Man Hacks Skylanders, Gets Nasty Letter From Activision

To pass the time, hacker Brandon Wilson - who normally messes around with graphics calculators - decided a few months back he'd take a look under the hood of Activision's Skylanders action figures, see what makes them tick.

After playing around with the figure's RFID bases, he collected his research and stored it in a .zip file on his personal website. And thought nothing of it.

Then one day Wilson comes home from work to find someone waiting at his door to hand him a legal notice from Activision, accusing him of all kinds of nefarious hacking deeds and demanding he take down all his work at once.

Wilson claims that the majority of accusations levelled against him by Activision are completely inaccurate. Many of them allege he is reverse-engineering the Skylanders RFID code, is working with others to hack the game, and collaborating those efforts on a messageboard.

The thing is, Activision's lawyers seem to be unable to tell the difference between the original creator of a thread, who makes the boasts that have attracted their attention, and Wilson, who leaves a single message and says nothing of hacking or reverse-engineering.

You can read Activision's letter here, while Wilson has made his response public here.

skylanders portal documentation [brandonw, via Geek]

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Comments

    Looking at his main web site, he pretty clearly says he reverse engineered the protocol (which is not in itself illegal).

    The problem here is that since the statues effectively act as unlock keys for parts of the software, the protocol is a technological protection measure protecting copyrighted material. So when he talks of "emulating the portal using an 84+/SE or 89Ti for all the major consoles", he is saying that he is working on a circumvention device as far as the DMCA is concerned.

    It is a bit shitty, but the DMCA is designed to let Activision go after things like this.

      Well, the information contained in their letter, and therefore the accusations based therein, were incorrect, but the lawyers got it half-right, which is better than their usual efforts in this sort of matter

    I think it's bullshit. As far as I'm concerned he already owns access to the code in the game. Whether or not he knows the secret to unlocking that code and using those characters is not important.

      From what I can make out, it's documenting information on and creating ways to circumvent the protection on those codes is the issue, not his right to access those codes

        I know that, putting it that way doesn't change the fact that it's still bullshit.

          The circumvention coding is there to protect the owners of the software from piracy of their product or from accessing parts of the software they have not purchased a license to use. You seem to be mistaking the fact that just because they own a license to use the software it doesn't give them unrestricted access to or ownership of the software and/or its coding. This is a point that has been continuously argued and upheld in courts

    The events in the letter and i assume the website happened 2 months ago, not sure why it's only getting mentioned now. Regardless, it seems Actision fashion to jump the gun and prosecute anyone who they can find information on, rather pursuing the actual people responsible.

    Now concerning about the actual matter at hand and the intentions of the original thread poster, in circumventing protection and creating an iOS app. By the sounds of it, it had the potential to cause damage to Skylanders and Activision, since a lot of parents and people have an ipod touch or iphone, and selling an app to remove the need of buying physical characters all the time. Though with the amount of work put into it already, and the nature of how hacks and devices make it onto the market, i would take a guess we'll see a usb device some point next year.

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