US District Judge Susan Illston has ruled that PlayStation 3 jailbreaker George Hotz, also known as GeoHot, must hand over his computer's hard drive to Sony. GeoHot's attorney, Stewart Kellar, objected since Sony would be able to see the contents of all his client's files, but Illston merely informed Kellar that this was routine, like in child pornography prosecutions.
"Your honor, we're certainly not dealing with child pornography in this issue," Kellar replied according to Wired. Illston did not change her mind. "Here, I find probable cause that your client has got these things on his computer," she said. "It's a problem when more than one thing is kept on the computer. I'll make sure the order is and will be that Sony is only entitled to isolate the information on the computer that relates to the hacking of the PlayStation."
On the flipside, the judge changed her mind about an order for GeoHot to "retrieve" the code from anyone he delivered or communicated it to, changing her mind because she was not previously aware of all the details. "It's information. It can't be retrieved. It's just not practical," Illston said. "What would they do, Xerox it and mail it back? This kind of got away from me and I apologize for that."
Late last month, Ilston had originally ruled that the 21-year-old surrender "any and all computer hardware and peripherals containing circumvention devices, technologies, programs, parts thereof, or other unlawful material, including but not limited to code and software, hard disc drives, computer software, inventory of CD-ROMS, computer diskettes, or other material containing circumvention devices, technologies, programs, parts thereof, or other unlawful material." She also said the defendant "shall retrieve" code "which he has previously delivered or communicated" and gave GeoHot just 10 days to comply.
Kellar fought back for his client, and although he couldn't stop Sony from getting the 21-year-old's hardware, he did manage to gain more time and convince the judge that the retrieval part was impossible.
In the bigger scheme of things, Sony is still threatening to sue anybody posting or distributing PS3 jailbreak code. The electronics giant is demanding that a federal judge order Google and Twitter to surrender details of anyone who looks at the illegal content. This is despite the fact that Sony accidentally tweeted the PlayStation 3 security key earlier this week. A hearing for that is scheduled next month and Sony is seeking unspecified damages.
Sony's legal attacks against the hackers that released the PS3 root key and custom firmware began last month. The group known as fail0verflow is accused of posting a rudimentary hack in December 2010 after finding security codes for the PS3. It was refined by GeoHot weeks later when he independently found and published the PS3 root key. The resulting hacks allow homebrew apps and pirated software to run on unmodified consoles.