Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Long live the Hotz!

I will be upfront about it: I am a late contender to the jailbreaking community. I wasn't there for the first jailbreak, and I really joined in the iCrowd just before iOS 3.1 was released. So I don't understand why geohot gets all of the hate that he does. He's done so much for the jailbreaking community, and in a way, he's created it. Sure, he may have been snarky and even published a fake photo, but still: his accomplishments and contributions to hackers and non-hackers alike is nothing short of epic.

So when I heard that he was getting sued for messing with the PS3, even I, an uninformed newbie, was alarmed.

Don't we have those one things, what are they called again...'rights'?
Sony somehow believes that they somehow should be allowed control of products that you bought and paid for, even if it's within the boundaries of the law. Like Hotz says of Apple:
I believe Apple has every right to lock down their iPhone in the factory as much as they want, but once it's paid for and mine, I have the right to unlock it, smash it, jailbreak it, look at it, and hack on it. [1]
And again about Sony:
Who are they to authorize what I do with my taxed and paid for property? [1]
An article from the EFF talking about the stupidity of Sony's offense sums it up nicely:
The basic gist of Sony's argument is that the researchers accessed their own PlayStation 3 consoles in a way that violated the agreement that Sony imposes on users of its network (and supposedly enabled others to do the same). But the researchers don't seem to have used Sony's network in their research — they just used the consoles they bought with their own money.[2]
To simplify, Sony is wrong in saying that the hackers violated a network user's agreement because the hackers never used the network. Therefore (from the same article):
Simply put, Sony claims that it's illegal for users to access their own computers in a way that Sony doesn't like. Moreover, because the CFAA has criminal as well as civil penalties, Sony is actually saying that it's a crime for users to access their own computers in a way that Sony doesn't like.[2]
So thankfully, the EFF seems to be in 100% agreement with Hotz:
That means Sony is sending another dangerous message: that it has rights in the computer it sells you even after you buy it, and therefore can decide whether your tinkering with that computer is legal or not. We disagree. Once you buy a computer, it's yours.[1]
 This lawsuit is not about geohot. It's not about the PS3. It's not even about Sony. It's, as Hotz puts it, "That consumers have rights, and we aren't afraid to stand up for them." [1]

Scapegoats: When you really don't want to solve the actual issue

Like Hotz says, Sony "[doesn't] really care about piracy, they care about control." [1] He makes a blog post called "Three Facts" that sum up very easily what he has never done (and Sony has yet to challenge any of them, as far as I know).
* I have never pirated a PS3 game in my life, nor helped or encouraged people to do so
* I have never played PlayStation online, never mind cheated, nor helped or encouraged people to do so
* I have never hacked anything that I did not own or without consent of the owner[3]
Hotz even makes futher claims about his own philosophy:
I am an advocate against mass piracy, do not distribute anyone's copyrighted work but my own, do not take crap lying down, and am even pro DRM in a sense.[1]
But Sony really doesn't even care about piracy, at least when it comes to Hotz.
Sony does not even try to allege piracy or copyright infringement in this case, they allege I did things like play "super mario world, an unauthorized game" on MY PS3.[1]
Perhaps the most idiotic part of the lawsuit is that they are not only suing someone for no reasons, they are suing "the wrong guy", in the words of Hotz.[1]

If you have a problem with pirates, sue them, don't sue people who point out your shortcomings.[1]
WHAAAT? Yeah, that's right. Hotz's exploit didn't even allow pirated games. In fact, Hotz specifically disabled the ability to use pirated games or backups in his custom firmware. It was people that built off his exploits that introduced piracy at all; all Hotz did was allow you to homebrew your PS3. And when it comes to Hotz's personal opinion of the piracy that has started:
I had no idea this would happen, and am in full support of the cheaters being permabanned from PSN. [1]
Sidetrack: "Isn't Hotz guilty by association?"
On his blog, I read alot of people saying that Hotz is guilty because he provided the means with which to pirate games. Some people say that this implicates him as guilty because without his contributions, piracy would not have been able to take place. There are three reasons I disagree with this.
  1. Piracy existed before Hotz and company released the key. No, I'm not talking generally, I'm talking about specifically on the PS3, piracy existed. (If you want proof, check PSJailbreak or read an article about it dated August 19th, or even just google duck for 'ps3 dongle piracy'.)
  2. To say that someone should be held accountable for something that somebody else did with their work is retarded. Just because we can look back and say "This lead to piracy!" does not mean that it is piracy or guilty of bringing piracy. I'll try to give a few examples to illustrate my point:
    • Jaibreaking: Through jailbreaking and Installous, you can add pirated apps. Does that mean that Hotz and the Chronic Dev Team and others are guilty because they allowed a way for piracy to get in? Does that mean saurik is guilty because people can use Cydia to add pirate repos? In some weird, twisted logic, I guess you could claim that yeah, they all ended out playing a part in it, but (a) that was not their intent, and (b) they didn't contribute any to the piracy aspect. Yeah, they opened doors for piracy to get in more easily than if iOS was not jailbroken, but saying that opening doors to make it more possible for piracy is like saying that Bjarne Stroustrup is one of the people that is guilty of creating viruses because he made C++. Technically, yeah, he did contribute a necessary component, but there is a gap in between him and the 'naughty' thing. The size of the gap is the determining factor.
    • A post from the mirado of the GiantBomb forum:
        • "Do you consider Leó Szilárd to be a murderer? He conceived the idea of the nuclear chain reaction. His tests proved that a chain reaction was possible, and (along with Enrico Fermi) patented the idea of the nuclear reactor. He even wrote the letter to Roosevelt (which Einstein signed) which led to the creation of the Manhattan Project. But do you consider him to be a murderer? He didn't drop the bombs. He didn't even make the decision to drop the bombs. He wasn't a part of the project himself (at least the part which built the casings/bombs or conducted the Trinity test), in fact he voiced his dismay over losing control of the research to the military. But, though his research, he enabled thousands of people to be killed and led to the nuclear weapon stockpliles the world has today. But is he a murderer?"
    • The Internet: For Christ's sake, how about the people who invented the internet? After all, internet piracy wouldn't be a problem if the internet wasn't around. Or how about the creators of the MP3 and OGG and WAV and all the others because piracy wouldn't be so much of a problem if we just had tapes and CDs! (See what I'm getting at?) You can always go back one level of abstraction and cast blame on someone who contributed to the problem because that's what technology is: building on one another's ideas.
      You may think that I'm getting offtrack, so let me clarify: there is a delicate level of abstraction that separates each contributor to a crime and the question for Hotz's lawsuit is not "Did what he do enable piracy?", but instead, "Is he close enough to the level of piracy that he should also be blamed?" This is the delicate ground and where most of the discussion takes place, I find. To plead my case one more time, a quote from the same thread as mentioned above:
        • "The argument turns really dumb when we start saying 'but he enabled someone else to modify his system to then distribute a new system to then allow people to hack their ps3 and then pirate software' so maybe let's avoid the infinite chain of causation argument?"
  3. As biased as it sounds, I'd say Sony deserves it. I know that technically it wasn't illegal because Sony has the right to remove functionality, but there's got to be some limits on that. What if Sony released an update where every PS3 game stopped working except "Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust." No doubt people would get mad and yell but Sony could just shrug and say "EULA! LOL I TROLL U!"
    Maybe I'm exaggerating, but the point is, there's a difference between removing functionality and removing a key feature. Maybe a more accurate example would be them taking away online play. In any case, I'd say that this is a digital age spin on the classic "false advertising," because when you bought the PS3 (after the update, if you want to get technical), it was promised that you would get this feature, and some people might have even gotten the PS3 based on this feature. So for Sony to just drop it is not illegal, but sure is a douche move, all for BS reasons.
    Call it karma, call it action-and-equal-opposite-reaction, but Sony pulled a dick move. Hotz himself questions Sony's so called security reasons [4], and if they had not removed it in the first place, the exploit would never have needed to exist. (That's my personal theory anyway.) Some people blame geohot for the OtherOS removal because he talked about the exploit of the PS3 back in June of last year, but I would argue that Sony freaking out about his words and pulling the plug on a feature that people like Hotz want is not the answer to the problem. Yes, it is an answer, but it's not the answer; another answer is releasing a firmware to cause every PS3 to self-destruct: it solves the problem....but not really.
    So again, I say: Sony is reaping what it sowed.

    REGARDLESS of if you agree or disagree or want to kill me over the points I mentioned above, the point of whether or not Hotz is guilty or not is not the necessary question; the true question is "Why on god's green earth is Sony suing this guy instead of fixing the problem?" So hopefully, even if you think that Hotz is guilty and should be sued, you can agree that this lawsuit is not fixing the problem.
    End sidetrack
People all over the place are saying "Why the fuck is Sony suing this guy instead of hiring him to fix the problems?" Even just paying him for this one fix would help. Hotz himself said the following:
Even worse, you sued the guy who actually can write that patch, that'll sure teach him.[5]
(Though I'm guessing many people would question if he'd follow through on it,) Hotz has also said that
I'm also willing to accept a trade, a legit path to homebrew for knowledge of how to stop new firmwares from being decrypted. [1]
What is Sony smoking? Here's a guy saying "Look, I will help you fix this problem while simultaneously making sure it never happens again, and it will cost no money to you." But no, apparently this "issue" is more important than the actual problem or fixing it. So, instead, they decide to sue. Hotz talks about a few of the past cases -cases actually about piracy- and that instead of actually ridding the world of pirated music or DVD decryption, just "put money into some lawyers pockets."[5] The difference was only made when "some companies innovated instead of litigated."[5] Hotz makes a very, very good analogy from piracy to drugs:
I see a lot of parallels with the "War on Drugs". Most people, me included, admit drugs are a problem, but this whole idea of tackling it with the legal system has never worked and will never work. When you shut down a drug ring...another pops up, and the street price remains the same. When you shut down a piracy ring...another pops up, and content remains just as free. Sometimes a drug user is made an example of. Does everyone put down the crack pipe? Of course not. Sometimes a college student who downloaded 30 songs is made an example of. Does everyone run to the nearest Tower Records? Of course not.[5]
And lastly concludes with the statement:
The pirates and the drug smugglers will always be one step ahead, the only way to beat them is to think outside the box. And the legal system is as inside the box as you can think.[5]
So wait, what exactly is the problem, Sony? Piracy isn't because Hotz didn't promote that. The problems that Hotz and company found aren't either, because you're suing them instead of asking them for help (and people you're suing rarely want to help you). While I'm not sure we'll ever understand what's behind Sony's clusterfucked reasoning, here's a final word by Hotz in one of his posts:
If you haven't realized yet, the PS3 security isn't irreparably broken at all. But your reputation just might be. [5]
Pissing everyone off: very rarely the solution This is the dumbest fucking move in the planet, Sony. They obviously aren't trying to get money out of Hotz, so what's the motivation? To scare him. To scare everyone. This doesn't solve the problem, Sony; all it does is piss people off. To quote Hotz himself:
A question, how many people do you think knew or cared on January 10 about all this? Maybe a couple hundred thousand? Under a percent of your market share. And these are geeks, who frankly aren't going to change their content purchasing habits based on the news. These are the kind of people who really are hacking their PS3 just for the sake of doing it, just cause it's cool. The kind of people who are telling you the truth when they say they really did just hack their PS3 to run Linux. Or they are diehard pirates who never would have bought the games anyway, you know the type. Now fast forward to February 25. Consistently, the top Sony related news article is about the PS3 being hacked. And the causal gamer comes along and sees, oh cool, the PS3 has been hacked, now I don't have to buy games. [5]
To put it another way: most people didn't give a shit about it beforehand. The only people that did give a shit are now pissed-the-fuck off at you. This lawsuit did not fix the security problem, it did not fix the "hacker problem", all it did was piss your customers off, while simultaneously getting the word out about the very thing you're 'trying' to stop.

When will companies learn that trying to control their customers through fear will never do any good? Honestly, I'd say that controlling them at all is stupid. Users don't want to be controlled, they want to use the piece of equipment they bought, whether it be a cell phone, computer, or gaming system. Now things like online (official-server) gaming is different because you need order for it to even exist. But if you want to play offline (or on your own server), you should be able to do whatever the hell you want. Steam does a great job on this; you can pop open the console and change whatever you want about the game -as long as it's offline or on your server. They don't feel the need to constrict their users because their users don't need constricting.

This whole struggle for power is honestly something I would expect from Apple. No matter how many times exploits are found and jailbreaks are created, Apple continues to fight them as much as possible, even making false threats about watermarks and things to scare users away from what they tell users is "bad". They put so much effort into it instead of finding an "outside the box" solution. Sure they steal a few ideas from jailbroken apps and incorporate it into their closed system, but they still never offer a compromise, since users don't want the features: they want freedom.

Now Apple's struggle, I at least understand: they control everything, and it's for money. They keep the apps to the App Store so they can make all the money; they manufacture their own computers so they can make the money; it's all about the money. With Sony, I just don't see their angle: how is what Hotz and company did costing them any money? No, don't say "piracy," we already covered that Hotz wasn't responsible for it. (And even if you claim that he was partly responsible, why aren't they going after the people that are entirely responsible -the people who released custom firmware that DID allow pirated games? Why go for the small fries like Hotz?) So how else is home brewing costing them money? It's not. They want power for power's sake. (Or maybe they have something else up their sleeve and homebrewing interferes. Only time will tell.)

The point is, the damage is done. The information is out and nothing can be done to get it back. If anything, the lawsuit is a kind of punishment, not trying to fight piracy (since they never accuse Hotz of piracy) and not trying to undo the data leakage (since their own Twitter account retweeted the code[7]). So when Sony files a restraining order[6] that prevents Hotz from distributing his already-distributed the information AND turn over all of his computers (because obviously it was the computers that did all the work. Not Hotz.), that's really just a like a giant temper tantrum, trying to mess with Hotz as much as they can.

In summary: Sony is retarded
So again, after the outcome of this hackers still messing with their products, geohot will probably win the court date and continue hacking, their security problems will still be there, and ex-Sony fans will not easily forget this. Nice move, Sony. Here's my letter that I would (and might) send to them:
Dear Sony,
     I just thought that I would let you know, from this consumer's mouth, that I will not be purchasing any or your products in the foreseeable future. The reason behind this is your recent lawsuit with George Hotz. It has clearly been shown that you do not respect your consumers and users, so I no longer respect you.
     And for the record, I am not a hacker. I am not a geohot follower. I do not even own a PS3. Were it not for your asinine lawsuit, the PS3 exploit would have easily gone unnoticed by me. But instead, I was shown not a company that focuses on the real problem -such as the existence of security issues or functionality that users desire that you have foolishly taken away- but instead focuses on blaming scapegoats and instilling fear in the hacker and even user community. Users should not be afraid of companies, companies should be afraid of their users.
    With that, I bid farewell to all music players, game systems, computers, and any other products that bear the new four letter word for "Tyranny." I assure you that you have lost business from this consumer as I have greatly considered purchasing both a VAIO and a PS3/4 as my next computer and gaming system, but will now instead turn to alternatives. But more important than my business is my loyalty. Consumers are all about loyalty. You get rid of the loyalty, you get rid of the consumers. It's as simple as that. And until you can see that, I will not see Sony anywhere in my house.


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