Should you be able to ‘mod’ your games console?

by , Technology Researcher Technology 21 January 2011
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Sony recently took legal action against a number of ‘hackers’ after they released security codes for the PlayStation 3. It says that this will enable owners to play pirated games, but is suing them the right approach?

Sony PlayStation 3 Slim

Last month a group called fail0verflow discovered the PS3‘s private encryption keys, which Sony uses to validate software that’s run on the games console. With these keys individuals could use them to bypass copyright controls and run their own ‘homebrew’ software on the PS3.

Although this technique could lead to the pirating of video games, fail0verflow was initially attracted to restore the PlayStation 3′s ability to run other operating systems (OS), such as Linux. This would let owners use the console more like a traditional computer.

This was actually an original selling point for the system, but was later removed by Sony due to ‘security concerns’. Some might say that Sony openly encouraged modding of the PS3 by offering the capability to install another OS in the first place, but nevertheless, the company got cold feet.

Sony sues PS3 hackers

And so, the reintroduction of Linux lets the homebrew community create programs and tools outside of those made available through official channels.

Of course, the security keys could also be used to let illegally copied games be played on the system. This has led Sony to accuse both fail0verflow and infamous iPhone jailbreaker George Hotz of fraud and copyright infringement.

You can easily understand Sony’s panic in these areas, but will legal action against these few actually stop dedicated modders from exploiting the system and running their own applications? And could this possibility do anything about the information that’s already been released in the public domain?

Should tech buyers be able to ‘mod’?

Conversely, Microsoft recently met with a team who ‘jailbroke’ their recently released Windows Phone 7. They discussed the future of development on the mobile software, and even went so far as to present them all with t-shirts advertising their accomplishment.

Microsoft also offered Hotz a free Windows Phone 7, encouraging him to build new applications for it. Coming so soon after the media coverage of Sony’s legal action, you can’t help but feel that it might just be a cynical PR stunt, but it does show the other side of the coin.

Do you think you should be stopped from tinkering with a tech product you’ve bought, especially if you don’t intend to use it for pirated content? The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group defending digital civil liberties, thinks Sony has set a dangerous precedent by suing these ‘hackers’:

‘Once you buy a computer, it’s yours. It shouldn’t be a crime for you to access your own computer, regardless of whether Sony or any other company likes what you’re doing.’

Modding gaming consoles is nothing new, and the security features of each new generation are always swiftly circumvented by those dedicated enough to exploit any weaknesses in the hardware and software.

The question for games companies like Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft is now whether they should take a hard line with hackers, or encourage them to develop innovative tools and apps for their community.

8 comments

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haggis

If modifying a piece of equipment interferes with a service supplied by the manufacturer or it’s agents, then probably not. Otherwise yes, absolutely!

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Jakey Bee

First off, might I correct you? Sony sued the nefarious hackers because they stole the security key and released it to the public for everyone to use. Until then, the PS3 was almost completely locked up for 3 years, with very limited jailbreak capacity with a lot of work involved. The security key acts as a protective DRM for the Sony console, and because they have violated Digital Rights in a way that’s beyond description–Sony knows this, Geohot knows this, and if they wanted to, Sony could lock Geohot up for a long *** time with a fund that’s going to leave his grandchildren dirt poor; but they’re looking for an angle, and they want to make an example of mister Hotz, which is why they haven’t done anything.
Now, on to the topic–good points, btw–yes, we should be able to mod our own consoles. But the majority of people will use this irresponsibly, as Sony has learned with the PSP. Microsoft is a conniving ******* who bleeds pure Benjamins and doesn’t give a **** if someone steals it’s property. MS encourages piracy in it’s user base–and has even had it’s leading businessman speak about this–because “the more people who own Windows, the more people like Windows.” They make enough money to fill a lake with gold–so they don’t give a **** about the little guy, and could certainly say such a thing. I know it doesn’t look like it, but Sony is the little[Big] guy. They loose profit each console sold, and…

Wow, did I really just type all that?
Basically, what I’m getting at here is, responsibility to mod gets abused by piracy, and by owning a PS3, Sony has essentially saved you $100. Piracy = studio shut downs = quality of games decrease = no profit = no more gaming. The companies who make these games only make $35 per game sold, and in the end, end up making the same amount teachers make. And that ****** me the **** off. These people deserve more money, more motivation, etc., etc., for creating these games. And pirates steal from these people. Not the rich. These poor people.
Okay, just… /end rant.

That’s true, piracy is not something that should be encouraged. But creativity perhaps should be? Then again, if modders would like to practice their trade, maybe they should move to PCs? There’s been lots of great and interesting tech that’s been come out from people creating software that works with Microsoft’s Kinect, and I’m sure this will breed innovation in future Xbox 360 games. So I agree, it’s difficult to inspire creativity while also holding back piracy.

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farce

Well aren’t we quite the corporate shill,mr Jakey Bee.
The excuse of piracy doesn’t absolve Sony for this behavior.

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Commander Wolf

I can understand jailbreaking a phone to get the app you want, its your phone, and if you want to use it for another carrier thats fine. Its like buying a house and having a mortgage but the mortgage company is telling you what furniture you can use to furnish your house….that is what apple is doing. They want to regulate what is on your phone, and force you to get their approved apps and software. At the same time you got a 2 year contract with them. Its non-sense.

BUT in the console world thats a different story. There are more people that are against jail breaking the PS3. Because now you can’t play modern warfare 2 or COD 4 because they started cheating on the ps3 against other players.

The purpose of console gaming is its suppose to be CHEAT FREE at all times. If I want to expierence cheaters in game, ill move to PC gaming which is very popular on alot of games. But im not doing that.

The ps3 is now filled with cheaters thanks to these modders/hackers whatever you want to call them. They are deserve to pay a hefty fine for ruining gaming online. Especially since there are innocent people who have no idea what is going on, and why people would cheat against others on a console system. It makes no sense whatsoever.

Shame on sony for allowing this to happen, and not even going public about trying to fix the problems. I am very close to getting another xbox360. I can’t stand playing mw2 anymore. I have to deal with someone using tactical nukes right at the start of the round. This is unfair to us gamers.

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John H

I dont think it should be a criminal offense for someone to hack their games console, however I do think that anybody hacking their console and using it to cheat at online gaming deserve to risk having their console along with their ip address blocked from entering online gaming, however Sony could then make some money by letting them pay quite a high fee to have their console restored to factory settings, resealed and unblocked along with their ip address unblocked.

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jordan palmer

why dont sony just help the hackers and earn more money people like playing with the mod menu it is just something to have fun with……?????? why not

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farce

“This was actually an original selling point for the system, but was later removed by Sony due to ‘security concerns’. Some might say that Sony openly encouraged modding of the PS3 by offering the capability to install another OS in the first place, but nevertheless, the company got cold feet.”

In otherwords Sony stole part of the consoles workings.

I don’t remember Which making so much as a peep about it either.

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