Owning the Playstation 3

Not too long ago, I had a big grumble about how modern consoles essentially weren’t owned by the purchasers – since the manufacturer could limit or change the capabilities of the devices more or less at will, alter the effective market value of the device in their sole discretion and so on. It was clear that ownership of the console continued to vest in the manufacturer, by the various legal tests for property.

The Playstation 3 was originally a much more open platform, allowing you the possibility of actually running your own software on it, but then Sony took that away, and asserted the rights of ownership when anyone attempted to open it back up.

Well, the Playstation 3 is now owned by users. Pretty much permanently.

Eurogamer has all of the technical details, but the way it works is this…

The console has a number of security encryption keys. Only software and firmware properly authenticated with these keys is allowed to run on the console (previously – in the console’s more open era – you could install other software in a sort of managed sandbox, where authorised software provided a constrained runtime environment for your own software.

That has all changed. In the wake of access to the console being closed up, a small group of people have used a trivial flaw in the way software was authorised and recovered the master keys (up until now, held only by Sony).

Respect for the authority of those keys is burned into the indelible hardware of the Playstation 3. Whoever has the keys is its master, able to do anything with the console that the hardware can perform.

Sony can’t do anything at all about this, without turning every console already sold into a non-functional brick, disabling every game ever sold for the console and issuing all-new hardware and games. Sure, they can push firmware updates to consoles, but anyone else with the keys can override Sony’s firmware updates – the hardware cannot distinguish between the two.

I think it is reasonable to say that Sony won’t recall and reissue every console and game.

The Playstation 3, therefore, is now yours. The keys are out there, and alternative firmware and software is being created even now.

Suddenly, I’m thinking that the Playstation 3 now represents really good value. I bet XBMC would run really well on it with a bit of work. Once third-party software and firmware starts to come out, there may never be a better reason to buy a PS3.

8 thoughts on “Owning the Playstation 3”

  1. Second Life on PS3?

    How does the graphics hardware stack up?

    Probably non-trivial though. OpenGL would be the problem, I guess.

  2. I was treated to a demonstration of exactly that, once, and it was fairly good. But yes, the official firmware forbade access to much of the graphics hardware, which essentially meant huge ugly patches to the viewer code and that it did not run anywhere near as well as it could have.

  3. Perhaps they’ll just release the PS4 now and have all the old game only be compatible if you pay an upgrade/conversion fee (that essentially makes you pay again for old software, and then you have to download everything again). And if they are really smart they’ll never even acknowledge the existence of cracking and unauthorized copying, instead of doing what Microsoft did with Project Natal (the final name sucks IMO) and taunting hackers.

  4. Looks like they’ve begun serving papers to the guy that released the key. Temporary restraining orders in an attempt to limit the spread of the key around the web.

  5. So – what basis is that, do you think? The process of reverse engineering is protected under intellectual property law. The DVDCCA didn’t have any luck at all when the keys for CSS were recovered and spread around. The US courts established a pretty solid precedent back then.

    Seems like all Sony is going to do is make it spread faster.

  6. Reading the documents: http://www.scribd.com/doc/46729037/Sony-Ps3-Tro and other’s opinion on it, it seems they pretty much want to link it to piracy and get decisions based on precedence set in other piracy cases. Very far reaches they’re having to make I think, and all in futility considering impounding this guy’s stuff and taking down his website will at best deter further work from him, but what’s already done is done.

    Don’t really know what they can do except start on PS4 if its that big a worry for them. Reading the details of how the key was found in the first place, it was as simple (or not so simple) as Sony using a constant number instead of a random in creating the key. Learn and move on I say.

  7. So I see. Looks like a carbon copy of the DVDCCA case for the same thing – which was thrown out as having no legal merit. It’ll scare a few Web-sites, like that case did too. But not many and not for long.

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