Blocked: Sony Temporarily Halts PS Jailbreak Sales

PS Jailbreak

Don't take Sony's silence on a recent USB hack that bypasses the PlayStation 3's copy protection mechanics as soundless sanction. The company's actively working to block sales of the device, and already has a temporary injunction from Australia's Federal Court against sales of the device in the land down under.

The hack, dubbed PS Jailbreak, allows users to play illegally distributed but also legitimate 'homebrew' games on a retail PS3 by essentially making it function like a "debug" unit--a special version of the PS3 used by developers and some in the press to interact with non-retail versions of games.

The group responsible for the hack claims it can also block Sony's mandatory firmware updates, which might otherwise disable the hack, or render the system unusable.

The Australian injunction, which only runs through August 31, orders that anyone "importing [the devices] into Australia with the intention of providing selling them to another person" must refrain from distributing them to anyone else, offer them to the public, provide them to another person, or "otherwise [deal] in them." If that all sounds a bit pleonastic, I guess a little legal redundancy goes a long way.

Solicitors must also hand over existing stock to Sony for holding through August 31. What's more, the injunction orders "that such limited number of PSJailbreak Devices as to the Court seems appropriate be released to the Applicants and their advisers (technical, legal or otherwise) for such analysis, including destructive analysis, as the Applicants think fit, upon the payment to the applicable respondent of its retail price for each such PSJailbreak Device."

In other words, pass Sony a clutch of PSJailbreaks, allow them to analyze said devices, then Sony can opt to destroy them--so long as it pays the "applicable respondent" the "retail price" per each. Whatever you think of the PSJailbreak's legality, that sounds like the court overstepping its bounds to me.

Sony has the weekend and the first two days of next week to convince the courts to either render the injunction permanent or extend it. Failing that, the device will go on sale in Australia September 1.

It's hard to say where this goes next, though a permanent injunction seems likely given the venue. This February, an Australian court halted sales of the R4 Nintendo DS mod chip and ordered an Australian distributor to pay Nintendo nearly half a million dollars. And in late July, London's High Court ruled the R4 cartridge as well as similar devices illegal in the UK.

In the U.S., by contrast, a court recently ruled iPhone jailbreaking was "fair use."

The question this side of the pond then is: How is jailbreaking a PS3--intentionality notwithstanding--any different?

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