Embattled PS3 hacker raises big bank to fight Sony

George "geohot" Hotz is the Playstation 3 hacker whom Sony is suing for unlocking his own PS3 so that he can run his own software on it. Hotz calls himself "pro-DRM" but he also believes in the right to jailbreak your own equipment. As confused as this sounds, it's still absurd and unjust for a gargantuan multinational to use its vast legal resources to crush a lone hacker whose "crime" is to figure out how to do (legal) stuff with his own property.

Hotz has raised money for his legal defence, which will be crushingly expensive. I'd planned on putting up $100 -- but then I discovered that Hotz had closed donations, evidently because he'd raised enough for now.

Since the donations page has gone up, Hotz has met his first goal and will be adding more lawyers to his legal team. For those without money to donate, Hotz is still asking for support. "Let people know how Sony treats customers," he wrote. "Let people know Sony would rather sue than be proactive and try to fix the problem. Let people know about laws like the DMCA which stifle innovation, and don't do anything to fix the problems they were created to solve."

If Sony offered to settle, Hotz has terms in mind: he wants the OtherOS option back on the PlayStation 3, and he wants a public apology from Sony. He's also willing to trade "a legit path to homebrew for knowledge of how to stop new firmwares from being decrypted." With a fresh infusion of funding and the attention of the media, Sony may find a more formidable opponent in Hotz than it expected.

Donations pour in for PS3 hacker; Sony court battle continues


  1. He didn’t just unlock his system. He gave thousands of players the ability to cheat with bots and various other hacks, which doesn’t normally happen in console gaming, essentially destroying the gaming experience for millions of players.

    His campaign is a lie and he deserves no support.

    1. Really, that’s what you’re going with? If I point out to people that my neighbor never locks his door, does that make me an accessory if someone robs his house?

      Of course it doesn’t and my neighbor should lock his door. This is no different for Sony. They know they have flaws and instead of fixing them, they try to sue the story away. Good luck with that, security by obscurity never works.

      Also, console cheats of all types have been going on for years. Try searching the Internet and you’ll find a good number of stories discussing that very issue and how Sony and Microsoft need to take anti-cheating measures like PC gaming folks have.

      1. If I point out to people that my neighbor never locks his door, does that make me an accessory if someone robs his house?

        Of course it doesn’t and my neighbor should lock his door. This is no different for Sony. They know they have flaws and instead of fixing them, they try to sue the story away. Good luck with that, security by obscurity never works.

        Er, flawed analogy. Sony did lock their PS3 door, only to have this guy pick the lock. Except the lock was on his own PS3’s door, so it’s none of Sony’s business.

        What’s more, even encryption could be considered “security by obscurity” because once you know the (obscure) password, you’re in. So what matters isn’t the strength of the encryption, but the fact that this guy broke it at all.

        Shouldn’t the ACLU get involved here, given that Sony is basically infringing on this guy’s civil rights?

        1. “Er, flawed analogy. Sony did lock their PS3 door, only to have this guy pick the lock. Except the lock was on his own PS3’s door, so it’s none of Sony’s business.”

          If he only picked the lock on his PS3, that re-instated the single feature he wanted (Other OS), and then distributed that key that only unlocked feature (a lot of people would’ve found that very helpful), this would be much less of an issue. Instead, he (in partnership with the crack team whose name fails me) essentially released a keyring with keys for every lock.

          George Hotz’s attempt at highroading this situation is incredibly frustrating to users that experienced massive issues as a result of this leak.

          It amounts to taking a criminal into a bank vault to open his safety deposit box and giving him the keyring for all the boxes. What do you think he’s going to do? Hotz puts this information out there with full knowledge of what the effects would be and who could use it. Saying that you didn’t ‘intend’ for people to take advantage of this is just pleading ignorance and passing the buck.

          Plus that video makes him look like an ass. I’m all for the re-instating of some features and making the system more open. But you have to accept responsibility for releasing this kind of information to the general public. Not everything is going to have good intentions there Georgey boy.

      2. “Criminal, why did you choose this house to break into?”
        “Because his neighbour told me his house would be unlocked.”
        “Oh really? Neighbour, why did you do that?”
        “To teach him a lesson!”

        If he committed a crime that he wouldn’t have done without your assistance, then yes, I’m pretty sure that would make you an accessory.

      3. If I point out to people that my neighbor never locks his door, does that make me an accessory if someone robs his house?

        Actually, yes. Yes it does.

        “A person charged with aiding and abetting or accessory is usually not present when the crime itself is committed, but he or she has knowledge of the crime before or after the fact, and may assist in its commission through advice, actions, or financial support.”


    2. Here, here.

      Although I agree in principle that if you own something then you have the right to do whatever you want with it, I also sympathise with, not only Sony, but all the developers and to a smaller extent publishers who rely on a solid, uncompromised ecosystem in which to have their games run and for people to play in.

      If he found an exploit in the PS3s hardware/software then he should have done what any sensible white hat would have done and told Sony about it. Releasing an exploit and bragging about it is pretty much asking for everything he gets in my book.

  2. Initially I supported his cause, as I believe that one should be able to modify one’s own property as they see fit. However, given that he went out of his way to taunt Sony with homosexual slurs in this video, I have lost all respect for this guy.

    1. I have not time, or legal defence donations, for these homophobic slurs, but Everyone should be allowed to own their property.
      It would be a shame if Sony won cause this guy confuses the issue.
      I used to work with a really hot lady who was engaged to this wealthy chocolatier guy. now that dude was a fudgepacker. True story.

    2. I don’t care about the guy, I want him to win anyway, to set an iphone-like precedent. There are big issues at stake here, much bigger than my opinion of some guy I’ll probably never have to interact with anyway.

      Even if he’s the biggest asshole in the world doesn’t matter one bit to me. I still support his cause.

  3. Why on earth did he stop accepting money? Lawyers will keep doing their thing endlessly.

    My legal education consists of following the SCO Group saga closely. It’s been going on for *eight years*, and the only constant is the lawyers’ billable hours.

  4. I can rant for days about the issues I have with “modern” gaming…but if people have a problem with the ability to crack a game console leads to people cheating then why don’t they have problems with all the other issues?

    -Modifying a piece of hardware you own should be your right.
    Do you work on your own car? (Or at least could you if you
    wanted to?) Same difference in most respects.

    -Cheating only really affects people in multiplayer…right?
    Who cares if I cheat while playing a single player game other than me? So why not deal with it either in the game or on the network.
    (And actually Sony did/is doing this by banning hacked PS3’s on the PS network…but that’s kind of taking it a couple steps to far.)

    -Having to have a network connect to play a single player game.
    This circles around to what I said about “all the other issues”. When did it become OKAY for developers to send out games that were broken or need a patch/update to even play from the get go? Sure I’ve been playing PC games for 20 years, but even back in the dial up days most patches for games resolved VERY specific issues only a tiny percentage of players might encounter. Now it’s standard issue to have to update a game, on a console, to even play it….

    So, no I hope he wins against Sony. People should have the right to modify their hardware any way they want. Sony doesn’t have to let you play on their network if they choose that, but they own their network so that is their call.

  5. Sony are plainly in the wrong here, but I’m hesitant to support him after watching the video simply cos he’s acting like a complete jackass.

  6. The point in hacking the PS3 is to cheat like hell. To ignore that is silly. At the same time, the point of marketing an inherently crippled system like the PS3 is to maximize control over your consumer base. Neither party is honorable and neither party deserves to be supported.

    1. And not to mention that hundreds/thousands of PS3’s used by universities and businesses in massive data crunching systems.

      Sure you could buy an IBM system that does the same thing, but these are cheap and easily scalable.

  7. Well, that video was a little alienating. Maybe he needs to open donations again so he can hire a half-way decent PR guy too.

  8. “The point in hacking the PS3 is to cheat like hell.”

    Really? I wanted otherOS so I could use it as a home server when not playing games.

  9. Am I the only one amazed that the Xbox 360 turned out to be the most “secure” console of this generation?

    Sure there’s that firmware hack for piracy (though they ban lots of people for it regularly), and some cheating still happens, but you still can’t run arbitrary unsigned code.

    Either they really got their cryptographic act together, or the cheap XNA toolkit acted as a release valve for people who wanted to mess around with it.

  10. This video is fucking awesome! Anyone want to bet that Sean Parker has silently paid his legal bills and is egging this kid on to publicly berate Sony?

    Would make for an awesome story ;-)

  11. Is it any different than AT&T locking down your lawfully bought iPhone to their network? Is it not your phone?

    What if you bought your iPhone so that you could listen to music but Apple decided that they don’t want people using that feature anymore?

    Sony has been removing features from the console since the beginning. The console was originally able to play playstation 2 games and you could install a second OS. Sony removed these popular features and people want them back, is that a surprise?

    Whatever Geohot does with his console is his business. He isn’t being sued for cheating or piracy, he is being sued because Sony is a big cartel and wants to silence his efforts even if they are legal.

    I support his cause even if he has subpar rap skills.

  12. I simply think the guy is just a whistle blower exploiting and showing the flaws of the system.

    You think that if he was “nice about it” and didn’t release the info Sony would give a fig and fix the situation?

    No. They will just bury it, sue him regardless and hide it in PR speak.

    You force the situation if you want to get heard by a multi-national. That’s what a white-hat hacker is.

  13. Dude Broke the PS3.
    Got Sued,
    Stood up to defend himself.
    Got Help.
    Made a rap about it.
    and rubbed Lik-Sang back in their noses.

    You glorious bastard.

    If for no other reason at all, you’re my hero.

  14. If you get your gear through the mail are you covered by U.S. Postal Regulation #1? This states that if you take delivery of it it’s your property – period. It was put in place in the early part of the 20th century to combat scamsters who’d mail people things they didn’t order and then sue them for not paying the ridiculous bills that arrived later. I can’t find a citation since the post office doesn’t have its regulations on-line anywhere but maybe someone with access to specialised legal databases could find this.

  15. Sony is in the wrong but, this guy obviously suffers from a severe case of douchebaggery. Stick to gaming. Please stop with the pseudo-rhyming, now. Don’t think about it. Just stop.

  16. No, he’s a twat. Why was OtherOS (you know, the reason that the hackers turned their attention to the PS3) removed? Because GeoHot was using it to hack the PS3. If you used OtherOS, congratulations. You are part of a tiny, tiny minority amongst everyone else who wanted to use their *games console* to play *games*.

    Now that he’s broken it open, what are people going to do with a hacked console?
    a) pirate games
    b) cheat/hack online games
    c) maybe add functionality like .mkv support but probably not because they’ll be too busy doing a & b.

    Now, a) is between them and the publisher. b) fscks over every other gamer using the PSN. GeoHot is getting the love from sites like /. and BB, but if you go to the gaming sites & blogs, the view of him is more 80%/20% that he’s a douchebag who is the reason we can’t have nice things.

    1. Twat or not, piracy and cheating or not, I still support him because I firmly believe that one ought to have the right to hack anything they own, for any purpose, for any reason. The company that makes the device should have absolutely no say in it.

      Sony’s in my opinion in their rights of banning modded consoles, but suing people for doing stuff to their property is absolutely inexcusable and must be shut down, hard.

      He got $50 from me just for that reason, and I don’t own any Sony products.

      1. Yeah! Screw if what they do ultimately ruins an experience that other people also shelled out their hard earned money to have and enjoy. I mean, who cares if what you do has repercussions that extend far beyond your personal self. As long as you’re only concerned about your property, the rest of the world can suck it up and deal with it.

        Or not…

        1. More or less, yeah.

          IMNSHO, the right to do whatever one wants with the stuff they bought is more important. The repercussions of companies being able to dictate what one can do with one’s stuff to me are far worse than having to report somebody for cheating once in a while.

          And like I said, report and ban the cheaters. I have no problem with that and never said people should just ignore it.

          1. So if I buy a gun I can just start shooting whoever I want? I mean, its my gun, and according to you I should have the right to do whatever I want with it, regardless of those around me and their well-being. And that’s what’s more important…

            Ever heard the expression “your rights end at the tip of your nose?”

            The minute you or your actions start infringing on the rights, wills, and desires of those around you, its stops being a matter of personal property. Geohot knew full well the repercussions of what he was doing, and he just simply didn’t care. In psychological terms we call that a sociopath. In the real world, its just being a greedy little punk trying to get famous.

            Like I said, I hope he gets sued into oblivion. If you want to send your money to someone, you should start mailing it out to all the players who can no longer enjoy the games they payed for because of the rampant hacking/cheating he brought to the community.

          2. Nobody else’s rights are being infringed.

            He’s messing with his own hardware, which is his right. And if he wants to talk about it, that’s his right as well. That’s it, and there’s nothing else to it.

            On repercussions, whether he knew or not doesn’t matter, there shouldn’t be any.

            Money to the players? Definitely not. Don’t whine so much, report whoever cheats for cheating, and get back to playing. Anybody in the same position as he is? I’m very willing to donate, just give me a link.

            Well, I figure I made my position clear enough, and arguing more would result in going in circles, so I’m off to do some coding of my own.

          3. Let’s work with an analogy to explain why I have a problem with you and others defending Sony on this one.

            Imagine you’re building a new house and it’s time to buy a toilet. Company X will sell you a top of the line bowl for significantly cheaper than anyone else, but there’s a catch. The toilet is computerized, and they are very strict about what kind of toilet paper you use. The business model of Company X is to lose money on the physical hardware they are selling, but to recoup those losses by overcharging for toilet paper. Company X brand TP is very expensive. Various sensors exist to ensure that only company X approved TP is put into the bowl. Toilet owners found to be using non-approved TP will have their toilet funtions permanently deactivated via Company X’s robust security measures. Many people buy Company X’s subsidized toilets, while also incrementally purchasing Company X’s inflated TP.

            Along comes ToiletHacker. This person figures out how to circumvent the security measures designed to keep the bowl from functioning properly if you do something Company X didn’t intend for you to do with your toilet. ToiletHacker claims that you should be able to use any kind of TP you want, even gross TP you made yourself. Company X claims that circumventing their toilet security measures will lead to massive losses of income for them, not to mention the illegality of such actions due to the DMCA. At this point it’s worth noting that a manufacturer of non-computerized toilets could never sell you one with the understanding that you only purchase TP from suppliers of their choice. Strict consumer protection laws exist to ensure that such dirty deals are illegal to enforce. Defenders of ToiletHacker claim that a computerized toilet shouldn’t be fundamentally treated any differently than an ordinary toilet, and you should be able to do whatever you want with a physical object once you purchase it, including having your own choice of toilet paper. They also add that Company X should not have relied on a business model founded upon the fundamentally evil premise of people not being able to chose their own toilet paper. You seem to making an argument against this.

            Basically, I believe you don’t think I have the right to hack my toilet.

          4. Actually that’s not a great analogy…

            It would be better if Sony owned the toilet, the special TP, and the sewer access…

            It’s not just that you are buying games for the PS3 (giving Sony some money there), but you are also using PSN (which Sony makes money with as well).

            So with a hacked toilet, it’s still completely functional, and will flush fine. But ideally with a hacked PS3 Sony could/should ban them from online play (I think that’s a fair trade off.), ie. your toilet would work, but your poop just wouldn’t have anywhere to go.

            I can understand gamers issues with playing against people who are using cheats. That’s a problem Sony needs to work out on their side (or the PSN side), not the hardware side.

          5. WTF?
            I am not allow to hack to stupid business model?
            Let’s take the classic razors, I give your the handle for almost free but the blades are stupid expensive, business model as an example.
            Should Gillet be allowed to block me from selling compatible blades for their handle? Of course not. There can be no reasonable patent on a handle for a razor blade.
            Same goes for PS3–it is a stupid computer which I can run whatever OS I adapt to run on it.
            Life, liberty and hackyness.

        2. Well Sony sold me a PS3 which failed outright – while out of warranty, but not yet four years old, a unit which HAD NEVER PLAYED A GAME, only used to playback blu-rays and Dvds…. for what is now a well-known manufacturing fault, judging from the PS3 repair bulletin boards I have looked at…. so you’ll have to forgive me if I, for one, do not care one iota about Sony’s claimed “rights”.

          In fact, I hope that those get reduced to the bare minimum – by legislation, if need be.

      2. Generally, I’d be agreeing with you. If his hack had let you fiddle with things normally blocked off, or let you add codec support, access more of the system with OtherOS, even add games to HDD, all good. You do pay for your console and should be able to do what you want with it.

        However…what he’s done now allows people to mess up the PS3 community at large. Do what you want with your own console, but that right should end in your living room – most other people don’t want to play a multiplayer game against someone with a bunch of hacks they downloaded, or have their console banned from the PSN by a scriptkiddie or anything like that.

        GeoHot may have not directly created a hack to do that, but he bears the responsibility for what he did do.

        1. For me what it happens to do isn’t relevant. I support his right to do it to his own console, whatever “it” is, just that simple.

          AFAIK, he did work on his own console and published his results. I believe he has and ought to have complete rights to do both of those things.

          If somebody downloaded what he made and used to cheat in a game, then that’s not GeoHot’s problem, it’s the cheater’s, who should be rightly banned.

          Unless I’m mistaken, Sony should have more than enough information about the players to ensure bans are permanent and can’t be worked around by creating more accounts.

    2. @29

      OtherOS was removed from the slim PS3s which prompted the start of this. geohot used the OtherOS on the fat ps3’s to investigate methods to add it back (among other reasons, yes). Sony then removed OtherOS from the fat PS3s as well.

      After viewing this video I find I support him as a person less due to the homophobic slurs, but I still support his right to do what he did in regards to the PS3’s security.

  17. The PC has had to deal with hackers for years: they do it by letting players set up their own servers and ban people they suspect of hacking. Just because consoles don’t support basic oversight and control by the end users, doesn’t mean they get to crush everyone’s rights to save a few pennies. Hell, server fees can be pretty lucrative.

  18. Reverse engineering is an established tradition for invention and development of new and better products. Why is it outlawed for Sony products?

  19. Wow, I can’t believe how many people are wishing bad things on this guy. The PS3 is a computer. When you buy a computer, you should have the right to run whatever software you’d like on it. I mean, how did game companies survive on the PC?

    “But now people will create hacks and cheat online!”

    Seems like a pretty minor thing to restrict freedom over. I’ve used hacks to do things like run Quake on a Dreamcast, a game I own a couple times over, just because there is something neat about it. Just the tinkerer’s impulse. I never ran a burned Dreamcast game. People like us exists, but to hear some people talk I must be like a guy with a bong who claims to use it for tobacco. Just a BS evasion of my true motives or something. Fact is, consoles, phones, DVRs, routers and all other variety of computers get cracked open all of the time, and I always have supported it… always will.

  20. It’s worth noting that the very same DCMA also made ‘unauthorized execution of code without the consent of the owner of any device’ a felony in the US.

    Yet Sony still willfully mass distributed rootkits on their CDs and DVDs that allowed both spying on people and remote execution of code. Of course, none of their people went to jail, they just made a class action settlement that almost nobody knew about besides the lawyers.

    1. Yeah, they’ve made reverse engineering a felony, a crime, which the State would punish.

      This is what you get when Corporations have full political speech rights.

  21. Should Average Joe be allowed to modify his car? YES
    Should Average Joe be allowed to modify/hack my PS3? YES

    Should he be allowed to drive his modified car on public roads?

    YES, however there are RULES and regulations that need to be adhered to. These rules are there to stop some idiot in his rocket propelled mini van from hitting mach 3 on the highway, and impacting with other LAW ABIDING people.

    While a hacked PS3 is unlikely to mash anyone to a pulp on the highway, it still stands to reason that it WILL have a negative effect on others in the community if used inapropriately. (cheating, piracy, fraud, theft, etc)

    My point is, do what you want with your PS3.
    But if your hacker crap has an impact on some Average Joe, just remember that he will be following your own twisted logic when his rocket car impacts with your face!

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