Early last month a Sony PS3 user by the handle of GeoHot, who had previously helped crack the iPhone, posted the root key of the Playstation 3 , thereby allowing users to play pirated games on their consoles. This, of course, has set Sony on the warpath. There was even an embarrassing incident when the root key was unknowingly retweeted by Sony’s fictional Marketing Director, Kevin Butler, from the PS3 commercials.
Ever since the offending root key post, Sony has been hard at work trying to get it removed wherever it may appear on the internet. This, of course, is like trying to stuff the genie back into the bottle. Even so, Sony has been demanding that Google hand over the usernames and IP addresses of anyone that has posted or published comments in response to the Hotz Jailbreaking PS3 Homebrew video site.
Now in the latest battle in the war against piracy, Sony has had German police raid the home of a user who goes by the handle Graf_Chokolo. Chokolo is an active contributor to online PS3 hacking and modding discussions, and as Sony sees it, an alleged hacker and criminal. During the raid, German police confiscated all of Chokolo’s hardware, accounts, and anything even remotely related to hacking. An angry Chokolo quickly struck back by posting his “Hypervisor Bible” online, a collection of information and tools to help people reverse engineer and do their own hacks to the PS3 console.
So in summary, Sony has a potential public relations nightmare on its hands; not to mention a big company secret in the form of the root keys out in the public domain. The PS3 has been out since November 17th, 2006, here in the U.S. It really is a wonder that it took this long for hacking and piracy to be so widespread an issue. You cannot help but watch as this story unfolds and draw parallels to Napster and the recording industry’s very public battle years ago. This whole case really brings up the discussion of: “How much do you REALLY own those wonderful, electronic gizmos that we all love and covet so much?” Even so much as opening a home game console can be enough to void your warranty. Want to install a more efficient fan because the one that shipped with your console is inadequate and will eventually lead to a shortened life for your system? No; warranty voided! Want to develop and program cool little games to share with your friends? Again, no; that party is not for you, and could in fact make you a violator of the current Digital Millennium Copyright Act. There has to be a happy middle ground.
I totally respect the rights of a company and group of artists to receive compensation for their intellectual property and hard work. Gestapo style raids, not so much. It is up to these companies to outsmart hackers and pirates through innovation. Hacking can often expose gaping holes in systems that compromise everyone’s security and system stability. Companies are often unaware of these holes until someone pokes one of them. On the innovation and outsmarting front, Sony is trying to develop a newer, more secure PS3 system to thwart hacking and piracy. This is a move in the right direction that looks much better to the public. There has also been much talk recently that Sony will soon require users to input a product key code, like in PC games, to verify that you own a legitimate copy of the game. While this is admittedly a bit of a pain, it isn’t really that bad. I much prefer the code to having the police kick in my door to ask why I have a bootleg recording of a friend’s band or game he made (of which I have neither, for the record) on my hard drive; or why I wrote an article about hacking and piracy, any day of the week. Stay tuned for future developments in this ongoing war.