Two updates to our Sony article “Sony’s War on Makers, Hackers, and Innovators”. First, I sent George Hotz an email asking what he thought about the article and if he had anything to add, we also had a reader email that was pretty interesting.

Sony sued lik-sang out of business, for get this, helping them sell PSPs. Sony even accused me of “extortion” of a job from them. Yea right, like I want to wear a suit and be subordinate to people like Jack Tretton and Riley Russell. I just wanted to tinker a bit for the other side, maybe solve their problems. And I did this for free, I would’ve done that for free too, assuming Sony embraces homebrew and OtherOS, and does it to kill piracy and cheating. And what’s hilarious, at least to me, is the number of people Sony has informed about the PS3 being irreparably hacked. Two things funny about that, it’s not irreparably hacked at all, I know how to fix it. And they went from maybe a tenth of a percent of Sony’s userbase knowing or caring about these hacks to 10% i.e. 100 times as many people aware they could jailbreak their PS3.

You can follow Sony’s suing George “geohot” on his blog.

Next up, a maker writes in…

I read your article about Sony and am amazed that in all your research you didn’t come across the most sinister aspects of Sony Corporation. Like the fact that the entire company was based on theft and stolen IP? I’m not just talking about how they initially got ahold of the transistor IP way back when to make their first radios, either.

If you did a little research, you would have turned up the disgusting story of the true origins of the “Walkman,” which basically made Sony the monster company that it is today, was in fact blatantly stolen from a German inventor who had to fight them in court in order to get some kind of recompense for their outright theft. I believe it would have made your article a much more interesting and relevant read. Especially about how since 1977 they fought him in court to try to silence him and eventually had to pay him an “undisclosed sum” in order to stop the lawsuits.

I knew about this, but details are slim since it appears it was partly settled. Here’s Ars Technica take from 2008.

Sony “committed acts of infringement by making, using, selling, and/or offering to sell products…including, but not limited to, various Sony Walkman models, Sony PlayStation Portable, and Sony Memory Stick Duo.” The jury that decided the case agreed, and found that Sony’s PSP, mylo Personal Communicator, and Network Walkmans all contain IP that infringes upon Ager’s patent. Asked whether or not the jury had found “clear and convincing evidence that such infringement was willful,” the jury answered “Yes.”

The $18.5 million judgment against Sony is the barest slap on the wrist to a multibillion-dollar company, but it’s a victory in principle and a demonstration of how the patent system is supposed to work. ‘730 describes the function of a particular type of system, the patent was granted in 1997, and the jury came away convinced that Sony didn’t just infringe, but did so deliberately. The patent system was invented to protect small companies or individuals from predatory IP theft—it’s nice to see it function correctly every once in awhile. 

So, for the folks who thought an artist making an iPod case out of a 25 year old plastic Sony Walkman shell was “theft”, this is a good read.