HDLoader: Game Over
Well, that didn't take long.
HDLoader is officially dead. The HDLoader site is gone, and Divineo (its makers) have posted a small news item on their main site indicating that the product will not be available ever again. Sony have been busy this month.
This morning I read an eleven page Stipulated Permanant Injunction filed by Sony Computer Entertainment America against Mr. Steven L. Filipiak through the United States District Courts. Mr Filipiak is one of many people in the rather unfortunate position of having their ass handed to them on a plate by Sony at the moment. We'll take a look at his case as an example.
Mr. Filipiak runs a business called The Console Corner (www.the-console-corner.com), which sells all kinds of videogame consoles, accessories, original games, and also sells and installs modchips. His business is still operating, and the court case has not yet begun, but Sony's injunction has already legally prevented him from "trafficking in circumvention devices", specifically HDLoader and PS1/PS2 modchips. Funnily enough, the exact nature of Sony's injunction actually allows Filipiak to continue selling modchips - though only for X-Box.
It looks like Sony are going to take Filipiak to the cleaners, and the action may not stop there. Their injunction states that "The parties will agree to a final judgement as soon as an appropriate damages amount can be ascertained based on the information provided by the Defendant, as described below." So what was the information described below?
Nothing short of every single physical or electronic record pertaining to the import, ordering, payment and delivery of every one of the devices including all the personal details of everyone involved, including even the details of all actual and "potential customers", "potential sources", "attempted shipments" and even "attempted payments" and "cancelled checks". For the sake of completeness, all Filipiak's computer hardware and disks will be handed over to Sony. Having been granted exclusion from the usual federal regulations regarding "discovery timing", Sony must be provided with all this in its entirety by 5:30pm tommorrow (California time).
Sony are going to end up with quite a data mine. Just how far they'll go with the information they extract is anyone's guess. One thing is certain, the crackdown is on. HDLoader was the last straw. It simply made piracy way too easy. Sony have found it difficult to get convictions based on modchip sales alone. Fortunately for them, there are lots of idiots around who will provide modchips and pirate software. The Australian courts (unlike practically every other developed nation) ruled that modchips alone were not illegal, as they could be used to allow geniune import software to be played on region-locked consoles. Circumventing copyright is one thing, circumventing Sony's international market-control is another. Divineo's continued sales of modchips despite their retraction of HDLoader illustrates the fine line they're treading.
Pre-empting the region-control argument, one of the Stipulated Facts and Conclusions in the injunction discussed above states that "The only function of the "mod chip" is to circumvent the technological measures [Sony] has implemented to protect copyrighted works." Filipiak has already signed the document, thereby conceding this point. Oops.
Sony have certainly gone on the warpath, but has the horse already bolted? Now that it's known to be possible, other software with HDLoader's functionality will undoubtedly emerge. I guess Sony are just trying to stop it from becoming mainstream. Had Sony not started crucifying people now, HDLoader or its successors could have ended up on the shelves in K-Mart.