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Sony tweets 'secret' key at heart of PS3 jailbreak case

'You sank my battleship' indeed

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An official Sony Twitter account has leaked the PlayStation 3 master signing key at the heart of the company's legal offensive against a group of hackers being sued for showing how to jailbreak the popular game console.

Kevin Butler, a fictional PS3 vice president, retweeted the metldr key in what can only be assumed was a colossal mistake.

“Lemme guess... you sank my battleship?” he wrote in a post to the micro-blogging website that has been preserved for all the world to see. It goes on to include the key and the ironic words “Come at me.” The message was later removed from Butler's tweet stream with no explanation why the key was leaked and then removed.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco last month, Sony accused well-known jailbreaker George Hotz, aka geohot, and more than 100 other hackers of violating US copyright law by disclosing the key, which is used to sign games and software that run on the PS3. Last week, Sony expanded its legal dragnet when it filed a series of motions seeking the identity of YouTube and Twitter users who did nothing more than discuss the issuance of the key or view videos showing how the latest hack worked.

Sony contends that videos and web postings disclosing the key violate provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that prohibit the circumvention of technology designed to prevent access to copyrighted material. Two weeks ago, the judge presiding over the case tentatively ruled Sony was likely to prevail on those claims and issued a temporary restraining order to prevent what she said would be “irreparable harm” if Hotz wasn't required to surrender all his computer gear and remove all references to the hack that he posted online.

Sony's gaffe shows just how futile Sony's attempts are to prosecute people who discussed the key, said Stewart Kellar, the San Francisco attorney representing Hotz.

“It just demonstrates that the restraining order here will not prevent imminent irreparable harm to Sony because if there is harm it's already occurred,” he told The Register. “The key is already out there. Restraining George will not stop the key from being distributed.”

A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday in the case so the judge can hear arguments that the temporary restraining order is overbroad and should be rescinded.

Sony, which says it's sold about 44 million PS3s, has said its suit is necessary to prevent pirated games from running on the console. Hotz and members of the fail0verflow hacking collective, which in December published a PS3 jailbreak technique independent of Hotz, insist the hacks expand the functionality of the console so it can run custom, “homebrewed” applications that aren't covered by copyright.

Last year, the US Copyright Office exempted iPhone jailbreaking from the DMCA so the handsets can run apps not officially sanctioned by Apple. Game consoles are unaffected by that act.

A email sent to Butler and a phone call left to Sony's PR department weren't returned. ®

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