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September 2019
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Sony Is Feverishly Battling Vita Tinkerers Despite Vita Being Discontinued

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If ever there were a poster child for this strange new culture in which we don't actually own what we buy, there is a strong argument for making Sony the number one pick. Beyond all of Sony's day-to-day anti-consumer practices disguised as anti-piracy efforts, the company is also rather infamous for the Playstation 3 debacle, in which the console was rolled out with a feature that allowed buyers to install other operating systems on it, and then subsequently removed that feature via a firmware update. That Sony wasn't fully trashed in the legal and public opinions courts for doing so basically set the tone for the subsequent decade, where now this sort of bullshit is common practice.Which brings us to the present and a discussion on the Playstation Vita. The Vita, a Playstation hand-held device, has basically been retired with PlayStation Plus games no longer rolling out to the devices and new cartridges for the system no longer being manufactured. As there had been with the PS3, the Vita has a tinkering community around it that has long worked to jailbreak the hardware to allow it do other things. Piracy is part of that, sure, but so is emulation, running other sorts of software, tinkering with hardware performance, etc. Each time someone released a way to jailbreak the Vita, Sony would patch it with a firmware update.Including, most recently, this past week.

Less than a day after a new exploit for jailbreaking the Vita was discovered, Sony has already released a new firmware update to safeguard its sunsetting handheld.“Surprise! h-encore² released for PS Vita firmware 3.71,” Andy Nguyen, a Vita hacker behind the recent Trinity Exploit for jailbreaking the most up-to-date versions of the handheld, announced on Monday. Unlike the Trinity Exploit, which required using a PSP game to hack the Vita, h-encore² is a native hack, meaning it can be done directly on the system. And while some hacks on work on Vitas running older software, h-encore² was designed to work on any firmware version between 3.65 and 3.71, the most recent one.As if on cue, Sony announced firmware update 3.72 today.
A lot of the response to this has been the continued dismay that Sony won't let people who bought their freaking Vita do with it as they please. They own the hardware, but are restricted from using it the way they want. That's as insane as it was ten years ago.But there is another track some are responding to, namely: "Why the fuck is Sony continuing this whac-a-mole game with tinkerers for a device that has been essentially discontinued?
And for all intents and purposes, Vita has also been unofficially retired, leaving some people in the homebrew community scratching their heads about why Sony has seemingly redoubled its efforts to safeguard it. The Vita no longer gets new monthly PlayStation Plus games, and production of new game cartridges ended earlier this year. “I need a movie about the 4 guys at Sony who still have to work on the Vita in friggin 2019,” wrote one person on Twitter.
Maybe Sony Pictures can make such a film. Then, perhaps, we'd get some sort of firsthand explanation as to why Sony is so committed to ensuring people can't use their hardware the way they want that it continues that practice even after the death of said hardware.

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Office Of Legal Counsel Sued For Refusing To Turn Over Legal Memos Congress Said Aren't Exempt From FOIA Law

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Another lawsuit has arisen from the Office of Legal Counsel's ongoing refusal to allow the general public to see its legal memos. The OLC claims these are categorically exempt from FOIA law because they constitute "deliberative" documents and/or are protected by attorney-client privilege.But they're not "deliberative." In some cases -- if not many cases -- the OLC's guidance tells government agencies what they can and can't do legally, providing justification for warrantless searches, extrajudicial drone strikes, and lots of domestic surveillance.In essence, the OLC is creating secret laws. Stupid amateurs (meaning the citizens who pay for the office that refuses to speak with them on an FOIA basis) apparently have no business knowing what the government has decided its okay for it to do.Once in a long while, a FOIA lawsuit forces a legal memo out of the office's hands. But for the most part, an unknown number of legal opinions remain locked up out of the reach of the citizens the government is supposed to be accountable to.The Knight First Amendment Institute is hoping a lawsuit will finally trigger a document dump from the opacity-prone OLC. FOIA law has changed in recent years, but the OLC has apparently chosen to ignore this.

In 2016... Congress amended the Freedom of Information Act to prohibit agencies from withholding as “deliberative” records more than 25 years old.[...]On February 15, 2019, the Knight Institute submitted a request to the OLC for all of its formal written opinions issued prior to February 15, 1994. To date, the government has failed to comply with the request.  
Since Congress has said older opinions can't be considered "deliberative" any longer, it's assumed the OLC will now claim these documents are protected by attorney-client privilege. The problem for litigants is the OLC's unending relationship with the government agencies it advises. These attorneys and clients are eternally inseparable.The OLC can't even be bothered with half-assed compliance. This goes hand-in-hand with its barely-there transparency efforts over the past few decades.As the lawsuit [PDF] points out, the OLC has been (very selectively) releasing decades-old legal opinions. But even with 40+ years lead time, the OLC still can't bring itself to release more than a small percentage of its secret law stuff.
In 1977, the OLC began to publish a volume of selected opinions given “their value as precedents and as a body of executive law on important matters.” According to the foreword to the first volume, however, approximately 75 percent of the 1977 opinions were excluded from publication.After 1977, the OLC stopped revealing how many opinions were excluded from its volumes. Some OLC volumes note that a “significant” number were excluded. These statements are consistent with the views of at least one former OLC official, who has stated that the “published opinions are only the tip of the iceberg.” For example, the same OLC official noted that the office “gave 625 opinions to outside agencies in 1991.” But the 1991 volume of OLC opinions published only 13 opinions, or about 2%.More recently, the Sunlight Foundation obtained the OLC’s internal list of OLC opinions issued between 1998 and 2012. Comparing the list with the OLC opinions that the office had made public either through its volumes or through FOIA productions, the Sunlight Foundation found that the OLC kept almost 40 percent of the office’s opinions secret over that period.
Hopefully, this litigation will force the agency to take a bright line approach to its legal opinions. They're given the full weight of the law by the agencies that comply with them, and yet the OLC continues to claim these are just suggestions and attorney-client conversations. But they're far more than that. They're laws the public can't read, can't comply with, and can't seek to have changed if they disagree with them.

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