Judge lets Sony access GeoHot's PayPal account in PS3 hacking lawsuit

By on March 17, 2011, 3:48 PM
Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero has awarded Sony a subpoena that grants the company access to the PayPal account of PlayStation 3 jailbreaker George Hotz, also known as GeoHot, for the last two years. Spero ruled that the Japanese console maker may acquire "documents sufficient to identify the source of funds (PDF via Wired) in California that went into any PayPal account associated with geohot@gmail.com for the period of January 1, 2009, to February 1, 2011."

The information sought is part of a jurisdictional argument over whether Sony must sue GeoHot in his home state of New Jersey rather than in San Francisco, where Sony would prefer. Sony argues that if GeoHot accepted monetary donations for the PS3 hack from people residing in Northern California, San Francisco would be a proper venue for the litigation. GeoHot denies he accepted donations, though he did ask for them.

Spero's decision follows sidings with Sony from earlier this month. The judge allowed Sony to obtain the IP addresses of everyone who visited GeoHot's personal website for the past 26 months (since January 2009) as well as the account names of anyone who has accessed a PS3 jailbreak video on the 21-year-old's YouTube account, his tweets relating to the hacking on Twitter, information on people who posted comments to his blog on Blogspot, and information about his account on the PSX-Scene website.

Last month, Sony demanded that Google hand over the identities of those who have viewed or commented about the jailbreak video posted on YouTube. GeoHot posted the video on January 7, later made it private, and then pulled it on a judge's orders.

Sony's legal attacks against the hackers that released the PS3 root key and custom firmware began two months ago. 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. Sony is still threatening to sue anybody posting or distributing PS3 jailbreak code, despite the fact that the company accidentally tweeted the PlayStation 3 security key.

Sony's official stance is if you crack your PS3, you'll get banned. GeoHot meanwhile says "beating them in court is just a start."


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