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Microsoft Shows Sony a Better Way
Friday, February 25 2011 @ 10:37 AM EST

There's a wonderful article about Sony's long history of going after creative coders, including the shameful AIBO episode. I can't link to the article's history of Sony's longtime fight against modders because it includes some keys that make Sony turn purple, and I don't wish to be part of this news story, just report on it, and heaven only knows Sony seems to have issues. Plus they have a court-ordered injunction, and Groklaw always shows respect to the courts, regardless of personal views. But the article includes a fabulous link to a tweet by Microsoft VP Brandon Watson, Director for Windows Phone 7, who wrote this to George Hotz when Sony sued him for modding the PlayStation 3:
#geohot if you want to build cool stuff on #wp7, send me email and the team will give you a phone - let dev creativity flourish #wp7dev
I just wanted the world to know that not everyone views this brainiac kid as some kind of criminal the way Sony has described him in the lawsuit. Instead, they realize that he's a resource for creative possibilities. (Here's what he's accomplished already.) And I commend Microsoft for having the smarts to see it. Maybe Sony needs to seriously think about the future, because the future is openness. You know why? Because no matter how large a company is, it can't afford to hire all the coders in the world. To tap into that well, you need to open up. When even Microsoft sees that, it's time.

I saved and saved for one of those AIBOs, and just when I had enough, they stopped making them. The back story is someone figured out how to make the dog do lots of cool things Sony had not coded for, like dance to music, and Sony, instead of seeing the possibilities for increased sales -- who doesn't want a robot dog that can dance when you play it some music? -- threw a fit and made the hacker take down information about it on his website because he'd hacked Sony's Memory Stick storage media, the piece that taught the dog the new tricks; then when there was an outcry, Sony apologized and dropped the DMCA litigation, and backed off. But then they took the dog out back and killed it. So to speak. You can only find used AIBOs now.

Here's more detail on the AIBO story:

Do you own an Aibo? Don't you wish everybody did?

Conceived only three years ago, the Aibo robotic pet has gained popularity not only in people's homes but also in the eyes of DMCA-case watchers. Perhaps Sony's engineers couldn't keep up with owners' demands that their robotic dogs do more than bark, sit, and fetch pink-colored objects. In walked the hacker known only as AiboPet, who cracked the encrypted Aibo code and created programs that taught the dogs to dance and speak, and enabled owners to view the world through their pets eyes. "If it had not been for AiboPet's information, his invaluable knowledge and his generosity in sharing it with the Aibo community, I would not have purchased an Aibo," one Aibo owner said.

Sony sued AiboPet for violating the DMCA. Aibo-lovers boycotted Sony. Sony conceded to its customers, apologized to AiboPet by rescinding the lawsuit, and the AiboPet-hacked code is back, available for downloading. Now, this doesn't mean that AiboPet didn't violate the DMCA, as this Scientific American article pointed out; rather, it means the Aibo-lovers, aptly described in this New York Times article, won a battle. Drawing on that logic, if Aibo's popularity were to wane, would Sony take up the DMCA arms? Seems that AiboPet is safe only as long as his hacking contributes to Sony's bottomline.

What matters in the end is what customers think of you, not how mean the law will let you be. As Slashdot wrote back when Sony used the DMCA to go after AIBO hobbyists, "Don't they like fanatical customers?"

Nope. The Cluetrain didn't reach the station yet. Instead, Sony is looking to beef up its legal team, as evidenced by want ads:

The first listing is for a Senior Corporate Counsel for Anti-Piracy and Brand Protection. The main duties of the role include putting together a corporate anti-piracy plan for Sony, liaising with anti-piracy groups and trade bodies, and overseeing piracy lawsuits. The second listing is for a Senior Paralegal for Anti-Piracy and Brand Protection, whose job is to provide support for the Senior Counsel, liaise with other lawyers, and help with training for law enforcement personnel.

Both posts require a deep level of knowledge of copyright and trademark law and litigation, as well as at least ten years of experience working with copyright law, and at least three dealing specifically with anti-piracy and brand protection. There are also some investigative elements required, such as knowing how to track down the owners and administrators of websites.

And rumor has it Sony *still* thinks it can develop hack-proof products. Sigh. They should ask Hotz to help them, frankly, but he'd tell them the truth, that you can only improve security, not perfect it once and for all. I am glad to know Sony is trying to improve, though. I guess I should explain. I mean that if Sony insists on locks and keys, I think they should at least do a good job, because otherwise I view their products as what the law calls an attractive nuisance, something so appealing to young people, it becomes irresistible, with dangerous outcomes for them.

I don't think even Sony believes it can be successful at producing hack-proof PlayStations. If they did, they wouldn't be hiring lawyers and raiding people's homes and grabbing their computers and PlayStation 3s, leading The Inquirer to call Sony the "overbearing Japanese company".

I can't find an article about the German raid on Graf_chokolo that doesn't link to material Sony's injunction forbids linking to. How stupid this all is. It's a lawsuit to prevent people from knowing things. Pretty sad when that is your best card to play.

The law might well agree with Sony. The DMCA and CFAA are overbearing too. But who will want to buy Sony products after this? And that's a crying shame, because Sony used to be famous for creating wonderful and creative products that you'd have to have been nuts not to want. And contrast Microsoft's reaction to its Kinect for Xbox 360 being hacked. At first they threatened to sue, too, and then they realized they had a goldmine -- fanatical, creative and skilled customers who love their product enough to want to make it better.


Microsoft Shows Sony a Better Way | 383 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Authored by: Kilz on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 10:45 AM EST
Please make all links the clicky kind

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections thread
Authored by: bbaston on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 10:48 AM EST
so PJ can find them

imaybewrong, iamnotalawyertoo, icantremembernow, iamveryold

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Kilz on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 10:50 AM EST
Please mention story you are posting about in the title of
your post.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Shows Sony a Better Way
Authored by: wharris on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 10:52 AM EST
I stopped buying Sony products ever since their president, in response to a
question about the root kit they deliberately put on ostensibly-audio CD's, said
"Most of our customers don't even know what a root kit is!".

I know. And I care. And I stopped buying Sony products at that time.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Shows Sony a Better Way
Authored by: jbb on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 10:52 AM EST
As reported on Groklaw nearly a month ago:
In other news, I've seen multiple reports that Microsoft's Bandon Watson, the Director for Windows Phone 7, has offered geohot a free WP7 saying:
geohot if you want to build cool stuff on #wp7, send me email and the team will give you a phone Ė let dev creativity flourish
Even I have to admit that I very much admire this move by Microsoft. I think it was utterly brilliant.

[ ] Obey DRM Restrictions
[X] Ignore DRM Restrictions

[ Reply to This | # ]

It's truly a sad day for society...
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 10:57 AM EST

The second listing is for a Senior Paralegal for Anti-Piracy and Brand Protection, whose job is to provide support for the Senior Counsel, liaise with other lawyers, and help with training for law enforcement personnel.
Bolding mine.

When private interests start getting to train the authorities on what is Law, Society has truly crossed a line that should not be crossed.

Can you imagine what would happen if MS was able to train Law Enforcement Personnel that having a computer with anything but the MS OS on it is illegal? MS Marketing sure succeeded in getting a number of shops that sell MS products to believe that.

Hopefully the authorities will tell Sony they already have training in criminal Law enforcement and will comply with that training without the need of a special interest giving their own view on what Law enforcement should be.


[ Reply to This | # ]

I will not buy another Sony product
Authored by: Kilz on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 10:58 AM EST
I refuse to give them my money. Sadly for them I own a few
Sony products and thought they were producers of quality
electronic products.
But I am not alone, I have read online again and again that
people are not going to buy Sony products. But I dont think
they realize that a lot of the people online are the ones
that buy the next hit in the electronics world, and that
once you piss them off and they stop buying from them they
can easily go from a profitable company to a has been
This is a good way to let them know how you feel about their
actions. I encourage all the people I know to do the same as
me. Lets let them understand where it hurts, their bottom

[ Reply to This | # ]

Difference between MS and Sony
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 11:10 AM EST
Sony is a media company. They make money by selling you entertainment. Microsoft
is a company that sells you stuff that lets you do things. Microsoft wants you
to be creative. Sony does not want you to be creative.

Sorry Sony your view of the market is old. The new information age is enabling
people to create, not just feeding them pre-created stuff.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Same old Sony, $ before customers
Authored by: feldegast on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 11:54 AM EST
I do not know if this will be the straw that brakes Sony's back, I decided years
ago to not buy their products after the little issue with some of their music
CD's, i can see this will just convince more customers to do the same

My posts are ©2004-2011 and released under the Creative Commons License
Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0
P.J. has permission for commercial use.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Shows Sony a Better Way
Authored by: MadTom1999 on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 12:03 PM EST
Its more the MS EEE approach. Hotz is too talented to be allowed to work for the
competition so they would try and employ him to extinguish his creativity
in-house. They seem to have done it with a lot of great minds who have
disappeared into their void.
Sonys approach is more akin to petulantly throwing stones at the hornets nest.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Ironic about Microsoft
Authored by: fgoldstein on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 12:05 PM EST
There's a spectrum, not a binary divide, between being open and closed.
Microsoft here is showing themselves to be more open than Sony.

Microsoft has real issues with Linux, of course, both competitive (its eating
their lunch in servers) and because the GPL is, frankly and intentionally,
viral. I get this. Linux wears a very white hat. BSD and related-license
projects wear a different shade of white hat, one that doesn't bother Microsoft.

But Microsoft's core products follow an old industry tradition of mixing open
and closed. The Windows kernel is closed-source, and licensed to maximize
profit. But its APIs are generally open (okay, we know there are secret
ones...) and they invite anyone and everyone to develop for the platform. You
don't need permission to write or run a Windows application. I am assuming that
WP7 is similar, but would like that confirmed.

Apple is less open. MacOS allows anything to be run, at least for now, but IOS
blocks you from running code not bought through their store. Feh -- it's not a
real computer; it's an embedded system. They'd be the worst if it weren't for

[ Reply to This | # ]

George Hotz' blog is interesting.
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 12:09 PM EST
As is often the case, the replies are more interesting than the article:

George Hotz said...
for example, I gave Sony my hard drives containing "circumvention
devices". those hard drives are encrypted with dm-crypt. I assure you if
every computer in the world today started attacking that password, we'd be long
dead before they crack it.

Hence the advent of rubber hose cryptanalysis.

He doesn't say if he gave Sony the key...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Shows Sony a Better Way
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 01:04 PM EST
Come on now, let's not fool ourselves. Had the same thing
happened to Microsoft (having their Xbox 360 master keys
cracked), they would be acting the exact same way as Sony
right now.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Link to the article already.
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 01:23 PM EST
The hex string mentioned in the article is not any of the ones Sony is upset

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Shows Sony a Better Way
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 02:11 PM EST
Sheesh - When you make M$ look good, it's time to hang up your hat.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • :-) ...nt - Authored by: Ian Al on Saturday, February 26 2011 @ 04:20 AM EST
Authored by: Shadow Wrought on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 02:13 PM EST
MS is also showing Sony the way with the Kinect. instead of trying to stop all
the modding going on they released an SDK.

Or Nintendo who has said that as long the fans aren't disparaging their
characters, they are free to enjoy them.

This is just part of why I now avoid Sony products. The other is that they're
just not as good.

"It's a summons." "What's a summons?" "It means summon's in trouble." -- Rocky
and Bullwinkle

[ Reply to This | # ]

Where did Sony go wrong?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 03:13 PM EST
from the makezine article:
The problem seems to have started when Sony became a content company. They bought music and movie companies, and stopped caring about what they were good at: making awesome, tiny electronics that people love.
When the glint of gold causes a company to cross that line and leave their customers behind, there's no going back. Bye bye Sony, I'll miss you.

Next in line: Apple.

[ Reply to This | # ]

But who will want to buy Sony products after this?
Authored by: Yossarian on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 03:40 PM EST
Sony has to burn the village in order to save it.

If, and only if, profit will go down Sony will look
for some other ways.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Graf_chokolo raid article without sensitive material
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 03:50 PM EST
This article has no code or key mentioned or linked, so it should be safe to
link to:

[ Reply to This | # ]

WP7 - Druming up Support
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 04:00 PM EST
Please this is about WP7 and the lack of demand for the product nothing more.
Microsoft hasn't seen the light, they've seen the market numbers and realized
their screwed even after the Nokia deal.

PJ you're slipping.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Shows Sony a Better Way
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 09:34 PM EST
I feel more that Microsoft is trying to keep him closer because:

"Keep friends close but enemies closer."

Regardless, it is still right to do so.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Another saying - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 01 2011 @ 05:19 AM EST
PJ couldn't you give us a hint?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 09:35 PM EST
Enough that, for example, a google search would allow us to
find this site? ( THoguh not necessarily the first hit.)

I just want to make sure we are on the same page.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Anti-piracy plan
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 25 2011 @ 10:05 PM EST
> main duties of the role include putting together a corporate anti-piracy
plan for Sony

How about providing quality products at a good price that meet consumer

How about recognizing first sale - that what the customer buys they can do with
what they want provided it does not violate copyright?

In other words, how about acting like a good corporate citizen and treating your
customers as bosses (since they pay you). Cut the litigation costs, improve
sales - sounds like a winning combination!

Oh wait, that makes sense - can't have that.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Lego showed the way, too.
Authored by: OmniGeek on Saturday, February 26 2011 @ 11:24 AM EST
The original Lego Mindstorms controller was a nominally closed architecture
microcontroller; folks started playing with it to make it do really cool things,
and Lego responded by giving them the information they needed to do more of it.
I recall the case of a fellow who created an alternative Open-Source OS for the
Lego RCX brick; he called it LegOs, and the Lego folks asked him (most politely)
to rename it so he wasn't using their brand name.

They made it clear that they were quite happy with him and others making, using,
and distributing the alternative firmware; all they wanted was to avoid
trademark dilution. He changed the name, and everyone was happy thereafter. Lego
benefits from the inventiveness of its users, and the Lego Mindstorms system and
its (very, very cool) successor continue to be an open platform with lotsa
really nest stuff going on. Everyone wins.

That's an example of showing the way, and a rather good one.

My strength is as the strength of ten men, for I am wired to the eyeballs on

[ Reply to This | # ]

Sony's hypocracy .. I'm boycotting them
Authored by: darkonc on Saturday, February 26 2011 @ 04:27 PM EST
Sony's DRM RootKit scandal is why I stopped buying Sony made equipent a long time ago. Any company that thinks that they can install software on a machine I own without getting my permission is not one I want to trust buying hardware from.

Now, it seems that the company that had no problem installing their software a machine I own without my permission wants to sue me for installing my own software on a machine I own without getting their permission.

I think that they have the concepts of 'customer' and 'ownership' a little bit backwards.

Until and unless Sony apologizes for their customer-hostile methods and backs away from the rampant use of Digital Restriction Measures, I'm going to continue to refuse their hardware (including things like cell phones and cameras) and suggest that other people do the same.

Powerful, committed communication. Touching the jewel within each person and bringing it to life..

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Shows Sony a Better Way
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 27 2011 @ 08:56 PM EST
Microsoft doesn't do that because it sees future in openness. Giving away phones
for people to build apps for them, if the OS is not open-source, is not betting
on openness. It's creating a lock. It's attracting people to get used to their
products so they prefer them just because they're used to. Microsoft has done
that a zillion times. Give away technology to build things up, and charge
customers if they want to run the goodies (they need the OS, after all).

So please don't mix things up. They're very different.

[ Reply to This | # ]

karma == PlayStation 3 shipments to Europe seized after LG wins injunction
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 28 2011 @ 02:59 PM EST pments-to-europe-now-being-seized-after-lg-wins/

[ Reply to This | # ]

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