You Bought It, but Do You Own It?

On February 10th, I’m sending a letter to the Library of Congress in support of granting exemptions to the DMCA for jailbreaking your own devices. If you believe that you should be able to run whatever programs you want on your own hardware, please sign my letter to show support; anyone from anywhere in the world can sign. You can also submit your own letter to the Library of Congress, if you feel so inclined or disagree with my opinions.

In 2002, I intercepted a key on the original Xbox that allowed me to encrypt and run my own software on the device. Even though that Xbox had a Pentium processor on the inside — the same CPU found in my desktop PC — without that key, I could only run the limited selection of software provided to me by Microsoft.

When I was informed about the DMCA, which became law in 1998, it was a bucket of cold water thrown at my face; I felt deeply disenfranchised. You see, I was a graduate student at MIT at the time, and up until that point the freedom to create, explore, and overcome barriers was encouraged, even celebrated. It was bewildering that running linux on this PC with the green X is illegal, yet running linux on this architecturally identical beige box next to it was legal. A chill descended upon the situation; MIT sent letters to me officially repudiating involvement in my activities, fearing the worst. Fortunately, brave souls at the MIT AI lab stood up for me in defiance of the campus counsel, and provided me with resources and the connections to the EFF to negotiate with Microsoft and see a positive ending to the whole situation.

I’m lucky. Not everyone has the encouragement, wisdom and strength of a team of MIT faculty and EFF counsel behind them. Without further exemptions to the DMCA enabling jailbreaking, freedom to innovate and tinker withers. Since then, many lawsuits have been filed under the DMCA, creating a tone of fear. Research projects are abandoned, business plans are scrapped; and the stalwart operators left with the will to research jailbreaks work in shadow, a constant fear of lawsuit haunting them for the mere practice of attempting to load their own software onto hardware that they legally own. Entrepreneurs and innovators should not be so burdened, especially at a time when we need their valuable contributions to bootstrap new businesses.

I believe if you buy hardware, you should own it; and ownership means nothing less of full rights to do with it as you wish. If you believe in this too, please sign my letter to the Library of Congress in support of extended exemptions to the DMCA, enabling jailbreaks for more platforms.

A special thanks to the EFF for preparing the website and helping me with the letter!

17 Responses to “You Bought It, but Do You Own It?”

  1. Brent says:

    I can’t believe SOPA got so much recognition, but hardly anyone cares about this issue.

    With UEFI on the way, it looks like most computers will be locked down in the near future. A locked computer is one still owned by the manufacturer, despite its sale. Everything you see & do is at their leisure. In a future with one or two manufacturers controlling the market, the government wouldn’t even need to have passed SOPA! They could just “politely ask” Apple and Google to have their browsers block sites according to a government blacklist, and *poof* censorship accomplished.

    Even if you discount censorship, this is an abolishment of the fundamental right of man – property ownership, upon which the entire legal system is based. If people aren’t able to own the property they’ve paid for, then we are all slaves!

    • kinziegirl says:

      Amen, Brother. Thou art God.

    • Tempus says:

      Several mistakes there.

      UEFI has nothing to do with browsers or blacklisting internet sites at all. UEFI is a software interface between the hardware and the operating system. It can not control the operating system at all. It is not currently espoused by Apple or Google, the latter of which doesn’t even make computer hardware, but is instead being pushed largely by Microsoft and large manufacturers Dell and HP.

      What UEFI does do is remove the ability of the user to install new operating systems (such as Linux) on their device if the hardware developer does not permit custom security signatures. In that, it directly reflects the article, so nice job there, even if you got confused later.

      If the government could simply ask google and Apple nicely to blacklist websites, they have the ability to do that now, and could do so. Neither wants to, because free internet access is essential to their businesses. Especially google RELIES upon users being able to reach and create web content in the widest scope possible – it’s the very core of their search algorithm.

      And lastly, there are many types of payment you can provide for physical objects that do not become your property, even if they are in your possession. Some examples: I pay for my apartment on a monthly basis, but do not own it. I do not own a movie I rent from the local video store. If I get a lease from the car dealership, I do not own the car.

      Neither possession nor payment is proof of property. However, the argument here is that computer hardware should not be one of the above items. You can draw a clear distinction between items you possess but do not own and items you possess and do own – nobody wants you to return the items you own. For this and a few other reasons, computer devices, hardware, and software acts to the consumer and citizen as a piece of property they believe they have ownership of. The truth is, in some cases companies only grants licenses to use parts or even wholes of the software or hardware, generally based on the terms laid out in the EULA.

      That is the sort of two faced bullcrap that we are attempting to resolve, here.

      • Brent says:

        UEFI has everything to do with browsers, as it establishes a “chain of trust”. For an example, just check out the Apple App Store. Locked boot loaders only load signed OSes, which (if they choose) only run approved Apps.

        Apple has already used this mechanism to shut down apps that compete with them. They’ve already used it to disable apps whose content they disagree with. With an iPhone, you have no choice. If an app, including your browser doesn’t do what you want it to, you are out of luck.

        >> If the government could simply ask google and Apple nicely to blacklist websites, they have the ability to do that now, and could do so.

        No, if the government tells Apple to have Safari block a website, I just install Firefox. If my OS won’t let me install FireFox, I install an OS that does. UEFI takes that away (if secure boot can’t be disabled and OS keys cannot be added by the owner).

        >> Several mistakes there.

        They weren’t mistakes, they were foresight. Admittedly, I’m not talking strictly about the results of UEFI, I’m talking about what UEFI leads to – loss of control of the owner.

        >> there are many types of payment you can provide for physical objects

        In all the examples you mention, a contract is signed, and if you stop paying for access, access is lost. Sure, if you wanted to do a “phone rental” program, you could put in whatever terms an conditions you like. There are two problems with this applying to the sale of a device:

        1) contracts can’t override property rights, as evidenced by the first-sale doctrine
        2) a EULA involved in a sale is an indefinite contract, which is unenforceable

  2. [...] Andrew (bunnie) Huang (to people who were around during the Xbox1 days, I don’t have to tell who he is …) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted an open letter you can sign to the (US) Copyright Office to renew the DMCA jailbreak-exemption for smartphones (which will expire soon) and extend it to all electronic ‘gadgets’ (like tablets, and … videogame consoles):[QUOTE]You bought it. You own it. Tell the Copyright Office: let me install whatever software I want on my phone, tablet, or video game system. [...]

  3. [...] Andrew (bunnie) Huang (to people who were around during the Xbox1 days, I don’t have to tell who he is …) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted an open letter you can sign to the (US) Copyright Office to renew the DMCA jailbreak-exemption for smartphones (which will expire soon) and extend it to all electronic ‘gadgets’ (like tablets, and … videogame consoles):[QUOTE]You bought it. You own it. Tell the Copyright Office: let me install whatever software I want on my phone, tablet, or video game system. [...]

  4. kinziegirl says:

    Thanks for all of your time and effort. You are an inspiration, Sir. I am a mom of 8 kids and I am inspired by your effort and will pass it on to mine. The education you give to me through your effort through grace of spirit has inspired me. I will make an effort to pass your wisdom on to the next gen. Thanks, yo.

    Hope C., Needles, CA,
    26, jan, 2012

  5. [...] Andrew (bunnie) Huang (to people who were around during the Xbox1 days, I don’t have to tell who he is …) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted an open letter you can sign to the (US) Copyright Office to renew the DMCA jailbreak-exemption for smartphones (which will expire soon) and extend it to all electronic ‘gadgets’ (like tablets, and … videogame consoles):[QUOTE]You bought it. You own it. Tell the Copyright Office: let me install whatever software I want on my phone, tablet, or video game system. [...]

  6. [...] Andrew (bunnie) Huang (to people who were around during the Xbox1 days, I don’t have to tell who he is …) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted an open letter you can sign to the (US) Copyright Office to renew the DMCA jailbreak-exemption for smartphones (which will expire soon) and extend it to all electronic ‘gadgets’ (like tablets, and … videogame consoles):[QUOTE]You bought it. You own it. Tell the Copyright Office: let me install whatever software I want on my phone, tablet, or video game system. [...]

  7. sign letter link does not work from this site or from adafruit.
    Using Safari on OSX 16:15 ET, 27 FEB 2012

  8. R. Milla says:

    Bunnie,

    I would like to say that my father gave me a copy of “Hacking the Xbox” for my birthday Freshman year of high school. I just want to thank you for pushing through such an obscene law and publishing this book. Your informative guide taught me a lot of new techniques (software AND hardware wise), but more importantly, it showed me the logic behind your process.

    Ten years and a chemistry degree later, I am now working in the security field and love what I do. Without people like you, I would not have the opportunity to contribute to such a wonderful community. Once again, thank you for the time and information you have contributed. I cannot prove but I am sure I am not the only one inspired by you.

  9. Rob Wyatt says:

    Bunnie,

    I was one of the system architects of the original Xbox (and PS3), fortunately I don’t do security :) Your work then and now is awesome and inspiring to a lot of people. I read your blog all the time.

    I signed your letter and I 100% agree that the DMCA is a problem for innovation and I have worked on both sides of the fence. If we own hardware we should be able to do what we wish with it. If vendors don’t want us to mess with it they should find a new business model where they somehow ‘loan’ it to us. Unfortunately we weren’t so organized back in 1998 when the DMCA became law and the implications were not clear, what has happened with the DMCA is the reason why SOPA/PIPA and things like it cannot be allowed to pass in the future. Unless we as a community are proactive in fighting for our rights then then things are only going to get worse.

    Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.

    Rob Wyatt, Boulder CO

  10. [...] by cextreme in Xbox 360 | 0 comments Andrew (bunnie) Huang (to people who were around during the Xbox1 days, I don’t have to tell who he is …) and [...]

  11. [...] on the jailbreaking exemption for mobile phone devices until February 10, and the EFF and Huang are pushing for exemptions for game consoles and general computing devices as well. IT needs to support this. Help to take the [...]

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  13. obidankinobi says:

    Yo, woulda signed ya petition squire, but theres no sign button on that page for some reason. Least i couldn’t see it man?

  14. Piedad Majic says:

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