In this case, the information has already been widely distributed "so it's not like they are going to be able to put the cat back in the bag again," she said. Enjoining the defendants now will mean that only Hotz and the others have no access to their own work, while everyone else that downloaded their instructions will. "This is clearly about punishment," McSherry said.
The company's attempt at using the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is "outrageous," she said. The basic gist of Sony's argument is that when Hotz and the others modified their PS3's they also violated the terms and conditions Sony imposes on users of its PS3 network.
However, it appears that the researchers simply modified systems they had purchased with their own money, she said. None of their research was done using Sony's networks. In essence, what Sony is claiming is that it's illegal for users to access their own computers in a way that Sony doesn't like.
"That's a pretty scary message to send to researchers and to customers," McSherry said.
The case is another example of how the DMCA is being misused, McSherry argued. "We have been worried since the bill was passed that it would be used to try to intimidate people from publishing information and sharing their research," she said.
Among the other examples the EFF lists on its site is a case involving Apple and BluWiki, a free wiki hosting site that was hosting a discussion on reverse engineering iPods to work with non-Apple software. Apple threatened legal action against BluWiki's owner citing DMCA, was countersued and ultimately dropped its case .
In 2003, SunnComm used DMCA to threaten to sue Princeton security researcher Alex Halderman in a bid to prevent him from publishing a report documenting weaknesses in a CD copy-protection technology developed by the vendor. The threat was later withdrawn.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com .
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