Geohot vs Sony: what it means for the iPhone and iPad Jailbreak community

For those who haven't been following it, iPhone Jailbreaker George Holtz (Geohot) is being sued by Sony for hacking their PS3. It's not new for companies to take action against hackers. Every time Apple updates iOS they try to close Jailbreak exploits and they even lobbied the US government to try and make sure Jailbreaking wasn't granted a DMCA exception (Apple didn't get their way and jailbreaking was given an exception.

While Apple went after the entire process and asked it be ruled illegal, Sony is going after one person in particular, George Hotz. After recently releasing his 3.55 jailbreak for Playstation 3 users, Sony rewarded his efforts by applying for a TRO (temporary restraining order), which was recently granted. As they continue to go back and forth, Geohot has issued a statement to Sony on his own webpage.

Note to Sony:

It's apparent you don't care about your reputation with consumers, and I can almost understand your point there. Few people consider buying a TV or laptop a moral choice, and the consumer base is quite large. But talented developers are in much shorter supply, and take it from one personally, who you choose to code for is much more of a moral choice. The programmers you will one day be looking to hire are the ones reading the tech news sites right now.

And they will remember.

I'm not sure what this means for iOS users at this point. If Sony succeeds in their case against Geohot, it's unclear what if any precedents will be set in terms of other companies suing Jailbreakers. Also, whether or not Geohot will remain an active part of the jailbreak community is uncertain. Seeing as jailbreaking iOS is not illegal, I can't image he would abandon both communities. One thing is clear, the case will definitely be interesting to follow. If Sony gets their way, will that lead to Apple starting a fire with our very own jailbreak community again? Or has Apple mellowed and Sony taken the lead in anti-community action? Sound off in the comments!


Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

More Posts



← Previously

TiPb Picks of the Week

Next up →

iPad Live podcast tonight with Bjango's Marc Edwards! Come chat!

Reader comments

Geohot vs Sony: what it means for the iPhone and iPad Jailbreak community


It's interesting to see how these companies deal with the devs that jailbreak. I know Microsoft is barely a blip in the Smartphone community (at this point in time), but they seem to have no problem with the jailbreakers - Something I think Apple and others should emulate...
Just my .02!

Sony should/need to back down. They're taking this way too far. Geohot's right, all the up and coming developers are going to remember how Sony acted, they've shot themselves in the foot.

Apple hasn't mellowed. Both Apple and Sony want locked down ecosystems. The only difference is that Apple's relaively broad tactics failed, so Sony is trying a different tactic by going after a specific talented individual. If Sony prevails, you can bet Apple will pore over the results and see if there is some way to reverse the iPhone DMCA exception - after all, if the PS3 is "safe," why not the iPhone? Ideally, the reverse will occur, and the iPhone exception will be expanded to include not just the PS3, but any non-commercial modification of legally purchased property by the owner.

Actually that's not the only reason to hack. More people do it for other reasons than to pirate. Like installing Linux on the ps3. Same with iOS. I jailbreak, as do half the people I know. Want to know how many of us pirate games? None. Zero.
Do some research and don't assume you know a community when you arent part of it.

Lol. Whatkind of jailbreak are you talking about? Is that your reason for jailbroken your self? Go out and have friends.

Ally is right, thats not the reason to jailbreak. It might be A reason but not THE one. I jailbreak so that I can customize, augment, and run any type of app that I want to on a device that I paid MY hard earned money for. Guns are legal but you can still use them for illegal activities. The same with this, its not the jailbreak thats wrong but the moron that has no sense of morals that decides to do the wrong thing with it. No one out there has a right to tell me how and for what purpose I can use their product. Once I purchase it, its mine to do however I see fit. BOTTOM LINE. Free will can be a pain in the butt sometimes but its still free will.

I believe you mean "stealing".
You seriously know nothing about jailbreaking if you think people only do it for free games/apps.

You full of it, I jailbreak and I BUY apps from apple and from the Cydia store. Jailbreaking allows me to run more apps on MY phone.
I would contribute to Geohot's defense fund. Maybe we should go after these consumer companies for price fixing.

Im sorry but you are wrong i also jb my phone and all my apps are bought directly from itunes but sometimes we want to do things with out phones that apple just wont let us thats why we JB

Come on people, we all know that jailbreaking allows you to do a lot of different things with your devices, but what do you think Sony is really worried about? Do you think they really care about the ability to change the background image of your PS3, or if you run homebrew calculator on it? They care about profit, and this jailbreak opens the door to widespread piracy. Look what happend to them with the PSP - piracy helped kill software sales and development. I can't blame them for fighting back here.

This Message is for Chavez
Miguel Chavez says:
January 30, 2011 at 11:37 am
I hope the hacker goes to jail! The only reason to hack is to play games for free. Stealling in my book is a crime.
You Need To Shut Up. You Upset Because you have no talent.

Sorry mate your comment seems ignorant. The issue in this lawsuit is control. Sony removed what a percentage of people bought the system for to do, that being Linux. In turn a group decided they wanted to have what they paid for, linux. Sony likes control.
The argument comes on what you actually own. Here in America If a consumer goes to the store pays cash for an item we expect to own it. if it is a chair. I can modify it as I see fit. A radio is the same thing. In the 50's and 60's people modified radios to expand signal reception. Were those origianl "hackers" breaking any laws, No. Now move forward based on Geo Hots intentions to load Linux it appears no different then breaking the Iphone to load home built applicaitons.

Need I remind everyone that this is a capitalist market place and the age ild question comes back. Once you buying a product dont you own it and hence do what you want with it. Just like I can mod my car or put an aftermarket chip in it??

I am a big fan of the iPhone jailbreak, but I must say the jailbreak for PS3 has made some games unplayable. For example I have enjoyed modern warfare 2 online since it first came out. It is a very goal, achievement, and stats based game. But since the hackers got into the game all the efforts of almost two years of game playing have been erased in a blink of an eye. The hackers have turned the online game into a big cheat fest making it unplayable. I think the apple user community as a whole supports jailbreak, where the ps3 user community does not. The ps3 user just wants to be able to play the $60 dollar game without being hacked. Also an iPhone user can choose to be influenced by the jailbreak by installing or not installing. A ps3 user can be hacked by anyone while they're playing online without warning. There's a difference there.

I tend to agree with this assessment. If a hack allows certain unscrupulous individuals to cheat via online play, then this hack is completely unacceptable (especially for the end user).  And WE as end users must not support these particular hacks. 
Jailbreaking an iPhone/device to    acquire additional functionality not "normally available" should be ok as long as it does not impact other users (cheating or pirating). The jailbreak community must "walk the walk" and not support hacking that makes these things possible.  Stop hiding behind that fallacy that "oh, there are other reasons to jailbreak other than for cheating/pirating". In my opinion, if you support it then you are just as guilty. 
Devs make jailbreaks that adhere to "moral standard" that it easy for the non-jailbreak community to support you. 

Saying you are just as guilty because you support jailbreakers is a little far fetched. It's my product. I bought it, I own it. I am more ethical than to cheat online or pirate games. What you do with it is your moral choice, not Sony's. That's the point. If I want to install Linux/Unix on my PS3, let me. If I want a different notifciation system on the iPhone, let me by being able to side load 3rd party apps. Apple/Sony don't want to let us, therefore jailbreaks will continue to exist. As someone else said, it isn't illegal to have a gun, but it's illegal to shoot another living person. Why do we continue to sell guns if there's the slight chance a person may get shot by an irresponsible gun owner?
Because we live in a society where a crime committed by one should not mean punishment for all. I guess my point is you can't point your finger at me because my neighbor is a cheap dirtbag that pirates games. That's just moronic.

You're no better! You are pirating the tethering from AT&T. You're defense is childish. Using your defense, I guess I can take the cup of lemonade from those cute little girls selling lemonade on my street corner cause they are charging 25 cents a cup. That is gouging! How dare they charge more than a dime!
Just saying...

I don't mind paying for my lemonade, but if it's too sour I should have the right to put more sugar in it. I'll even pay for my sugar on cydia.

You make it sound like the whole Jailbreak process is illegal (not that I'm assuming you are). Yes there are ways that you can exploit the Jailbreak to do 'illegal things' but at the end of the day Jailbreaking and Cracked apps are in two completely differant fields. Cydia creator Suarik does not support for example '' and I can fully understand why, but his goal was to open up the iPod (iPhone, iPad whatever) to have it's software be used to it's maximum extent. THAT isn't illegal and it is MY device so I should be able to do with it as I please. On the hand of the PS3 the arguement for free will is the same.
In my eyes, shut down the illegal activities, not the people that are doing things for EVERYONES benefit.

I'm going to provide a different prospective here. A smart phone and game console are not the same. Sony (and Microsoft with Xbox) both have online services that can be compromised and ruin the experience for others using the service, ie cheating, modding, hacking, etc. in game to win. This may not bother any of you here but as a gamer it greatly angers me when playing a game online and someone is flying around with mods and cheating. This will cause me to not use Sony or Microsoft's services. Stop buying games and not give them more money. That's the bottom line. Jailbreaking your smart phone doesn't hurt me. But jailbreaking your PS3 or Xbox could hurt me and drive my $$$ away from these companies. I'm not saying every jailbreaker or Geohot do this, but I see it happen enough to where I get upset. That said, this is really why I play more on the Xbox because Microsoft has much better anti-hacking/cheating/modding controls. Sony obviously does not want their service to get out of control.

Actually, GameCenter has been hacked on iPhone now (There are people with ridiculous scores on there that just can't be real). Maybe that means Sony and Apple need to hire better coders to protect their infrastructure. But again, you can't punish all because of a couple idiots. Just sayin'...

do you have angry birds? how long did it take you to finish the game? now how would u feel if you started the game one day and found that all your achievements and all of your progress were suddenly gone and you have a non jb iPhone? that is what jailbreak for ps3 caused for the ps3 community.

Gamecenter is not Playstation Network or Xbox LIVE. It's like Ping, nothing. Hacking scores isn't modding the game so you always get headshots, can fly, shoot through walls, have unlimited ammo, etc. As of yet no one has modded me in Angry Birds or Infinity Blade so it's fine.

Jailbreaking so you have the ability to install apps are one thing and I don't see a problem with that. Jailbreaking to steal services, such as hotspot or teathering affects us all with higher data rates and the elimination of unlimited plans. The people that steal services should be prosecuted.

Wow, where are all the anti-jailbreak trolls coming from? With comments like that, I can see all the jailbreaking genius's jumping ship and going to Android. I guess we never will see that 4.3 untethered if opinion is swaying this way :(

Please do share what it is that he stole. To be a theif you have to steal. As far as I can tell he has taken nothing.

I think its crazy that Sony would do.this,they dont know it, but they need geohot,without him they wouldnt know their vulnerabilities,they should really be greatful he is showing them by doing this, that they need to make a better system, they should learn from him,actually they need to pay him because those nuts at sony aint figured no way in to the ps3,they thought it was good,so Sony drop the suit or your sales will go down guaranteed,because we appreciate folks like Geohot and if you mess with him,your sales will drop drastically,heres to you Geohot,keep it up,start a fund for your lawyer and we will donate.

Sony has a history of making bad decisions and this is no different. Remember the VHS-BETAMAX debacle? Sony was on the losing end of that battle.

Now they are being sued by LG for supposedly using their ideas on blue ray. Sounds like LG won the blue ray battle

I don't agree with peole that are saying they have the right to hack because it gives me more features. I purchase a device for the main purpose of what the manufacturer says it's does. If I didn't like it I would simply not buy it. If you want to hack it go ahead but don't complain that your system is banned from online games. You decide to modify it so it your own problem. To the one that said he guarantee sales will drop he's an idiot. The peole that hack or jailbreak are but a small group of people that actually buy the console.

I DO have the right to hack any console I buy, or phone. Does Sony or any other company have to honor a warranty or let me use services of theirs if they know I'm modded? No. And I don't expect them to. But you DO realize innovation stems from creativity right?
Hmm, the App store looks AWFULLY familiar to installer and cydia (which were around before apple ever created the app store). Oh wait, folders in 4.x (looks like Categories and folders jailbreakers have had for years). Hm, the page dots, again.. jailbreak. Multitasking, backgrounder for jailbreakers.
Apple learns a lot from independent developers, it's no different for any other platform or console. They should learn to better their products, not fight innovation with lawsuits.

According to the copyright regulations, under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act you are allowed to jailbreak your phone (for purposes of interoperability), but not your video game console. Video games on personal computers can be hacked, but only to test for security vulnerabilies. See

I'm not sure you are correct on that one. If you buy a computer and swap out the hard drive, you are safe. If you hack Windows 7, maybe not. YOU own the box it came in, yes. But, Microsoft owns what makes it work. This is a VERY gray area today. Windows 7 is a copy righted program that MS owns. PS3 comes with its' own system that Sony owns. Not sure how far the "I bought it, I won it" defense will get you. In order for him to JB the PS3, he HAD to hack the code, which my be Sony's claim. And I bet they can and will produce a doc that says you can't do that. I can JB my phone, yes that's true. I can do it to add something that Apple won't provide. If they was a JB that allowed me to make calls charged to your number, or get free service, I don't think that would last too long either before they would be going after the people that created those hacks. This is something that can be debated for the ages. I see both sides of it. It is my phone, but should I be able to take something that belogs to Apple and alter it??

Ok but am I wrong for taking a 4 year old 2g iPhone jail breaking it just so I could give it to a 6year old to take photos and play games? It sat in a dresser for at least a year. I could have sold it for 60-100 on eBay, but then I would have to still buy a 6 year old a camera why bring more disposal stuff into my house.
I had to jailbreak it just to let her use it as a camera. Now if they get board or want to take photos they can do so. Ok I guess I am a green crook as I did not want to add to the recycle land fill.

As I said in my original post, to jailbreak for your purpose I think is acceptable. Jailbreaking to steal services isn't any different that installing something to get free premium cable channels. It's theft of services. People who jailbreak to use apps that all them to hotspot or teather without paying for it are criminals, plain and simple.

Yep, I guess using data which I pay for the way I want makes me a criminal...
Paying for services such as tethering and hotspot is just a money grab by carriers.
Apple should have done like RIM did and never given the carriers the option to charge for those services in the first place.

You need sources. I'm sorry but I DO agree pirating games and services is unethical, but when it comes to some big business, they gouge.
Do I tether? Yes. Do I pay AT&T for the privilege? HECK NO. They want to charge me 20$/month JUST for the privilege of tethering? That's INSANE. Not the way they do it most other countries, mind you. If I have a certain amount of data I can use a month, what business is it of theirs how I choose to use it, be browsing on my phone, or browsing on my iPad through a tethered connection? Data is data. AT&T and other carriers need to learn that concept. I'm within what my data limits are so why is there an issue? I could see if that extra 20$ was giving me an additional allotment of data, but it doesn't. That's greedy and just another way for them to double dip.
Will AT&T sue me or will I get in trouble if they find out? Probably not. They'll tell me to add a tethering plan, stop doing it, or get off their network. Hardly considered criminal.

The unlimited data is like an all you can eat buffet. They price the data according to how much they believe will be used with a smartphone. Teathering increases the amount of data, therefore exceeding the levels expected. So if they figured that the average smartphone uses 5GB of data and someone teathering illegally uses 20GB, the provider sees the average data of smartphones higher and that will cause everyone to pay more.

Sigh, guess I will feed the troll:
1) "tethering" not "teathering". You'll find arguments are much more credible when the person bothers to learn the correct spelling of what they are arguing.
2a) "someone teathering illegally uses 20GB", part 1 - Again, cite the law being broken. Maybe, MAYBE you have a breach of contract, but nothing even close to sniffing a criminal action.
2b) "someone teathering illegally uses 20GB", part 2 - In addition, most carriers have strict overage charges past a specific level. There is nothing preventing them from levying those charges, whether the data is used for tethering, Pandora, or midget tentacle porn. If somebody tethers and stays under your theorized 5GB cap, no harm is done, by your own standards. If they exceed it, they have a mechanism in place to charge. Adding another is gouging at best, double-dipping at worst.
3) "They price the data according to how much they believe will be used with a smartphone" It is not the customer's responsibility to adhere to the carrier's estimates. My responsibility to them is to pay my bill on time. Their responsibility is to deliver what they promise. If they promised 5GB, with overages past that, that is what they must deliver. If they promised unlimited, that is what they must deliver. Period.
It sounds like you live some world where passengers arrive at the gate for an oversold airplane and have to give up their seats without compensation, because, oops, the airline made a faulty estimate. Wrong. Whether airline or carrier, it is their promise, their contract, and their responsibility to fix.

So, you just admitted in print that you are JBing your phone to steal services from ATT?? Not too smart. Know what?? Don't want to pay the $20?? Then don't tether. YOU are what gives JBing a bad name, and the carriers ammo to use in court. That will be the next horizon. Like music companies going after "Illegal" downloads, it will be going after people stealing service. You feel like YOU don't have to pay for it, steal it. Don't agree with the policy's of ATT, steal it. Will sound great in court.

All these big companies SUCK. They are greedy and their goals are to make more money for their CEO's, consumers no longer matter.
Comsumers should wise up and boycote them all.

I think this will adversely affect Sony in the long run. Communities like to assist the undedog and consumers will vote against them. They should have paid him to patch the security hole in their system.

I think it's bad form to sue, threaten or discourage talented people from jail breaking and expanding a device they bought themselves. Perhaps businesses could learn from these people and optimize their product for everyone. I think hackers are pretty cool mainly because I have no clue what the h*ll they are doing. LOL I'm just glad they do it...and then share. :)

All I know is that I'm not sure I'd want an iPhone if I couldn't jailbreak. I'd probably go Android instead.

what's happening to the ps3 community because of jb is different then what is happening with jb and iPhone. the apple equivalent would be to starting up angry birds and finding that all the progress and achievements you have done in the past months are now gone because someone hacked into your phone.

The first stereo I bought 20 years ago was a Sony. We were raised to believe Sony electronics were good. The first TV I bought was a Sony. I replaced it 10 years later with a Sony big screen. I have in the last 20 years, eery time I upgraded, had stuck with Sony. VHS to DVD to progressive scan. Stereo to surround to Dolby digital. Single CD to 5 disk to 300 disk. Car stereo, portable stereo... Etc etc. I had bought a LOT of Sony equipment. I started seeing Sony dick behavior around the PS2 then the HD-DVD / Blu-Ray format war.
Now I have an LG TV, a Wii and XBox. My stereo is still an old Sony but if I upgrade it won't be another Sony.
I don't buy Sony any more. So while some people don't make moral purchases, I do. And not only did I buy a lot of crap - but a lot of non-geek friends and family look to me for advice...

I really don't see how people can justify illegal tethering by saying "ATT is greedy!" At the end of the day, you agreed to a contract that says you can't use tethering without paying for a tethering plan. Maybe you feel it's gouging the customer, but you agreed to the contract!

Actually, the plan I agreed to, when I agreed to it, tethering was unavailable and tacked on when it was. I am not jb'd but I agree with the pro jb side on the iPhone and the anti hacker side for the consoles and pc. With pc games being hacked and available for download for free it causes the devs to create security measures that make it inconvenient for the people that actually by these games. When you steal someones creative property or ruin someones on or offline experience that I have a problem with.

I really don't understand why someone who likes to jailbreak their phone .. would ever get an iphone... it's like the girlfriend that a boyfriend beats up .. calls her names .. and she is still coming back..
If you have a jailbroken Iphone .. Apple doesn't respect you.. why give them your money?

It seems that everyone has already forgotten Sony's rootkit fiasco. That was the day I decided not to purchase another Sony product.

I completely agree with the fellow that said it's the carrier's responsibility to provide the service and the consumer's responsibility to pay the bill. Too often now these cellular companies like to say something simply like "unlimited data" or "2Gb/month Data" and then have 10 pages of fine print attached to it. There used to be people who would challenge these types of advertisements all the time and win! If I buy an unlimited plan that that's exactly what that means . . . unlimited. If I buy a 2Gb/month plan then I should be able to use that data any way I want to.
It's not my responsibility or fault that the cellular carrier mis-manages their business so that they cannot keep up with how much their network is used.
In this same light it has been said over and over that "AT&T is a victim of its own success." That should only happen to a new kid on the block with no experience. Was the iPhone really that much of a stretch considering that the first one wasn't even 3G? I didn't see Apple release iPhone 4's in 2007 . . . So AT&T has no excuse with how much they charge for service to not have a network where consumers can use their devices to their fullest potential.
If I'm buying a data plan then that's it. Shouldn't matter how I use my data. The only thing AT&T should be liable for is that my data can come and go at advertised speeds 99% of the time. If I did do something illegal with my data they are not held liable under law anyway. So AT&T don't worry about how or how much I use data. I'll pay my bill. Now you worry about reinvesting in your infrastructure, get on the ball, get your asses in gear, and get your network out of 2005 and into 2011.
Seriously, this is the USA. We should be leading the world in all facets, not following behind Japan and Europe with this BS.

Let's also not forget that other features such as MMS, the App Store, Video recording & sharing, etc. were not added until over 2 years later! Then AT&T even had to delay MMS because they thought they couldn't deal with the load when Apple was ready to release it. Over the years it just seems like AT&T is always scrambling at the last minute like a college flunky. I was paying over $200 a month for my service. I will say thank the Lord that Verizon got the iPhone and now AT&T has to sweeten the deal a bit to keep its customers. I now have knocked $70/month off of my bill.
Anyway, if AT&T doesn't want people to use their smartphones as wireless routers for other internet devices then they shouldn't charge as much as it costs to have internet in the home (and the connection is faster at home than it is on the 3G network for the same price).
Seriously, limited data plans are a joke too. Way to really screw the consumer. I feel sorry for anyone that has to have one. It should only be limited by bandwidth as that's all the carriers pay for when they subscribe to major telnet services.
Ok, gotta stop ranting for now . . .

Let's also not forget that other features such as MMS, the App Store, Video recording & sharing, etc. were not added until over 2 years later! Then AT&T even had to delay MMS because they thought they couldn't deal with the load when Apple was ready to release it. Over the years it just seems like AT&T is always scrambling at the last minute like a college flunky. I was paying over $200 a month for my service. I will say thank the Lord that Verizon got the iPhone and now AT&T has to sweeten the deal a bit to keep its customers. I now have knocked $70/month off of my bill.
Anyway, if AT&T doesn't want people to use their smartphones as wireless routers for other internet devices then they shouldn't charge as much as it costs to have internet in the home (and the connection is faster at home than it is on the 3G network for the same price).
Seriously, limited data plans are a joke too. Way to really screw the consumer. I feel sorry for anyone that has to have one. It should only be limited by bandwidth as that's all the carriers pay for when they subscribe to major telnet services.
Ok, gotta stop ranting for now . . .

Just now getting to a comment (im late). But I think you failed to mention the ability to back-up games can be just as useful to a law-abiding consumer as it can to a pirate.. I choose to back up legal-copys of games I own for many reasons..
1.PS3's Blu-Ray drives go out commonly, Mabye I don't want to buy a new console every 6 months when I can load off an external HDD and keep the disc safe.
2.Load Times.
3.Simplicity - Why look for a game disc when you can load out of a list of games. -the list goes on.
And don't get me started on "Hacking a Console is wrong" .. no giving users the ability to use OtherOS (Linux etc.) out of the box then removing it after you have a large dev community is wrong.

I like the valuable information you supply for your articles. I will bookmark your weblog and check once more right here frequently. I am reasonably sure I'll learn a lot of new stuff proper here! Good luck for the next!