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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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  • by grammar nazi (197303) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:32PM (#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.

  • by Argy (95352) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:34PM (#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.
  • by djmoore (133520) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:58PM (#2488571) Homepage
    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.
  • by hearingaid (216439) <redvision@geocities.com> on Saturday October 27, 2001 @10:44PM (#2488657) Homepage
    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 :)

  • Estoppel (Score:2, Informative)

    by Lionel Hutts (65507) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @11:19PM (#2488717) Journal
    BZZZT. Not wrong.

    It's not the same as with trademarks, but a copyright holder who does nothing to enforce it *will* lose the ability to enforce it under the doctrine of estoppel. This is all laid out clearly in, for example, 4 Nimmer and Nimmer, The Defense of Estoppel sec. 13.07: "...a holding out sufficient to raise an estoppel may be accomplished by silence and inaction."

    Suing isn't the only way to avoid estoppel, but, then, in trademark law, it isn't the only way to prevent a mark from becoming generic. (Of course, estoppel claims are rarely successful.)

    Yes, IAAL.

    Lionel Hutts, J.D.
  • by RedSynapse (90206) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @12:05AM (#2488805)
    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.

  • by mtgstuber (457457) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @01:43AM (#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.
  • Re:Fair use defined (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nindalf (526257) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @02:27AM (#2489021)
    Fair use cannot be used as a defense for unauthorized _distribution_ of copyrighted material.

    What is using video clips from a movie in a review except unauthorized distribution? The "fair use" exemption does include distribution under certain circumstances.

    But I agree, no court in the USA would find this to be fair use. I don't think they'd ever support distribution in whole for works longer than a few lines. I still think that this fits the intended purpose of fair use, and this is unethical exploitation of a technicality, just as when certain governments and cults have used copyright to prevent secret documents from being distributed rather than to secure profit from the distribution.
  • by Stealth Dave (189726) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @03:46AM (#2489086) Homepage

    Okay. Time to feed the trolls.

    Let's face it: what damage has the DMCA really done? Why should anyone care about the DMCA?

    • Russian programmer arrested for violation of US law (DMCA) on foreign soil
    • College professor threatened with lawsuit if he presents a paper discussing flawed encryption schemes
    • Norwegian teenage programmer arrested for writing software to watch legally owned movies
    • U.S. "hacker" web site prevented from linking to sites providing said software

    This is just what I came up with off of the top of my head. I'm sure there are other cases that I didn't mention. So in answer to your question, start with the above list and go from there. If you still don't think that the DMCA has done any damage, then have a good slumber in the bed that you've made.

    - Stealth Dave

  • by AiboPet (532396) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @10:58PM (#2491282)
    > Not only do SONY want people to add functionality to AIBO, they sponsor a competition for it - the Sony Legged Robot Soccer league in Robocup. Go to http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~robocup2001 or http://www.robocup.org for an description.

    > You just have to buy licences to use their SDK. True, it's not open source, but you can't say that Sony aren't letting people hack AIBO.


    That's a stretch.

    -=-=-=-=-

    Entrance to the competition is based on whether Sony will let you participate or not.
    Applicants, typically universities, must apply. If they are selected, they need to pay $10,000 (+travel+most replacement parts)

    Check out: http://www.robocup.org/games/02Fukuoka/cfa2002legg ed.html for 2002 rules (previous competitions had different rules, and most expensive entry costs)

    -=-=-=-=-

    They are not supporting "hacking" of their product (the commercial AIBO). The RoboCup dogs are different (mostly in software)

    From the 2002 rules "Please note that consumer model ERS-210 cannot be used for RoboCup. "

    -=-=-=-=-

    If you are part of the competition, and you are under a heavy NDA not to discuss or publish details of the AIBO platform.

    From the 2002 rules:
    "Each team has to agree with NDA. The main point of the NDA is that each team has to agree with non-disclosure agreement about a specification of the robots, provided software, and development environment, including APIs

    I can't find the 2002 NDA, but if it is like past ones, it is very restrictive.

    -=-=-=-=-

    FWIW: this year's RoboCup was a cake-walk for UNSW (previous winner) - they have superior and proprietary software.

    -=-=-=-=-

    You may have your definition of "hacking".

    Robocup participants:
    Are under the control of Sony (and are only permitted to participate)
    Work within set guidelines.
    Work under a heavy NDA.
    Are not able to freely share their knowledge or code.

    Did I mention that any Intellectual Property created is more or less owned by Sony.

    That situation, I do not consider "hacking".

    --AiboPet

Never invest your money in anything that eats or needs repainting. -- Billy Rose

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