UK Accessory manufacturer Datel is facing legal trouble from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe over its plans to release a service mode battery that can hack the PSP 3000. The British firm triumphantly announced that it had cracked the mysterious encryption preventing homebrew from running on the new PSP back in November. However, as of January 2009, the device has not appeared in shops. Last week, Datel quietly removed any reference to the “Lite Blue Tool” from its website, instead selling the device as a replacement battery (called the Max Power Digital) that does not put the PSP 3000 into service mode.
Today, we received official word from the company, advising customers about the reasons for the delay:
“Due to legal action by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe we are currently not able to fulfil orders for the Lite Blue Tool Battery. Any orders received for this product have not been processed and no charges have been made. We will inform customers about availability of this product when this situation has been resolved.”
It is likely that SCEE has based its case against Datel on the argument that the lite blue tool contains proprietary source code owned by Sony. For example, Sony could claim that by copying the software key required to unlock encryption on the PSP 3000, Datel is infringing on their copyright.
Reverse engineering is a tricky concept for the courts to figure out, and Sony may very well have a stong case against Datel. At least in America, however, the courts have often sided with the reverse engineer, rather than with the original manufacturer. For example, in the first such video-game related case, the US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals found that reverse-engineering a console to look at source code did not infringe on the maker’s rights. Incredibly, this ruling would have allowed Atari to run its own games on the NES console without authorization (except for the fact that Atari obtained the code through fraudulent means, and not entirely by examining Nintendo’s chips under a microscope).
All is not lost for Datel and the Lite Blue Tool, however the fate of the device is likely to be tied up in the European Courts for some time.