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Sony And Hotz Reach Out Of Court Settlement (Update)

George_Hotz.jpg
A quick note:

When I posted this article yesterday, I made reference to a couple of news items about Mr. Hotz (in struck text, below) which, as one commenter notes, needs some additional explanation. I apologize to anyone who felt misinformed by my post, as it was not my intention, and I will certainly take steps to avoid this kind of confusion in the future. Mr. Hotz has disputed claims of "fleeing" to South America, responding to the accusations by saying:

Apparently, I have fled the country. ROFL

Factually, it's true I'm in South America, on a vacation I've had planned and paid for since November. I mean, it is Spring break; hacking isn't my life. Rest assured that not a dime of legal defense money would ever go toward something like this. And of course Townsend [Sony's law firm] loves the idea of painting me as an international fugitive. I have been in contact with my lawyers almost every day; I would not let the case suffer. That said, I also won't let this ridiculous lawsuit run my life either. Then the fearmongerers win.

He and his attorneys also fired back against accusations of having a PSN account, despite his earlier denials. Attention had been raised about an account under the name "blickmanic" that had been traced to his area, and Sony went so far as to says that "In March 2010, Hotz signed up for a PlayStation Network ('PSN') Account using a new PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system." Their claims found themselves largely discredited when Mr. Hotz's attorneys noted that the serial numbers on his new PS3 Slim did not match those linked to the blinkmaniac account. Those interested in reading what Geroge Hotz has (and has had) to say should check out his blogspot account. Once again, my apologies for the errors.

Read the original article (which has since gotten too long to fit on the main page) after the jump!

The drama of SCEA vs. Hotz appears to finally be over, with Hotz being served an injunction that effectively brings his activities to a halt. Should he continue his work, either directly or indirectly -- for example, aiding another who wishes to pick up where he left off -- Hotz faces a hit of $10,000 per violation, up to $250,000. As per the terms of the agreement, he is forbidden from discussing the terms of the settlement, but the documents have been leaked, which have been posted online. You can find them in the provided gallery.

The contentious case was rife with farce. Hotz claimed that he never had a PSN account (really), made a dashing escape to South America to escape Johnny Law, and graced the world with a rather, shall we say "animated" rap about his legal troubles -- the latter of which compels me to sue Mr. Hotz myself for "medical expenses and emotional distress incurred during a tragic facepalming incident."

No official word has come from Anonymous as to whether the settlement will bring to a close this chapter of their broader "Operation Payback" campaign. Anonnews.org, the main hub for Anonymous news releases and statements, has not yet addressed the development. At the very least, they seem to be taking a softer line for the time being, recently urging a boycott of Sony, rather than direct action. I had previously written a rather critical article about Anonymous, pointing out that their attacks on Sony would only harm their image and alienate potential supporters. I still believe that, from a purely tactical point of view, it was an unwise move; Thus I am pleased to see this shift in attitude. From anonnews.org:


"Anonymous is not attacking the PSN at this time. Sony's official position is that the PSN is undergoing maintenance. We realize that targeting the PSN is not a good idea. We have therefore temporarily suspended our action, until a method is found that will not severely impact Sony customers. [...] This operation is a response to Sony's attempt to deprive their customers of products they bought and therefore own, wholly and completely. Anonymous will not attempt to fight this by following the exact same course of action. We have plenty of tricks up our sleeves."

There's a legitimate case to be made for supporters of Hotz, including Anonymous, that Sony is essentially dictating what you may or may not do with a product that you own. As commenter raindog469 noted, "Sony took away advertised functionality from its customers' equipment retroactively," and Sony's comically Orwellian demand that they be allowed access to all IP addresses of visitors to Hotz's website from 2009 onwards did very little to inspire sympathy for their position.

If you wish to read Anonymous's full statement, you can do so on their website.

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8 Comments

Detritus said:

It was one step when they decided you don't own the software you purchase; you merely own a license to use that software. That was a step too far, but since the only media that covers the industry is largely "enthusiast press" it went by without complaint. If GG and other blogs took Sony to task for taking the next logical step, you don't own the hardware you purchased, then we wouldn't need people like Anon and Hotz to stand up for consumer rights.

freeyourmind said:

Misleading:

"Hotz claimed that he never had a PSN account (really), made a dashing escape to South America to escape Johnny Law ..."

Sony was never able to show that Hotz owned a PSN account. If they had him in their databases, don't you think they would've actually filed that in the court documents instead of the absurd fishing expedition they went on (discovery masquerading as a jurisdiction dispute)? Similarly, the "escape" to South America was a trip planned far in advance of the lawsuit.

This is slightly better than the last, one-sided article you posted ... but please, do yourself a favor and read Groklaw (or any other reputable news source, really) before you write another article on the subject.

Keith said:

Detritus - Just because you buy a disc that says "Halo" on it does not mean you now own the rights to Halo. You have purchased two things: 1) a piece of physical media and related materials which contain a copy of software and 2) the license to personally use that software. Not to modify that software, or slap your name on it and sell copies of it as your own, or make derivative works, or anything else. For consumers, software sales have always been license sales, without question.

As far as hardware is concerned, that is a bit more difficult of a question to answer.

cerberus635 said:

@keith. Owning the software you purchase would not give you the right to distribute or otherwise call your own that piece of software as it would still be copyighted despite your ownership of that one copy of it.

But what it would allow, that currently isn't, would be the right to do with it as you wish within the confines of the law. For example, modifying it in any way shape or form, for your own use, so long as that modification was not used for illegal purposes. It's fair use.


At the moment, the mere act of modifying ANY software for whatever reason is Illegal under most license agreements. Thats just nonsense.

Mittens said:

I love this blog! Thanks Swede, and I appreciate your work. The comments below are for the other commenters:

Suggesting that Hotz is standing up for consumer rights is a bit off key. Miranda v. Arizona is the case that spawns the "Miranda Rights", and some people feel like Miranda was a civil rights pro because of it--but alas he was merely a a convicted rapist and kidnapper whose attorney did a good job pointing out a weakness in the legal system. The same principal applies here: GeoHot isn't fighting for consumer rights as much as he's following his own agenda but "consumer rights" sounds like a better platform. Besides, if you were Sony and looking down a potential public embarrassment for losing this suit (which I think was imminent and damaging on multiple fronts for Sony: sufficiency of EULA click-through, application of hardware licenses, PR damage, weakening of investor position based on portfolio deflation, etc) how much would you offer to GeoHot to make this go away on a less embarrassing note?

@freeyourmind, I think you are misreading Swede's article. Swede writes with tongue in cheek, and I don't think the "dashing escape to South America" was intended to imply the truth of that accusation from Sony. But you are right that Sony was spinning that pretty heavily--litigation IS adversarial. And GrokLaw is terrific, though I want Swede to editorialize here. I don't need a repost of Grok, I want to here industry opinions. And Swede's are solid.

@Keith, I concur.

Super Swede said:

Thank you all for the feedbck, though I will point out that @freeyourmind has a point. Edits/clarifications will be coming before I start work on the next article (as soon as I get to a computer that is not actually a phone)

tropicofanatic said:

@ Mittens Sorry but even rapists and kidnappers deserve a fair trial, so your analogy is false. Not to mention, at that point, he was not convicted of anything. Doesn't anyone appreciate the idea of being considered innocent until proven guilty? That has been the cornerstone of American law for years, and rightfully so.

This is no different than someone modifying their car for their own personal pleasure. I find it ironic that Sony and other companies are going after users who did the same things the people who founded gaming did. Utterly disgusting. Sony knew they were going to lose this case and thus set a precedence for all similar cases. That's why they settled. Eventually, they'll go after a gamer who has deeper pockets and who won't be willing to back down.


freeyourmind said:

Thanks for the update, Swede. The clarification is definitely appreciated.

@Keith: Modification of a copyrighted work is still your legal right--until the next set of legislators gets bought, anyway. The redistribution of that derivative work is a different matter. Different still is the ability to discuss those modifications with other people or distribute your modifications, which is the real crux of Hotz's case.

And yes, as you noted, you're purchasing a license to the software. But in effect, you've been purchasing a license for a book, CD, or a DVD just the same. The difference is that you don't see (yet, anyway) Lucasfilm suing Star Wars fans for distributing instructions on how to edit Jar-Jar Binks out of The Phantom Menace. Plus, the legality of the terms under which publishers try to claim your firstborn--the EULA--is not settled yet.

As I said before, for some reason, people tend to just throw up their hands and say, "It's software! That makes it special!" But no one has yet managed to say why that is so.

@Mittens: I don't mind a bit of editorializing, but Swede's previous article on the subject made "tongue-in-cheek" an unlikely context. Hopefully, the comments on both have opened a few minds to more than the "industry" opinion.

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Recent Comments

freeyourmind on Sony And Hotz Reach Out Of Court Settlement (Update): Thanks for the update, Swede. The clarification is definitely appreciated. @Keith: Modification of a copyrighted work is still your legal...

tropicofanatic on Sony And Hotz Reach Out Of Court Settlement (Update): @ Mittens Sorry but even rapists and kidnappers deserve a fair trial, so your analogy is false. Not to mention,...

Super Swede on Sony And Hotz Reach Out Of Court Settlement (Update): Thank you all for the feedbck, though I will point out that @freeyourmind has a point. Edits/clarifications will be coming...

Mittens on Sony And Hotz Reach Out Of Court Settlement (Update): I love this blog! Thanks Swede, and I appreciate your work. The comments below are for the other commenters: Suggesting...

cerberus635 on Sony And Hotz Reach Out Of Court Settlement (Update): @keith. Owning the software you purchase would not give you the right to distribute or otherwise call your own that...

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