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Sony In The Crosshairs Of "Anonymous"

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In response to Sony's ongoing legal action against George Hotz ("GeoHot") and Alexander Egorenkov ("graf_chokolo"), who have been credited with cracking the PS3, allowing the system to run alternative operating systems -- something Sony deemed unacceptable -- Anonymous, the infamous hacker collective, has made Sony the latest target in its ongoing "Operation Payback" campaign. The core of the debate is a matter of what the ownership of a product entails: Anonymous and its supporters argue that, once a product has been purchased, the consumer should be given free reign to modify it as he or she chooses. In short, Sony has no right to dictate the "proper" use of a product once it becomes the legal property of the buyer. Sony's position is that hacking the PS3 encourages piracy, and the alteration of the PS3's software constitutes a breach of the arrangement between the user and Sony. As PC World notes, "Sony takes a dim view of unauthorized system modification and is keen to point out that jailbreaking the PS3 is a violation of both the license agreement for the PS3's system software and and the terms of use for PSN. In short, by turning on the PS3 in the first place, you've agreed to follow their rules."

Anonymous laid out its case at anonnews.org:

You have abused the judicial system in an attempt to censor information about how your products work. You have victimized your own customers merely for possessing and sharing information, and continue to target those who seek this information. In doing so you have violated the privacy of thousands of innocent people who only sought the free distribution of information. Your suppression of this information is motivated by corporate greed and the desire for complete control over the actions of individuals who purchase and use your products, at least when those actions threaten to undermine the corrupt stranglehold you seek to maintain over copywrong, oops, "copyright".

Your corrupt business practices are indicative of a corporate philosophy that would deny consumers the right to use products they have paid for, and rightfully own, in the manner of their choosing. Perhaps you should alert your customers to the fact that they are apparently only renting your products? In light of this assault on both rights and free expression, Anonymous, the notoriously handsome rulers of the internet, would like to inform you that you have only been "renting" your web domains. Having trodden upon Anonymous' rights, you must now be trodden on.

read more after the jump!

Let's look at this as objectively as one can and think of Anonymous as, quite simply, an organization. Their philosophy could be generally described as a sort of Left Anarchism adapted to the 21st century: Use technology to rally against coercive institutions -- be they governments or corporations -- that have overstepped their bounds, demand transparency in said institutions, support the free flow of information, and generally stick it to thugs and jackals the world over. To this end i've found myself approving of some of their actions -- call it the death throes of youthful idealism. Hal Turner, a white nationalist and all-around despicable human being, found himself suddenly thousands of dollars in debt after his site was overloaded with web traffic. Anonymous came to the defense of Julian Assange, the merits of which have been hotly debated, but at least demonstrated a commitment to the goals of transparency. The governments of Egypt and Tunisia also experienced the wrath of Anonymous after the peoples' uprising in their countries. Then, of course, there was the recent showdown (if you're feeling charitable enough to call it that) between Anonymous and Westboro Baptist Church. Despite being subjected to the Charlie Manson eyes and general air of psychosis that forever swirls around Fred Phelps's doom-spawn like a cold, black mist, I did a feel sort of visceral thrill out of Anonymous's mid-interview attack on their site. There have been other cyber attacks -- some arguably noble, some stupidly frivolous, and a couple that have been downright despicable -- but for the sake of brevity I'll leave it there.

All that being said, the knee-jerk annoyance that I, being a gamer, have to this latest action pales in comparison to the fact that, no matter how even the most apologetically pro-Anonymous may try to spin it, an attack on Sony is a profoundly bad idea. This isn't a bank, a government, or any other sort of institution that has fallen out of favor in recent years; it's a company primarily known for video games. It stands to reason that Anonymous's general "stick it to the man" message resonates with the younger, more internet-savvy crowd. While this may seem like a generalization, anyone who was once a young lad (or lass) remembers the vibrant days of fervent rebellion, and I for one would have been the first to stand behind the "hacktivist" back in the day.

Sony has made its agenda clear: It intends to take a firm line against hackers and keep its system and its workings under its own dominion. One may oppose this agenda, but it goes without saying that attacking Sony's sites does nothing to further Anonymous's presumed goals -- in fact, from a PR standpoint, Sony now finds itself in the position of needing to show that its agenda will no be dictated by hackers and their supporters. Meanwhile, if Anonymous is interested in winning hearts and minds in the long term, it's got a long road ahead of it, all the more so when their actions only alienate the base to which it should be catering.

You can read Anonymous's full statement here

20 Comments

freeyourmind said:

As juvenile as Anonymous' attacks might be, at least they're doing something about the slow erosion of customer rights. Which is more than I can say about this piece of fluff.

The article makes two big mistakes:

1. This is about profits, nothing else. The iron-fisted control Sony wants over customer behavior isn't necessary to protect against either infringement or cheating, so using "hackers" to refer to console tinkerers and Internet hooligans is both disingenuous and lazy.

2. Sony isn't immune to criticism just because they're a video game company. It doesn't matter who they are or what they make when they've consistently shown a total lack of courtesy and disregard for their customers.

So what's Sony done, you ask?

Rootkits. Other undisclosed software. Nasty DRM (which, remember, affects customers and not infringers.) Legal action against a college student who played with his game system the way they didn't want him to.

Forgiveness isn't a courtesy I extend to people who keep screwing me over, so why should I reward Sony for being jerks ... repeatedly? Think about what you're really supporting when you buy something from a company like that.

Sony started this mess when they downgraded the capabilities of a system consumers had already purchased. Before Sony removed Linux, there was no PS3 hacking that I was aware of.

As for other deadly sins, Sony, along with Disney and other rentiers, are responsible for extending copyright long beyond the needs to protect innovation in order to protect billions in rents from dead people. If it weren't for Sony, the White Album would be public domain by now.

nate said:

The ps3 has the least restrictive DRM of any console. Because of it, I can [legally] purchase Modnation Racers on the PSN and then let my best friend and brother have [legal] copies on their systems so we can all play together online. I have never, ever, ever felt restricted on my ps3 until yesterday when the PSN kept going down, allegedly because of Anonymous. They are only hurting their fellow gamers.

Randofu said:

This does seem to violate the first rule of hacking that I remember from my youth: "You don't crap where you eat."

raindog469 said:

I'm no fan of Anonymous, but Sony took away advertised functionality from its customers' equipment retroactively, and deserve anything they get. Do they really think suing these two customers is going to discourage other customers from engaging in self-help? (That's in the legal sense of self-help, not in the "dog gone it, people like me" sense.)

Over and over again, companies keep trying to achieve the ubiquity of PCs without the openness, and then howl when their customers invoke their own physical property rights at the expense of the company's nebulous "intellectual property" rights. If Sony were selling cars and when you brought them in for an oil change, they made it so the car wouldn't start if you had your own accessory plugged into the cigarette lighter (after touting the accessory-friendly nature of their car before you bought it) and then suing the Car Talk guys for telling their listeners how to get around their crippling mechanisms, they'd be getting sued themselves, hung in effigy, maybe firebombed. They should be grateful the American justice system is so retarded when it comes to anything with a CPU, and that it's just some puerile crackers making them look like the persecuted ones for causing harm to their own customers.

Someday, a judge who tinkered his or her way through high school or college before getting into law will be sitting on the bench, and laugh these overreaching, physical-property-right-destroying click-wrap agreements out of existence. Maybe someday, the justice system will stop turning a blind eye to corporations presenting their customers with 60-page contracts with all but the first few lines hidden electronically without counsel present, knowingly allowing customers to perjure themselves by saying they've read it and signing (or "signing") them.

Until then, self-help and "hacktivism" are the only tools available to those unwilling to watch physical property rights get superseded by corporations with big legal teams making up one-sided "agreements" that essentially mean that haven't actually sold you the device that they sold you. I go for the former, myself, but certainly understand why a bunch of teens and twenty-somethings with a lot of time on their hands would think the latter is a good idea.

aim2game said:

I think it is ridiculous that people think that it is okay to hack the system. Did you agree to the ToU and EULA? If you did then, you have agreed to the contract. Which means hacking the system is not allowed.

And of course copyrights, ToU, EULA, etc. are about money. The whole purpose of any sort of business based law is to allow for fair business. Piracy is not fair business.

The Linux moaners are so full of crap it is stupid. Sony should be hacked because they took away Linux and now I can't hack PSN or pirate software! It is so unfair that a company is not letting me do illegal things with their product! *cries* Come on now you don't honestly think people were using Linux so they could run a Word Processing program?

Every game that you pirate, takes money away from Sony and game developers. Which means those companies cannot provide new products or features. If the game is too expensive, DON'T BUY IT! People today feel entitled to things, if a new game comes out, they should be able to get it no matter what. Screw the developer who spent years making it. You shouldn't have to pay that much for it or anything at all!

If consumers instead did not buy the product all together and then wrote to the developers it would have more of an effect then pirating it! If companies want to stay in business they will find ways to develop the game more cheaply. Cheaper packaging, producing less product, digital only, lay offs etc. Piracy is doubled edged in that the company can't accurately determine how well a product is done because they have no records of the product being purchased, so they cannot determine how to effectively produce their next game.

This site is dedicated to a community of gamers as such we should be supporting the infrastructure that has created this community, the developers and companies.

tropicofanatic said:

If you were to buy a bicycle, it would be absurd for the bike manufacturer to tell you that you could not replace parts or paint it a different color. I see no difference with electronics. If you buy the system, it should be yours to do as you please. By all means, crackdown on pirates and the like, but do it in a way that doesn't punish all the honest gamers. Also, you should give incentives to honest gamers. How about instead of screwing us honest gamers out of every penny you possibly can, you start giving back? What a radical concept!

I'm also really pissed that I have to pay 59.99 for a game through digital download services, when it costs them almost nothing to distribute the game.

thief-of-time said:

Sony deserves being targeted by anonymous in my oppinion. sony treats it´s costumers like shit and that is something that has to stop. would you accept buying a race car that can only drive 40mph after a regular check-up? i don´t think so... and when it comes to feeling restricted by sony: you can´t even log into PSN if you haven´t the latest firmware on your ps3. so no talking to friends on your friendlist or anything as long as you don´t get the latest piece of crappy firmware that is only supposed to keep people from "hacking" their ps3.

Chris said:

Bottom line:

"Did you agree to the ToU and EULA? If you did then, you have agreed to the contract. Which means hacking the system is not allowed."

Anonymous' claim of Sony's "abusing the judicial system" is hypocritical.

Rahzen said:

Hey, if people want to hack their systems, that's all well and good. Why though, should someone be allowed to go on SONY'S network with their hacked system? That's what people were using the "Other OS" fuction to do. Perhaps if these delinquent hackers would have stopped trying to bypass the firmware and breach the EULA, Sony wouldn't have removed the function. If you want to mod your system, stay offline.

aim2game said:

Buying a product does not entitle you to do as you please in all cases. You bought that bike and changed the parts and then wanted a refund? Not happening! Sony makes the product, you are paying to own the product not the technology. You are only renting it, therefore you cannot alter it! This isn't a custom desktop this is a integrated piece of technology, if Sony let you take it apart and alter it then why would you bother to buy it?

As for PSN whenever the firmware is updated you agree to new TOS and EULA. Which means you have to abide by the contract. If you don't want to agree to the contract then you forfeit the ability to use PSN. Firmware wouldn't need to be updated all the time if people weren't trying to hack it. Don't blame Sony blame the people trying to break the law.

That $59.99 game would cost less if people weren't pirating games. That game will also go on sale at some point. And if you simply don't want to pay that much then guess what? DON'T BUY IT! How is pirating the game helping to lower that price? Videogames might be fun to you, but they are a product for developers and those companies stay in business by selling them.

Pete said:

People don't seem to understand the words "legal contract." They think they are somehow above the law. It's the most annoying sense of entitlement. "I want, therefore it is my right." Grow up.

freeyourmind said:

"I think it is ridiculous that people think that it is okay to hack the system. Did you agree to the ToU and EULA? If you did then, you have agreed to the contract. Which means hacking the system is not allowed."

Why don't you prove I agreed to the contract before you took my money in exchange for a product? I'm sure you have proof that my acceptance was a condition of sale, right?

(Note: This shouldn't be construed as "my unauthorized modifications should be supported". Also, connecting to an online service such as the PSN is a totally different matter, as the provision of service is conditional upon acceptance.)

"People don't seem to understand the words "legal contract." They think they are somehow above the law. It's the most annoying sense of entitlement. "I want, therefore it is my right." Grow up. "

End-user license agreements haven't been upheld consistently at the appellate level, as they are a (relatively) new form of adhesion contract. Courts have ruled both ways and there is currently no Supreme Court jurisprudence ... so, it's not a settled matter of law. There are plenty of logical arguments as to why they won't hold up eventually, chiefly among them the First Sale Doctrine.

On a side note, calling people 'entitled' inevitably makes you seem supercilious.

Pete said:

freeyourmind: I called no one "entitled," which would imply the person(s) is entitled to something. I referred to "sense of entitlement," which implies the person(s) feels they are entitled to something but are in fact not entitled to it. But that is neither here nor there, as I wear the badge of supercilious bitch with pride. I find it disgusting, this form of internet terrorism.

Sony may very well be wrong, but claiming the internet belongs to you (or any one person or group) certainly reeks of a sense over-entitlement. I'm well aware that just because you click "I accept" on a EULA doesn't mean it is the gospel. Companies often put a bunch of trash in EULAs that would never stand up in court.

I'm not in fact defending Sony in the least, they tend to be big corporate bullies who don't deserve any sympathy. I'm condemning the actions and statements of Anonymous. But who knows, maybe nothing will come of it.

People (almost) never read EULAs, but they should. If they read it, they would know that Sony already said "don't do this." If a person felt they should have the right to do the thing that Sony explicitly said don't do, they could take it to court. Instead, they go ahead and do it then get all upset when Sony reacts exactly how they said they would.

Maybe, just maybe, people should have considered that Sony wouldn't be all happy when they did the exact thing Sony told them not to do. If you don't think a legal contract isn't in the right, at least assume the other party does, and intends to enforce the contract. Take it to court next time, don't take it to the internet and see how long it is before they catch on, then threaten wrongdoings on others because you made a mistake.

freeyourmind said:

Pete:

By associating "sense of entitlement" with the "people" you referred to, you were referencing being "entitled." Forgive me ever so much for changing the word to a different part of speech, but my point remains. Whenever someone starts using that phrase, all I can think is that they themselves are feeling entitled to being correct.

Anyway, you missed the gist of my reply. By calling any random EULA a "legal contract", you're giving it a lot of weight it doesn't necessarily deserve; after all, only the 9th Circuit has consistently upheld EULAs as binding. Once the contract has been held up in court, of course, you are free to attach "legal" as a prefix.

Ultimately, the decision is yours: when a company tells you not to do something, you may choose to take them at their word. Or, you may choose to follow other jurisprudence which states that the products you bought are yours to do with as you please.

And this is really the core of the matter: what makes software so special, that it is permitted to break all of the laws, rules, and common sense we've developed in the last several centuries about legal transactions? No one tolerates this nonsense when it comes to third-party car parts, after all.

Josh said:

An EULA and a ToU are not, repeat, NOT, laws. If you sign a contract to live in such-and-such apartment complex with noise policies, and you consistently infringe the noise policies, can the landlord SUE you for breaking that noise policy? NO. He can kick you out, he can raise your rent, but unless there is a noise pollution LAW in place where you reside, there's not a fracking thing your landlord can do to you in court Just Because you made extra noise.

The same is true for Sony's EULA and ToU. If you break their PSN ToU, they can ban you from PSN. Microsoft does this to machines and gamertags they've found that break their ToU. They don't sue you, and they're Microsoft. They can definitely afford the lawyers for that case.

For everyone who says that GeoHot's crack is all about piracy, you're completely uninformed about that crack. It allows homebrew software, and that's it. If you want to run pirated software, you need to install quite a bit more code than just his crack. Does his crack allow you to install that software? Yeah, but you know another component is to running pirated PS3 games? Buying a PS3.

Josh said:

An EULA and a ToU are not, repeat, NOT, laws. If you sign a contract to live in such-and-such apartment complex with noise policies, and you consistently infringe the noise policies, can the landlord SUE you for breaking that noise policy? NO. He can kick you out, he can raise your rent, but unless there is a noise pollution LAW in place where you reside, there's not a fracking thing your landlord can do to you in court Just Because you made extra noise.

The same is true for Sony's EULA and ToU. If you break their PSN ToU, they can ban you from PSN. Microsoft does this to machines and gamertags they've found that break their ToU. They don't sue you, and they're Microsoft. They can definitely afford the lawyers for that case.

For everyone who says that GeoHot's crack is all about piracy, you're completely uninformed about that crack. It allows homebrew software, and that's it. If you want to run pirated software, you need to install quite a bit more code than just his crack. Does his crack allow you to install that software? Yeah, but you know another component is to running pirated PS3 games? Buying a PS3.

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