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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 TGK (262438) <{Killfile} {at} {Nephandus.Com}> on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:25PM (#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?
  • by lkaos (187507) <anthony.codemonkey@ws> on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:25PM (#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.
  • Magic Word (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Saxerman (253676) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:26PM (#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) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:27PM (#2488506) Homepage
    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...

  • Just plain wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:28PM (#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?
  • by CaptainSuperBoy (17170) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:29PM (#2488512) Homepage Journal
    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..
  • by fm6 (162816) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:33PM (#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.

  • by dh003i (203189) <dh003i@noSPaM.gmail.com> on Saturday October 27, 2001 @09:47PM (#2488556) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • Well.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mindstrm (20013) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @10:31PM (#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)

  • by hearingaid (216439) <redvision@geocities.com> on Saturday October 27, 2001 @10:35PM (#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.)

  • by Nindalf (526257) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @10:42PM (#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.
  • Its nice to see.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 27, 2001 @10:44PM (#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.
  • by AiboPet (532396) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @10:45PM (#2488660)
    > 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!
  • by Gaijin42 (317411) on Saturday October 27, 2001 @11:14PM (#2488705) Homepage
    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 Nindalf (526257) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @12:01AM (#2488799)
    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.
  • by AiboPet (532396) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @12:36AM (#2488861)
    > 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.
  • by Robotech_Master (14247) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @12:57AM (#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.

  • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @03:47AM (#2489087) Homepage
    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.
  • by hughk (248126) on Sunday October 28, 2001 @09:39AM (#2489417) Journal
    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!!!

  • by Googol (63685) on Monday October 29, 2001 @09:40PM (#2495485)
    Fair enough. You've got it right that there are two points points here not one: (1) whether selling a book is per se immoral because "information wants to be free" and (2) whether we are participating in a corrupt system--and I haven't address (1) properly.

    In my post, I'm not arguing that selling the book is per se immoral. I'm arguing that in the present context participating in buying and selling with a corrupt intermediary is unpatriotic. This leaves open the possibility that you could use an ecologically-sound publisher. Since (2) is an assertion about what we should do, I'll just let it stand. My main purpose was to point out that it is inconsistent to rail against the DMCA or whatever and then give the lobbiests for it money by buying their stuff. We need to learn to do without the stuff, find alternates, or whatever. I don't recommend a boycott, but a complete change in lifestyle for people who feel strongly about this. Just say "no" to pay-for-content.

    A moderate version of this position is that we should do this only until the RIAA lays off the lobbying, because there is nothing wrong with selling content.

    I go further: we need to reform our lifestyle to do without that kind of content in the first place. You've asked me to address this aspect of what I'm saying specifically.

    Let me give an analogy. Suppose I am a toll collector in France in the days when "free trade" did not yet include the right to ship goods from one part of the country to another without crossing a hundred such toll booths and paying internal duties. Our toll collector might argue that he has a right to a living, that legally I should pay the toll and so forth.

    Now here I come along and say free trade ("free information") is the wave of the future and how things should be and that he is a part of a corrupt system. We change the system and now he needs a new job.

    This thread is getting stale, but if you want to continue the discussion, we can continue off line.

    =john= (Googol)
    jegoodwin3@earthlink.net

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