The Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a recent statement that the legal action Sony has taken against George Hotz sends a dangerous message. The groups says that it has been warning of the dangers of the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act including having a chilling effect on free speech and stifling research on security issues.
The EFF says that legitimate security researchers will be afraid to publish results for fear of facing legal action from big corporations. They also added that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act could be abused to try to make alleged contract violations into crimes. Here is more from the EFF statement:
These two things are precisely what's happening in Sony v. Hotz. If you have missed this one, Sony has sued several security researchers for publishing information about security holes in Sony’s PlayStation 3. At first glance, it's hard to see why Sony is bothering — after all, the research was presented three weeks ago at the Chaos Communication Congress and promptly circulated around the world. The security flaws discovered by the researchers allow users to run Linux on their machines again — something Sony used to support but recently started trying to prevent. Paying lawyers to try to put the cat back in the bag is just throwing good money after bad. And even if they won — we'll save the legal analysis for another post — the defendants seem unlikely to be able to pay significant damages. So what's the point?
The real point, it appears, is to send a message to security researchers around the world: publish the details of our security flaws and we'll come after you with both barrels blazing. For example, Sony has asked the court to immediately impound all "circumvention devices" — which it defines to include not only the defendants' computers, but also all "instructions," i.e., their research and findings. Given that the research results Sony presumably cares about are available online, granting the order would mean that everyone except the researchers themselves would have access to their work.
The group goes on to say that Sony is trying to say 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." They strongly disagree with this.
Of course Sony would argue that its console is not a computer at all, but does it matter? You can decide after you read the whole EFF statement here.