April 11, 2011 at 2:00 PM ET
Talk about your anti-climactic endings. The increasingly epic legal battle between Sony and hacker George "GeoHot" Hotz has come to an abrupt end with the two sides agreeing to a settlement.
Sony released a statement announcing the settlement Monday morning. Though it's not clear what the full terms of the agreement are, as part of the settlement, Hotz has "consented to a permanent injunction," according to the announcement.
But while the legal battle may have come to an end, it certainly doesn't mean the two sides have kissed and made up. On his blog Monday morning, GeoHot posted a notice saying:
As of 4/11/11, I am joining the SONY boycott. I will never purchase another SONY product. I encourage you to do the same. And if you bought something SONY recently, return it. Why would you not boycott a company who feels this way about you? There is much more to come on this blog.
Still, the news did not make some of GeoHot's supporters happy. When they asked him (sometimes angrily) why he agreed to the settlement, he simply responded, "The terms of the settlement agreement are 'confidential' and the matter requires that they be 'confidential.'"
Sony sued GeoHot earlier this year after he hacked the PlayStation 3 and posted the rootkey online. It's a move that allows people to run their own homebrew software on their PS3 machines but also happens to allow them to play pirated games.
But GeoHot has insisted from the beginning that he's against piracy and has not distributed anyone's copyrighted work. Instead, his argument has been that consumers should be allowed to tinker with any piece of equipment they purchase in any way that they like.
Sony disagreed and the battle quickly got ugly. Hotz posted an angry rapping rant on YouTube. Then Sony accused Hotz of fleeing to South America (he was only there on vacation). And, just as Sony was knee deep in the hacking lawsuit, they went and tried to hire a different hacker to work for them.
Then things got even uglier last week after hacker collective Anonymous went after Sony, using DDoS attacks to take down Sony websites saying the company's suit against GeoHot and related legal behavior had been "deemed an unforgivable offense against free speech and internet freedom."
Yeah, this whole thing was just starting to get really interesting for those of us sitting on the sidelines watching and wondering whose side a judge was going to come down on. So why the settlement and why now?
At this point, it's difficult to figure out what happened to bring this all to a close. Were the Anonymous attacks disrupting Sony's business too much? Was GeoHot simply terrified he was going to lose his shirt ... as well as his pants and underpants ... in this case? Or was Sony worried that it was looking more and more like the Darth Vader of video game biz? (Consider this: While Sony was busy looking like the bad guy as it beat up on Hotz and other folks who tinker with their game machine, competitor Microsoft was enjoying the warm glow of the limelight as it stood back and watched hackers tinker with its own Kinect gaming device.)
Certainly both Sony and GeoHot had plenty to lose if the court case went to the other side. And perhaps both were simply growing weary of this ugly standoff which was, ultimately, hurting gamers at large and making everyone involved look pretty bad.
Sony had this to say in their statement:
"Sony is glad to put this litigation behind us," said Riley Russell, General Counsel for SCEA. "Our motivation for bringing this litigation was to protect our intellectual property and our consumers. We believe this settlement and the permanent injunction achieve this goal."
Meanwhile, in the official announcement, GeoHot said, "It was never my intention to cause any users trouble or to make piracy easier. I'm happy to have the litigation behind me."
The announcement also made a point of pointing out that GeoHot was not involved in the Anonymous attacks on Sony.
But some of GeoHot's supporters — the ones who expected the hacker to hold Sony's corporate feet to the legal fire all the way to the bitter end — weren't exactly happy with this news ... especially since GeoHot had asked for donations for his court battle.
One angry poster wrote on GeoHot's blog:
What do you plan to do with the money that was donated to you to provide a cushion for the legal battle? I hope you will be paying all those people back since you obviously didn't live up to your word. At least from the vague details you are giving out, it sounds like you got a job and f[*#!@]ed the scene in the process.
But GeoHot promised to address the donations in a forthcoming post. "I think people will be happy," he insisted.
Meanwhile, not everyone is seeing today's settlement as a victory for Sony. Wrote one supporter on GeoHot's blog:
A lot of people will probably criticize George over donations and "losing" in court, but until we hear the terms of the settlement, I don't think you can justify your "hate" against him. He fought for something much bigger than himself, and I feel sorry for people who don't realize it ... The seeds of victory have been sown; wait for them to grow and blossom.
So there it is folks, the epic hacking battle that ended in a whimper. What do you think? Is this good news for gamers, or does it just leave too many questions that still need answers?
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