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Sony Uses DMCA To Shut Down Aibo Hack Site 418

Posted by timothy
from the what-are-they-thinking dept.
Therlin writes: "Victor Matsuda, Vice President of Sony's Entertain Robot America (makers of AIBO), sent a letter to Aibopet.com citing the Digital Mellennium Copyright Act. You can read the letter here. Aibopet is the website of an AIBO owner who enjoys researching AIBO. He also provides free software programs to improve and add features to the robots." I bet Sony won't increase their Aibo sales this way -- don't they like fanatical customers?
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Sony Uses DMCA To Shut Down Aibo Hack Site

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  • So can I take my Sony Aibo back since I can't use it for the hack value I got it for?

    Now its useless as a Barbie Doll.
  • Easy work around... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by grammar nazi (197303)
    It asks him to remove that long list of zip files. He should just claim that Sony violated the DMCAA by circumventing his encryption when they unzipped those files. Otherwise, how would they know what the zip archives contain?
    • by grammar nazi (197303) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @08:32PM (#2488521) Journal
      OOPs. I hit submit instead of preview....

      .

      Anyways, here's the problem with the whole issue:
      (i) the contents of your site contain Sony copyrighted software which you are
      copying and distributing in violation of Sony's rights;
      -- That sounds fair to me. He shouldn't be violating any copyrighting anything. Shut him down until he complies.
      (ii) your site provides the means to
      circumvent the copy protection protocol of Sony's AIBO(tm) Memory Stick(tm) to allow access
      to Sony AIBO-ware software;
      -- I have mixed views about if this is right or wrong, but this issue doesn't pertain to the DMCAA (according to the letter).
      (iii) you site promotes the distribution of your original
      software such as "Disco AIBO", "AIBO Scope", "Bender AIBO", etc. which appear to have
      been created by copying and decrypting Sony's software.
      -- It is my opinion that (a) he has the right to 'fairly use' the code as long as he does it personally, (b) Sony doesn't know that the programs were created by copying and decrypting the software. Sony would have a hard time supporting this argument in court. The Aibo isn't *that* complicated that it couldn't be easily reverse engineered.

      However,
      your site still contains information providing the means to circumvent AIBO-ware's copy
      protection protocol constituting a violation of the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital
      Mellennium Copyright Act.
      -- Ouch. I tell you how to build an atomic bomb, do I go to jail? I teach your karate... do I get in trouble when you beat somebody up? I teach you how to fly a plane. Do I get in trouble when...? You get my point. I disagree with this entire line of B.S.. Of course, IANAL, but my armchair law experience tells me that O.J. is guilty and this wouldn't stand up.

      Hopefully, the isp won't force him to shut down and he will continue to provide Aibo users an experience. I'll be sitting here at my computer offering my opinion to the /. masses the next time there is an Aibo story. ...even if they don't ask.

    • 1. zipping a file compresses it but it is not a technology primarily designed to protect copyright.

      2. He is not disputing what is in the zipped files.

      This is yet another reason not to buy Sony products...
      • >> 1. zipping a file compresses it but it is not a technology primarily designed to protect copyright.



        Unless he uses the "password" option when compressing the file. This is standard in most ZIP programs these days. He could use a password that could be distributed separately, and not directly "said" to be the password.



        MadCow.

    • by Gaijin42 (317411)
      The DCMA only covers circumventing encryption which you are not licensed to decrypt. Since he provided the files on his website, and said "here download these" the effectively licensed everyone who could access the site to "decrypt" his zip file.

      If he had in some way restricted access to the file to non sony employees only, and sony went around that, then he would have some DCMA action, but not otherwise.

      If things worked the way you implied, whenever you pissed off someone at a big studio, they could retroactively say you weren't allowed to use your DVDs anymore, and you were in violation of DCMA. The fact that they sold you the DVD implies they wanted you to watch it.

      Of course, this brings up the actual GOOD argument against the DCMA which is if they want you to watch it, why cant you watch it however you want (other formats etc)

      But that is a story for a different bedtime.
  • by SevenTowers (525361) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @08:22PM (#2488488) Homepage
    In fact I think it is well within Sony's rights to express concern over the dangerous software this man is writing. Imagine all those little robots going mad and attacking cats and babies... How much money would they lose then?

  • Not too smart. If people can't do what they want to do with the products they buy, they might as well switch over to buying other products.

    Sony's hurting a customer, and potential buyers and themselves. Say if someone creative takes a visit at the aibopet website, and finds its waay cool, they have a potential buyer... whoops it not there any more.

    Too late Sony. DCMA is a virtual trap.
    • This just gives me one more reason to be glad that I stopped buying Sony products.

      I used to buy their products religiously, everything the top of the line. My first fun experience was when I brought my $800 (at the time) Sony VCR to their repair center, which happens to be located near me. They wanted $240 just to look at it. Then they were charging $80/hr. plus parts to fix it. The person I talked to at the service center said he thought he knew the problem from the symptoms, and it was about $500 to repair it after the diagnosis, parts, and labor. It really rubbed me wrong when he reached over to a pile of Sony catalogs and handed me one and recommended a replacement model that I could order right then and there. Was this a regular occurance for them? All this when my VCR had about 8 hours of use, and it was just over a month outside of their warranty period.

      I also had a similar experience with a camcorder I had spent over a grand on. That's when I decided to stop buying their products. They consider everything disposable, even after just a year of use (or no use for that matter). When I pay a premium for a product, I don't do it just to show other people the brand name. I do it because the company behind the name makes a good quality product and stands behind it. Sony used to make a good product, but they have never stood behind it for me.

      Not that they care with their sales volume, but until their service practices change and their product quality returns to what it used to be, they lost me as a customer.

      --SONET

  • by TGK (262438) <Killfile@NepTEAhandus.Com minus caffeine> on Saturday October 27, 2001 @08:25PM (#2488499) Homepage Journal
    ... demonstrate that damage was done? I mean, what you're talking about here is someone who's hacked an embeded device (basicly).

    Does the DMCA ban reverse engineering as well? Is that technicaly constitutional? It seems that there's a lot of questions about this case that need answering. But the bottom line is that Sony isn't loosing any money from this site. None of these files are of any use if you don't HAVE an Abio right?
    • Does the DMCA ban reverse engineering as well

      Yes, except for purposes of interoperability.

      Is that technicaly constitutional?

      Nope. But who knows if the Supreme Court will overturn the DMCA or not? We'll have to wait and see..
    • Does the DMCA ban reverse engineering as well?

      In theory no, in practice yes.

      Is that technicaly constitutional?

      It dosn't actually matter, since there is a quirk in the US legislative process such that its utterly trivial to pass laws which violate the US constitution. They will then be treated as valid until someone can persuade the US supreme court otherwise (which is probably now a more difficult task than "buying" a law anyway.) This even appears to apply to violation of the 14th ammendment which explicitally requires such laws be ignored.
  • by lkaos (187507) <(anthony) (at) (codemonkey.ws)> on Saturday October 27, 2001 @08:25PM (#2488500) Homepage Journal
    I know I'll get flamed for this, but Sony did have a right to respond to the fact that he was distributing backup copies of their software.

    The DMCA bs was probably just because they were already pissed. I absolutely agree that the DMCA is wrong but this guy didn't help his cause by putting copyrighted software on his site.

    You can't scream about unfair laws and then break the ones that are fair.
    • by Nindalf (526257) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:42PM (#2488654)
      You can't scream about unfair laws and then break the ones that are fair.

      First off, who says that copyright is fair? I would guess that the people most opposed to the DMCA already didn't like copyright. It's more like screaming about really unfair laws and then breaking different unfair ones. This guy obviously thought he wasn't doing anything wrong, and I agree with him.

      Secondly, this is a counterproductive abuse of copyright. We're talking about software that can only be usefully run on an expensive toy that the copyright-holder sells. They don't need copyright protection. I think this could be considered fair use, because it's non-commercial, for research and education purposes, and does not actually interfere with their profit potential. OTOH, if someone cloned AIBO, they might have some reasonable justification to interfere.

      The appropriate response would have been to lead with the ominous assertion of copyright restrictions, and follow with permission to use it to increase the value of their product. IOW, distribution under restrictive license (permission is only granted to owners of an AIBO to copy and modify this code, and only for the purpose of running it on an AIBO, all modifications become copyright Sony, etc.). Or, at worst, tell him to distribute his modifications as patches.

      Basically, instead they told him that he shouldn't even have thought about modifying the software, because there's no way in Hell it would ever be permitted.

      To me, this is an extremely offensive interference with personal property and free speech rights. The way I see it, people have a right to make any modifications they want to gadgets they've bought, as long as it doesn't make them dangerous to others, and a right to describe how such modifications may be made, quoting copyrighted materials as necessary, as long as that quoting, in and of itself, doesn't directly reduce the commercial value of the copyright.
      • First off, who says that copyright is fair?


        Most people at least believe copyright is in principle a good idea. The zealots who scream "free free free" all the time do a great job at marginalising themselves, and those who have a more moderate agenda than simply getting everything for free.

        • Most people that think copyright is a good idea in principle also understand that in current practice it's horrible. The term is effectively unlimited, and now the DMCA severely curtails fair use and reverse engineering rights. Not to mention the SSSCA that I'm sure we haven't seen the last of. Copyright in theory is a good idea. But when the greedy bastards of this world get ahold of the government, things go downhill fast.

          • OK, even if we didn't have the DMCA, SSSCA, and 'unlimited' copyright terms, and copyright law hadn't changed since 1920*, if this guy was distributing the software for a current Sony product, it would still be illegal.

            As to the greater argument -- Disagreeing with the legitimacy of a law is fine, although it's finer if you don't get caught.

            * Apparently the copyright status of computer programs wasn't clear until the early 80s, but I'm assuming here that software would be covered.
    • A mod to software in itself belongs to whoever developed the mod. Modifications occur all the time and IP is granted for it and it can be distributed.

      The problem is that you have to have the original to modify. This guy not only distributed the original+modification, which is dodgy under conventional copyright law, but he also distributed the tools for patching, which is dodgy under the DMCA.

      In fact the second approch of distributing patches plus patching tools would still be allowed in the EU. This is where the DMCA sucks big time!!!

  • Magic Word (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Saxerman (253676) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @08:26PM (#2488501) Homepage
    I was expecting more of an automated form letter, so I was pleasantly surprised by the personalization of the complaint letter. Are we gun shy now and flinching whenever someone challenges their "property" rights? Obviously their attitude of "please don't be curious about things we own" backed by the DMCA smells like rotten fruit, but I'd rather see them hand pick their targets and send friendly "We're Out to Get You" letters rather than putting on the gorilla suit and squishing everything in sight. Until the world discovers a better way to handle "intellectual property" what more can we expect from large companies like Sony?
  • by WesBiggs (20360)
    Unfortunately, Sony is within their rights under the DMCA (a bad law in our quickly maturing police state). But wouldn't they be a lot more successful by co-opting this hacker's work and selling it to Aibo lovers? Copyright law shouldn't need to be used to stifle innovation.

    Quick, while you still can, program your Aibo to bite the hand that feeds it...

    • Copyright law shouldn't need to be used to stifle innovation.

      Agreed. And the ironic thing is that copyright law was originally intended to promote innovation. But the Founding Fathers had a far different view of what copyright should be than what the corporate bosses^W^W lawmakers of today do.
      • by hearingaid (216439) <redvision@geocities.com> on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:35PM (#2488636) Homepage
        the ironic thing is that copyright law was originally intended to promote innovation

        Close, but no cigar.

        Patent law was originally intended to promote progress in the sciences, which in modern terms translates to technological innovation.

        Copyright law was originally intended to promote progress in the arts, which in modern terms translates to good entertainment.

        Copyright law's got nothing to do with innovation, never has. Why it got applied to binary numbers meant to express a simple technological function with no human-readable content whatever, I'll never understand...

        (Before the twentieth century, every copyrightable item could be processed by an unaided normal human. We have moved well beyond that: why we stick with the antiquated notion of copyright, I'm not sure.)

        • Copyright law was originally intended to promote progress in the arts, which in modern terms translates to good entertainment.

          You think a novelist or an artist can't be innovative?

          Anyway, this is a gross misrepresentation of the meaning of "the arts." If that was the case, they would have only applied it to works of fiction. In such formal speech, "the arts" is used in the root sense of productive skills, not merely entertainment, which is why you see a title like "The Art of Computer Programming."

          Also, when it was settled that copyright could be applied to software, the justification was clearly to reward progress/innovation in software development.
        • Patent law was originally intended to promote progress in the sciences, which in modern terms translates to technological innovation.
          Copyright law was originally intended to promote progress in the arts, which in modern terms translates to good entertainment.


          The actual wording says "science and the useful arts".
          Where "arts" can clearly, by the context, mean a lot more things than "good entertainment". Indeed "art" can often mean lots of things unrelated to entertainment, e.g. "black arts", "art of war", etc.
    • Stifling innovation is exactly what copyright and other intellectual property holders want: the legal wherewithal to stifle their competitor's innovation. When consumers, small business people, hackers, tinkerers, and artists show up at Congress with briefcases full of cash and limos full of interns, perhaps we can expect some change.

      And I'm a little disappointed by the attitude that Sony should just be nice to its fans. Any law that relies on the kindness, or even the self interest, of the party that can enforce it to be a fair law, is one messed up law.
    • Copyright law shouldn't need to be used to stifle innovation.

      In the USA copyright law exists for very specific reasons, set out in US Constitution. Stifling innovation is mutually exclusive with those reasons.
      Problem is that too few US citizens appear to have actually read their constitution. (With those charged with enacting legislation either being similarly ignorant or realising that they are unlikely to be challenged. e.g. when was the last time you saw news media coverage of US political news which even mentioned the US constitution?)
  • Just plain wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @08:28PM (#2488509) Homepage
    You know, there are some things that will someday seem obvious to any reasonably person as completely wrong and nuts, that at the times seemed completely rational. Racism, slavery, and the inferior status of women were all once taken mostly for granted by all except a few, but now are considered generally indefensible, at least in theory.

    Someday, the true may be said of this idea: that corporate ownership of intellectual property takes priority over folk and grassroots enthusiasms (particularly nonfraudulent and not-for-profit ones); that the owners of popular culture enjoy the benefits of the ubiquity of that culture, a culture which has in some sense colonized our subconscious (I have dreams with Bugs Bunny and the Enterprise in it - but if I depicted one of my own dreams publicly, I'd risk a lawsuit) but refuse to allow that ubiquity when it doesn't serve them.

    Unfortunate, there is no indication that the increasingly global plutocracy is going to become reasonable any time in the near future. But I still hold out hope. What would it take for that to happen?

    • What will it take?
      Massive civil disobedience, a la Napster...

      I don't think that the IP holders can win this war the way they're trying to. Until they provide the same materials more conveniently, there will be always be Napsters and Morpheuses and Aibohacks. As one is shut down, others will pop up.

      The DMCA might be a bad law, but effectively I'm able to take all the rights I'd wish to have under a perfect system. So do most people. So who is winning?
      • I don't think that the IP holders can win this war the way they're trying to.

        Except that it corporate (especially large corporate) "IP" holders who are enguaging in this.
        If this were simply about copyright holders then you'd stuff to be being pulled off the websites of large corporations daily at the request of individuals and small business.
    • Mod ol' Lemmy up! He's so damn right.

      I'm going to take the same attitude with Sony as I have with other abusers of patent and copyright law. If there's opportunity to put the shaft to 'em, I'm gonna.

      Should I ever have an Aibo, I'll be doing my damnest to hack it.
  • Sony vs. Lego (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fossa (212602)

    While slightly different I think, it's interesting to contrast this with Lego's attitude toward hacking MindStorms.

  • by fm6 (162816) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @08:33PM (#2488524) Homepage Journal
    I'm not familiar with the software that Sony wanted removed. Sony seems to think that that some software was copied or modified Sony product, and the site owner doesn't contradict this. If that's true, than any DMCA issues are secondary.

    The site owner's logic seems to be, "OK, I'm violating Sony copyrights, but by doing so I'm helping them sell hardware, so it's in their own interest to overlook my violation." He's obviously ignorant of a basic fact of copyright law: if you own a copyright, you must enforce it, or risk losing it. This was true long before the DMCA came along.

    Sony might seem to be less enlightened than hacker-friendly outfits like TiVO and Lego. But these companies have merely refrained from prosecuting people who reversed-engineered their systems without trying to rip off software or content. That's not a "prosecute or lose it" issue. If you started distributing modified TiVO or Lego Mindstorms software, they'd be on you in a flash.

    • He's obviously ignorant of a basic fact of copyright law: if you own a copyright, you must enforce it, or risk losing it.

      *weary sigh*

      No, you're thinking of trademark laws. Copyright can be enforced or not, now or later, entirely at the whim of the copyright owner.

      The fundamental difference is that copyrights protect the interests of the creator, by allowing the creator to decide who can and cannot duplicate the item in question. Trademarks protect the interests of the consumer, by preventing "inferior" knockoffs of a product from being marketed as the original. If a trademark holder ignores infringement, the damage is irreparable, and the mark loses force in fact.

      Sony could play nice by granting a license to select hackers' sites, and thereby remove even the appearance of neglecting their interests. In this case, they could have asked that actual copies of their software be removed from the site, while permitting, even encouraging, the how-to files and
      new software, akin to what we've seen with Lego Mindstorms. Instead, they've killed a potentially fanatical market. They're within their rights (as defined by the evil DMCA) but by doing so, they've proved themselves idiot bullies.
      • Trademarks protect the interests of the consumer, by preventing "inferior" knockoffs of a product from being marketed as the original. If a trademark holder ignores infringement, the damage is irreparable, and the mark loses force in fact.

        It's not quite as causal as you suggest. The damage may not be irreparable; if the word does not pass into common use, then it doesn't. Also, even if the trademark holder sues vociferously, irreparable damage may still be done. The classic example is Thermos, where the company sued like crazy to stop stores from labelling the sections where vaccuum bottles were sold anything but vaccuum bottles. Still, now, people call vaccuum bottles Thermos, regardless of who actually made them, and it's no longer a trademark.

        Trademark lawyers still suggest that their clients should file suit to protect trademarks. It can help, but it's not a guarantee, either way.

        You're completely right about copyright of course :)

      • Oops, you're right. I was thinking of trademarks.

        Still, it's pretty dumb to assume that the copyright owner will overlook an infraction just because you think it's in their interest to do so. It's like "borrowing" an item from a store -- no matter how sincerely you believe you meant to return it, your intentions will cut no ice if you're nabbed. Even if Sony were to decide to allow redistribution, they'd certainly expect you to ask first!

        And, I repeat, this is just not a DMCA issue. True there's a DMCA citation in the letter, but that's just some lawyer covering all the bases. This is a basic copyright case.

        • Many copyright owners overlook infractions, when it's in their best interests.

          For example, fan movie sites. Tons and tons of fans put up copyrighted images from motion pictures. This is illegal.

          It's also good for sales of those motion pictures. There are exceptions (notably Paramount and their poor relations with the Star Trek fan community; also the X-Files flap a few years back), but by and large, it gets completely ignored. (I'm one of those fans, btw; look up Near Dark on IMDb and get one of my older sites listed...)

          Studios do try to go after people ripping the whole movie, but that's a rather different affair.

    • I'm not familiar with the software that Sony wanted removed. Sony seems to think that that some software was copied or modified Sony product, and the site owner doesn't contradict this. If that's true, than any DMCA issues are secondary.

      The Digital Millennium Copyright Act contained more than the Section 1201 anti-circumvention provisions. In this case, DMCA added a clear method called "takedown notice" for copyright owners to make ISPs remove infringing material. First step: cease-and-desist the webmaster. Second step: send a takedown notice to the whole chain of ISPs all the way up to the backbone. Third step: If the webmaster doesn't file a counterclaim, take him or her to court.

  • by Argy (95352) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @08:34PM (#2488526)
    While Sony's letter did invoke the DMCA in regards to instructions on circumventing copy protection, most of the files that were requested to be removed were due to standard copyright law. If the author performed edits on Sony's binaries, and redistributed them, then that is a pretty blatent copyright violation. (Not positive that's what he did, but it sounds that way from the letter.) If he published only binary patches, I think he'd be in the clear on copyright law, and probably be safe from the DMCA if he didn't say how to install the patches.

    On the other hand, I don't blame him for saying "screw it." Sony ought to lighten up and figure out how to support fans like this while maintaining their intellectual property rights.
    • > If he published only binary patches, I think he'd be in the clear on copyright law

      I originally was going to post only patches (it would make the downloads smaller too).

      Other than inconvenience for the user, posting the patching tool could be dangerous. Such a tool could be used to defeat the relatively weak copy protection of Sony AiboWare.

      This clearly gets into the DMCA area, and my goal was to help increase AIBO sales not decrease them.

      The current approach was to provide new functionality while maintaining the copy protection of the existing system.

      No good deed goes unpunished!
      • "...my goal was to help increase AIBO sales not decrease them."

        I don't doubt your sincerity or good intentions, but perhaps you should have contacted Sony first to see if they wanted you to help increase sales of this product in your own particular way. Perhaps they had some other, likely to be even more financially successful, approach toward increasing sales planned which was incompatible with your approach. Strange as it may seem, there are plenty of people out there mentally challenged enough to mistake you for someone working for or in concert with Sony, potentially leaving Sony at risk of legal action (time and money-consuming, even if eventually thrown out of court) and bad publicity as a result of actions of yours over which they had no control. Perhaps there are situations where forgiveness is more easily obtained than permission, but you might think twice before adopting that as standard operating procedure.

        • > perhaps you should have contacted Sony first to see if they wanted you to help increase sales of this product in your own particular way

          This is a big company we are talking about.

          I have made such offers, and usually they just ignore my email or say "we'll think about it".

          So if I were to ask them to do anything other than buy their products and use them as originally designed - the answer would be no.

          -=-=-=-=

          For many reasons, I don't expect them to actively support hacking.

          At best it would be nice for them to condone hacking, especially when it helps their bottom line.

          -=-=-=-=

          I have been doing this stuff for almost 2 years now. Some of the files they wanted pulled are almost that old (for the ERS-111).

          With the ERS-210 (about a year after my initial hacking), they encrypted most of the software - not necessary for copy protection - but for hacking protection (ie. to stop people hacking == me).

          Of course, that in itself was a good hacking challenge.

          I never actually figured out how they do the encryption -- that wasn't necessary because my AIBO already knew how.
    • <DEVILS_ADVOCATE>

      Sony probably had no choice. If they let this guy slide by under the guise of a fan,a nd them some blackmarket knowckoff comapny from China started distributing their robot and Sony tried to sue...

      "So, council, you client chose not to protect its intellectual roperty in one case, but does choose to do so here? Perhaps because the defendant has more money? I'm sorry, but I'm throweing this case out. If you had wanted to protect your client's rights, you shold've done so consistently."

      </DEVILS_ADVOOCATE>

  • DCMA (Score:5, Funny)

    by rbright (54766) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @08:38PM (#2488534)
    The DCMA makes me embarassed to be a citizen of the UAS.
  • So does anyone have any mirrors of this software? Unlike similar past situations, it would appear that it was removed from the main site before the big splash; but you'd think some other Aibo owner may have copies....

    Anyone?

  • Here's a general strategy to deal with the overzealous "intellectual property"(more appropriately, idea enslavement) views that the government, corporations, and private "information owners" take.

    1. Copy all such useful things to your hard drive -- the files, and the website.

    2. Redistribute these files on Kazaa, LimeWire, Usenet, the Internet, etc etc.

    3. Repost these files on to-the-point(no graphics) websites using servers in countries which do not respect copyrights.

    4. Pursue any other viable means to liberate information and to better give consumers the RIGHT to obtain maximal utlity out of the products THEY own. Inform people about THEIR right to have access to backup copies, to modify/tweak their software, and to offer such modifications/tweaks to the public. Inform people that this right -- say, for example, to publish a texture "patch" for Quake -- which they take for granted, is something companies are trying to eliminate.

    This is, in short, a non-traditional civil disobediance approach. No, we are not doing this in public, and letting the police come and arrest us and beat us down. For one thing, we should not have to be treated so horribly for simply exercising OUR rights; for another, that type of approach only works when you have an issue which is simple, and which the vast majority of the public can easily sympathize with(i.e., like segregation). If the issue is too complicated, such as is intellectual property, the general public will not be able to sympathize.

    So our approach is use civil disobediance in an anonymous manner. No, we will not be wrongfully scapegoated for doing this. This form of civil disobediance will bring down the laws, ultimately, by making them infeasible and non-workable. If enough people disobey a law, it will go away. Prime example is the ill-informed "prohibition" law. Examples of laws that will eventually go away due to mssive disregard of them and disobediance of them include laws against sodomy, laws against prostitution, laws against stripping, laws against milder drugs such as pot, laws against abortion, laws against assisted-suicide, and laws which enslave information.
    • 2 factual errors in your post:
      • id software encourages Quake modding, they realize it adds value to the product and have written the EULA to allow it (as I understand). They only draw the line at the Quake executable.
      • Laws against prostitution were, I believe, originally designed to control the spread of disease. This is still a reason for them to exist.
      On a more general note, I would say that the way to defeat a law is to show how it is wrong, not just ignore it as blatantly as possible and hope it goes away before they pick you to arrest out of all the available offenders. That tactic doesn't seem to be working for the war on drugs.
    • Traditional, open civil disobedience works well exactly because it is open. If even one in ten people who disobey copyright covertly (probably about 9.9% of the total population) did so obnoxiously publicly (say, going out on the the street and selling homemade VHS copies of Disney movies), they couldn't all be arrested. A few would, then everybody would just decide it's not worth it, charges would be dropped, and life would go on without copyright.

      However, I don't think this would be effective. People want to disobey copyright a little, in private, and make other people pay. So they sneak around, and feel a bit guilty for breaking the law, and give lip service to the value of copyright. They don't want to get rid of it, because they think it will cut way down on new works, just break it themselves.

      <digression>
      Personally, I think it would be irresponsible to just drop copyright abruptly, which would cause whole industries to fall apart, and maybe take decades to recover from. It would be far better to move away from it gradually, by making public domain work profitable to the creators. Public domain works have major competitive advantages (all else being equal, do you buy the game for $60 or download the free one?), if only people would pay for them voluntarily, it would quickly become more profitable to not use copyright. Profit structure thus adapted and braced for the change, copyright could be abandoned.

      So if you want to get rid of copyright, give money to people who give you free stuff.
      </digression>

      Fighting the DMCA with open civil disobedience might work, though. It's obscure, so it would be hard to get people to attack it, but it would also be easier to get the majority to decide it's not worth it. If you could get a large portion (say a quarter) of technical professionals to blatantly violate it, aside from the logistical problems of punishing them, it would no doubt convince people who didn't know and didn't care about the DMCA that it was a bad thing. The biggest problem is feeling out the support, and organizing it; you'd probably break lots of laws doing that. Really, the only way to do it is to lead by example. One person's open defiance and stoic acceptance of punishment could inspire a few emulators, who would encourage a few more fence-sitters to put themselves un, until joining the protest would just be jumping on the bandwagon.

      Being such a momentary martyr could be profitable, if the support is there. He would become famous, and respected by everyone who followed his example. Unless, of course, nobody followed his example, then he'd just get the punishment. How much do people hate the DMCA? Big gamble, especially when it might be struck down without anyone disobeying it. The much wiser course might be a real paper petition; if people are really that opposed, collecting even a million signatures shouldn' t be a problem. It's not flashy, but it beats going to jail.

      Almost anything is less ridiculous and more likely to succeed than an idealist slinking around like a criminal.
    • Well, it's an interesting suggestion, but I don't quite see why the government would want to repeal the laws. Massive sneaky disobedience, especially of a nonviolent sort, sounds like a law enforcement wet dream. A huge reservoir full of tasty fish. They just apply the tactics of the War on Drugs (searches, informants, giving people reduced sentences in exchange for information) and they've got a steady stream of risk-free convictions, rising budgets, and increased public appreciation. And the "sneaky" nature of the disobedience makes it easy to villify the copiers.

      Of course our booming prison industry would also benefit from a new stream of inmates.

      However my approval is not required. What you described is what's going to happen, like it or not.
  • Well.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mindstrm (20013) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:31PM (#2488628)
    I read the letter.
    It seems very clear that sony is only trying to prevent this guy from
    a) Distributing software that sony definately has the copyright on
    and
    b) Telling people how to break sony's copy protection mechanisms to get such software.

    They have no problem with him writing his own aibo software... only with him stealing theirs.

    Now.. their use of the anti-circumvention stuff might be a stretch.... but this is a lot less draconian than many things we've seen.

    They also go into great detail to explain exactly what it is that bothers them, and exactly why (as opposed to some companies who simply make vague threats)

    • It seems very clear that sony is only trying to prevent this guy from a) Distributing software that sony definately has the copyright on and b) Telling people how to break sony's copy protection mechanisms to get such software.

      That's nonsense. Sony sells copy protected memory sticks to people. In order to break the copy protection, you already have to own a memory stick. In fact, Sony is trying to do an end-run around copyright: they claim copyright protection on something but at the same time don't let you treat it as published materials under the fair use doctrines. Furthermore, Sony is interfering with reverse engineering of their hardware and software, something many countries recognize as a right, and for good reasons.

      I find Sony's conduct reprehensible and anti-competitive. And if this kind of conduct is permitted to spread to other areas of software and hardware, the industry is in trouble.

      • by mindstrm (20013)
        You are missing the fact that the DMCA specifically protects them. The device they sold you had a copy protection mechanism.

        I agree, in principle, that the anti-circumvention clauses in the DMCA are wrong.. but they are currently law. That is my point. My point is that Sony is NOT 'stretching' the meaning of the DMCA in order to enforce this. IT's within their rights.

        Sony is interfering with reverse engineering, but not directly. It is a right, in that it's not a crime.. that doesn't mean you can break laws in order to achieve it (even if they are bad laws)
  • I might be not understanding this.. but when you think about it, in order to hack an Aibo you need to have one first.. so thats one sale, and when you think of all the things that can go wrong when you start messing around with software/hardware sony either gets another sale, or service charges. While the software may be the real problem here, its not like Sony's competitors don't already have it

    . Think of how many people bought the I-Opener when they found it could run linux (the fact that the company went bankrupt is of no concern to us :) but when people find out they can use their expensive toys in ways not imagined by the company that made them, it makes a better and happier fan/customer base.
    • Except when companies plan to make a profit from the services, nto the hardware. Then they are screwed (ala I-Opener).

      The best laid plans...
  • Its nice to see.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:44PM (#2488656)
    I was actually pleasantly surprised at the friendliness of the letter. Sony took the care to know pretty much research exactly what the situation is and went so far as provide the URLs of the files they find offensive. You would never see that much attention from M$ or FOX. But I agree that they should follow the LEGO model and even take an active part in the development of the AIBO community.
  • If the DMCA had been in effect in 1980, there would be no plug-compatible PC industry. It would have been illegal to reverse-engineer the IBM BIOS and write compatible replacements. The whole PC industry wouldn't have happened.

    Meanwhile, there's the i-Cybie [tigertoys.com], which does almost as much as the Aibo, but costs $200. From the makers of the Furby(tm).

  • If Sony were really serious about using the _DMCA_ against this guy, they would have had his ISP shut his sight down. The DMCA specifically grants Sony the ability to tell his ISP to shut him down - without notifying him directly. It's obvious to me that Sony's own lawyers don't think they have a real DMCA claim.

    (The law firm I work for represents an ISP, and we had to advise our client that, yes when someone requests that you shut down a site under the provisions of the DMCA, you have to do it, otherwise the ISP will be held responsible. The DMCA is a big stick, and can be used to very quickly shut down a site. Sony was in no rush to get these files off the internet)
  • I'm probably going to get moded as a troll or flambait just for sharing, but here goes:

    S.O.N.Y Suing Others Now You!

    A.I.B.O...And It Becomes Opressive.

    (My sig was in error as I had *Opressed* insted of *Repressed*, but I was corrected. I wonder if Monty Pytho's creators would sue for getting their quotes wrong in sigs? (shudder) )
  • I've seen this mentioned in only one post so far and I have not seen an adequate answer yet. It is my understanding that the copyright law allows for non-commercial copying. Sony can stop the distribution of the software only if it can show damages resulting from the distribution. In this case there are none. The distribution of said software does not cause Sony to lose sales (indeed, it actually stimulates sales), since you need to have this aibo thingy in order to use the software. So, techinically, Sony cannot just bust in swinging DMCA and force the software off the net: since there are no damages in this case, the copying is legal. IANAL and I would like a lawyer to comment on this (if there is one here). Now, I do realize that in practice it doesn't matter: he who has the deepest pockets always wins.

    Secondly, what "copy-protection" is this guy talking about? What exactly does it "protect" and what does it have to do with aibo?

    On a side note, it really irritates me when they refer to "copy-protection mechanism". Let's call it what it really is: copy-prevention mechanism. It does not "protect" anything; it prevents you from making copies. I guess "protection" puts a better spin on it...
  • Contact Sony at abiosupport@info.sel.sony.com and info-aibo@sony.co.jp or if you are in the US or Canada call them at 1-888-917-7669, or in the UK call 0870 511 1999. You may also want to fill out the form here [sony.com]

    The only way companies are going to stop doing stupid things like this is if they begin to understand that many people become less inclined to buy their products when they do so.

  • "Digital Convergence"

    Remember the CueCat? Well the company that made them went after hackers who were interested in their products. Now they are out of business and in major debt.

    You know this is the result of some jackass in the legal dept. or the board room. Usually, Sony is pretty cool about this stuff. But, if they wage war with their customers (especially the ones who encourage other people to buy products) then AIBO isn't goint to last long.

    Who the hell needs a $1500 robot dog anyway?

  • Not D-C-M-A

    Jeez, why does everybody parrot the guy's original error in his web page?

    Is the DMCA so accepted that no one remebers what it stands for any more?
    • Y-M-C-A (Score:2, Funny)

      by yerricde (125198)
      This song is not based on "YCMA".

      Young man,
      there's no need to feel down
      Because your plane
      back home can't get off the ground
      I said young man,
      Get comfy in your new town
      There's no need to be unhappy.

      Young man,
      There's no place you can go
      I said young man,
      Until you cough up some dough
      You will stay here
      until you've served all your time
      For your insignificant crime.

      It's fun to stay in the U S of A,
      Because of that old grand D M C A
      For cracking DVD's,
      Or an e-book or three,
      You'll get jailed for eterniteeeee...

      It's fun to stay in the U S of A
      Because of that old grand D M C A
      For proving to the world
      That our encryption's a toy
      You'll get jailed with all the boyyyyyyys...

      --
  • by Robotech_Master (14247) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @11:57PM (#2488895) Homepage Journal
    Um, guys? Sony was perfectly within their rights to ask that the software be removed. Even the site's maintainer admits that.

    Let me say that again. Even the site's maintainer admits that Sony was within their rights to ask the software be pulled.

    IMHO they are within their legal rights, and if they don't want me providing free software development that increases the sale of their hardware and software, that is their choice.
    The fellow freely admits that he is in violation of copyright by providing copies of someone else's files without permission.

    And this rates the big, nasty, ominous headline, "Sony Uses DMCA to Shut Down AIBO Hack Site"...why? It's a "Your Rights Online" issue? What about Sony's rights online?

    Even if the DMCA did not exist, Sony would still be asking that the files be removed. For that matter, the DMCA itself is only incidental to this issue, and barely even mentioned in passing--even if it did not exist, those files still contain material that belongs to Sony, and Sony would still be asking that they be taken down!

    Yes, you can boo and hiss and moan about how unfair it all is, and what a mean nasty company Sony is, and maybe even cry boycott for all the good it'll do. But in the end, Sony has the right to ask that these files be taken down.

    I've got 50 Karma, do your worst.

  • "We must boycott Sony. We must refuse to buy their tasty electronic gadgets, however tempting. We must - Oh! They're releasing the PS2 Linux kit in the US? Gotta go; I'm going to camp outside Fry's."

    Seriously, we need to remember what Sony is next time they wave their enticements in our face.
  • Yeah yeah, DMCA bad, etc., now the real question, where are the files so we can all spread them around even though most of us don't have Aibo's and couldn't care less otherwise.

    When are these hacker folks going to get smart and put text-encoded versions of this stuff on HTML pages and then let Google cache them??

    Though, I bet Sony will back down after a while, and this will all blow over, even though they are a EvilMediaCompany(tm) they are also a CoolHardwareCompany(R)..

  • by mtgstuber (457457) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @12:43AM (#2488966)
    My concern here is control: I should be able to do what I want with the things that I own. I do not believe that corporations should dictate the terms on which I use products I rightfully own.

    Note the "rightfully own" part. Aibo hacks are (generally) only useful to Aibo owners. People who paid Sony money. We're not talking about hacks that allow people to steal from Sony by making illegal copies. We're talking about hacks that allow people to do something different with property they own. There are ways Sony can work this out gracefully. If Sony chooses not to, I will choose avoid buying their products.

    This is the letter that will be going out on Monday morning:

    To: Victor Matsuda
    Vice President
    SONY
    Sony Electronics Inc.
    Entertainment Robot America
    6701 Center Drive West, Suite 640, Los Angeles, California 90045

    From:

    Re: Sony's response to www.aibopet.com

    Greetings!

    I am deeply saddened by Sony's predatory and short-sighted response to www.aibopet.com. As a professional programmer, I appreciate Sony's concern about its intellectual property. I am not an advocate of piracy or the theft of intellectual property. Your efforts to shutdown www.aibopet.com misunderstand the desires and interests of consumers. Aibo, as a robot dog, is something that, realistically, will only appeal to a small segment of the population -- a segment with both the means to purchase an Aibo, and an interest in gadgets. Here is (was) a site dedicated to enabling intrepid Aibo owners to try new out things, to play with their gadget. The software provided on the Aibo site was only useful for Aibo owners.
    Sony's actions seem to be rooted in the notion that corporations should have the right to control how their products are used. As a consumer, I resent that notion. I have been very pleased with the Sony products I have bought, but actions like this make me wonder when Sony will be trying to control what I watch on my Sony WEGA television, which disks I play on my Sony 200 CD changer, or what programs I run on my Sony Vaio notebook. (I have at least $2000 of Sony equipment in my house.) I love gadgets. Before I buy a new gadget, I go online to how hackable it is. Hacking with the gadget is more than half the fun. Sony's response to www.aibopet.com guarantees that I - one of the rich geeks most likely to spring for your products - will not buy an Aibo. Sony's response will also make me consider very carefully whether to buy other Sony products in the future, including Sony's entertainment offerings.
    Please reconsider your response to www.aibopet.com. Perhaps Sony could host the files, and thereby guarantee that only registered Aibo owners can download them. There are ways of working this out that do not necessitate restricting what the rightful owners of Sony products can do. Of course, this assumes that Sony wants to work things out. Perhaps Sony is only interested in shutting www.aibopet.com down, in which case, I will no longer be interest in buying Sony products.
    Thank you for your time; I look forward to your response.
    • I know what we (the Geek community) know Hack/Hacker means. But in this case it would be good to define it for the Sony letter reader or even use different words.

      Before I buy a new gadget, I go online to how hackable it is. Hacking with the gadget is more than half the fun.

      might me better as

      Before I buy a new gadget, I go online to how technologically open it is. Creative programming on a gadget is more than half the fun.

      or

      Before I buy a new gadget, I go online to how hackable (open to personal creative improvements) it is. Hacking (making creative improvements) to a gadget is more than half the fun.
  • ... they're afraid of Aibo learning how to guide nukes like the PlayStation 2.
  • by t_allardyce (48447) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @04:33AM (#2489198) Journal
    + He programed Aibo to copy dance moves from some crapy boy-band, which sony own thus violating copyrights. Also, Aibo did it so well, that their jobs where at risk

    + He was getting to close to discovering that after dark and when knowone is looking, Aibo finds the nearest phone line, sticks it's ..cough.. plugs itself in and uploads video, audio, and GPS data to Sony HQ.

    + The encryption method they use is actually the same system that will be adopted for the SSSCA, and Sony were just future proofing.

    + He managed to disable the "Aibo kill owner" command that activates when Aibo detects someone pirating Sony material and tries to kill them using a hidden array of deadly weapons.
  • by Nubrian (160158) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @09:10AM (#2489477)
    ... that without Aibopet my Aibo's would be just cute little robots that wandered about my living room and changed occasionally. With Aibopet's tools they are fascinating machines that I can watch from the inside, change, and interact with in a meaningful and interesting manner.

    I have an ERS 111 and an ERS 210 and I must say that the software that was supplied with them (outside of their personality software) was limited and poor. Had I only had that to rely on I would have lost interest two days after receiving my ERS 111 and I would never had bought the 210.

    Aibopet and the previous VP of Sony were able to come to an agreement that was a win win for all parties, why can't a similar thing happen with the new VP - is this some kind of power trip he is on to stamp his mark on the job! If it is he has pissed a whole heap of Aibo owners in the process.

    People like Aibopet should be encouraged, he is the embodiment of what lies at the heart of the hacker ethic - he works for the good of the Aibo community, he works for free, he shares without expecting anything, and he has done his best to play within the rules. He deserves the support and the recognition of the hacker community for his efforts.

  • Freenet.

    I'll bet the designers of Freenet never thought the US would be one of the biggest content contributors due to sites being eradicated from the net. I long for the day when FP's are Freesite mirrors of the eradicated content.

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