

  • Violating the DMCA
  • Violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
  • Contributory copyright infringement
  • Violations of the California Comprehensive Computer Data Access & Fraud Act
  • Breach of contract
  • Tortious interference with contractual relations
  • Common law misappropriation
  • Trespass

The motion for temporary restraining order describes the alleged illegal activity as follows:

“Since the release of the PS3 System in 2006, software hackers have attempted to write code to run unauthorized software on SCEA’s gaming system. Until a few days ago, the efforts of these hackers were largely thwarted by the TPMs that secure the various levels of the PS3 System. In late December 2010, a hacking group called FAIL0VERFLOW discovered a way to access certain (but not all) levels of thePS3 System by circumventing the corresponding TPMs. At that point, hackers were given the tools to run unauthorized and pirated software on the PS3 System. Building on FAIL0VERFLOW’s work, Defendant Hotz unlawfully gained access to a critical level of the PS3 System by circumventing the corresponding TPMs. In early January 2011, Hotz publicly distributed the circumvention devices necessary to access that level, providing them to the public via the Internet and releasing software code that will allow users to run unauthorized or pirated software on the PS3 System. Unless this Court enjoins Defendants’ unlawful conduct, hackers will succeed in running and distributing Circumvention Devices that run pirated software on the PS3 System”

Hotz released a statement to the BBC regarding Sony’s legal action against him. “I would expect a company that prides itself on intellectual property to be well versed in the provisions of the law, so I am disappointed in Sony’s current action,” he said. “I have spoken with legal counsel and I feel comfortable that Sony’s action against me doesn’t have any basis.”

The Fail0verflow team also stated their own reaction. “We have never condoned, supported, approved of or encouraged videogame piracy,” they state. “We have not published any encryption or signing keys. We have not published any Sony code, or code derived from Sony’s code.”

This definitely has the makings of a landmark case with wide-reaching consequences. We’ll be watching and reporting as this story develops.