In February, Sony posted a notice on its official PlayStation blog threatening to permanently ban users from the company’s online PlayStation services if those users deploy circumvention devices or software to “jailbreak” their PlayStation consoles, thereby enabling those consoles to play pirated or otherwise unauthorized game software. Sony considers such activities to be a violation of the PlayStation software license agreement and a breach of the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The announcement represents the latest in a series of anti-PlayStation-jailbreaking actions by Sony, which previously sought a temporary restraining order against hackers who published a how-to guide for PS3 jailbreaking.

Hardware and software tools used to overcome encryption or access-control functions in software can constitute violations of the anti-circumvention provision of the DMCA. That provision allows for civil and, in cases of willful conduct, criminal penalties for users found to have violated its terms. The court also may grant necessary injunctive relief and may apply punitive and actual damages in response to profits received as a result of the infringement, in addition to attorney’s fees for the copyright owner.

Although Sony’s lawsuit against the hackers is ongoing, Sony was granted an inspection of the defendants’ hard drive and the right to remove any circumvention devices found. The hackers’ web site also was ordered to be removed from YouTube. If Sony ultimately prevails against the hackers, it may seek civil damages in addition to the injunction relief already granted.