February 6, 2012 | By Kurt Opsahl

PlayStation 3 "Other OS" Saga Shows: Jailbreaking Is Not a Crime

Every three years, the Copyright Office reviews requests for exemptions to the "anti-circumvention" rules in the DMCA. EFF has successfully lobbied for a number of exemptions in the past, and we're working to renew and expand those exemptions now. You can get behind our efforts by signing on today to letters of support: the filmmaker Kirby Ferguson is telling the Copyright Office why video ripping is so important to filmmakers and video artists, and the game system hacker bunnie Huang is addressing why we need to keep jailbreaking legal for all devices.

If you still aren't sure why jailbreaking is important, one prime example of the problem is the Sony PlayStation 3. That game system initially shipped with the ability to install Linux and other Unix derivatives. As a result, not only did hobbyists use PS3s as homebrew computers, but Unix-based PS3s were also linked in labs to make affordable supercomputers.

However, in April 2010, Sony’s mandatory firmware update -- version 3.21 -- removed the ability to install "Other OS" -- meaning no more Linux on your PlayStation. To add legal muscle to its firmware, Sony sued several security researchers for publishing information about security holes that would allow users to run Linux on their machines again. Claiming that the research violated the DMCA, Sony asked the court to impound all "circumvention devices" -- which it defines to include not only the defendants' computers, but also all "instructions," i.e., their research and findings.

This means you can set your PlayStation on fire, but you can’t run Linux on hardware you own. To illustrate how ludicrous this is, we made a video illustrating what an owner can do with a PlayStation -- and what Sony contends they can’t.

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Help us legalize Linux on the PS3, and protect innovative uses of personal devices by signing on to bunnie's letter to the Copyright Office or by submitting your own comment today.

Update: Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation, writes to remind us that Linux is a kernel, and that the complete usable operating system is GNU/Linux. GNU, a recursive acronym for GNU's Not Unix, is a free software Unix-like operating system that was designed to not be Unix. 


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