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."





User Comments: 53

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Leeky Leeky said:

So they've frozen his assets and are allowing unrestricted access to them as well now?

Staff
Rick Rick, TechSpot Staff, said:

The punishment should fit the crime and in this case, the process sounds worse than the punishment.

Mizzou Mizzou said:

See that we still have the lingering issue of jurisdiction in this case, clearly Sony really wants to see this case tried in California.

Leeky Leeky said:

I don't get the whole "where shall be try this case, because its better in x state".

Surely the place where the court should see this person is the state where he lives?

CrisisDog said:

Am I missing something, or didn't the Library of Congress state "jailbreaking" was not illegal? How is this different?

Sarcasm Sarcasm said:

Crisisdog said:

Am I missing something, or didn't the Library of Congress state "jailbreaking" was not illegal? How is this different?

Perhaps if he only "jailbroke" his own PS3 and didn't publish the root keys across the entire internet???

9Nails, TechSpot Paladin, said:

What if mechanics couldn't soup-up their hot rods or customize their motorcycles? Isn't that the same thing here?

I just don't get why consumers aren't allowed to use their electronics for purposes beyond the manufactures intent. So GeoHot voids his warranty, he didn't steal the PS3 from the store, so why can't he void the warranty if that's what he desires?

TrekExpert TrekExpert said:

Wow. I've got a feeling that things are not going too good for geo...

sarcasm said:

Crisisdog said:

Am I missing something, or didn't the Library of Congress state "jailbreaking" was not illegal? How is this different?

Perhaps if he only "jailbroke" his own PS3 and didn't publish the root keys across the entire internet???

I still don't see the difference. If jail breaking a ps3 is not illegal how is his jail break illegal? He is not aiding people commit "illegal acts" and those people who viewed his video or visit his website have anything to do with his case? They couldn't have possibly done anything illegal with the ps3 jail break. The only thing I think they should legal be able to charge him with is that if the root key is copyrighted he would be distributing illegal content but I don't think that is the case.

war59312 said:

I hope he sues the court and Sony on constitutional grounds via Fourth Amendment.

He has a 100% expectation of privacy when it comes to his paypal account.

Guest said:

The LOC ruled that removing software locks on a phone is legal for the purposes of using on a network not approved by the manufacture is a valid exception to the DMCA.

But the exception was for cellphones only, not general purpose electronics. Other electronics anti-circumvention is still covered by the DMCA, which explicitly prohibits jailbreaks and unlocks.

Now - in terms of the actual ruling - does Sony have a burden of proof that the funds sent to Geohot via paypal are in response to the Sony circumvention?

I sent PayPal to Geohot during that period, for his (legal) iphone jailbreaks. Sony should be required to prove that any donations were explicitly for the PS3 action, not of other origin.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I still think that essentially GeoHot has rolled over, and is pretty much letting Sony do whatever it wants in order to avoid jail/fine. And now the rest of us are going to get screwed over as they set precedent after precedent.

Here's a tip hotshot, anonymity, try it...

Cota Cota said:

9Nails said:

What if mechanics couldn't soup-up their hot rods or customize their motorcycles? Isn't that the same thing here?

I just don't get why consumers aren't allowed to use their electronics for purposes beyond the manufactures intent. So GeoHot voids his warranty, he didn't steal the PS3 from the store, so why can't he void the warranty if that's what he desires?

I think you mixed 2 ideas

-customize

-piracy/cheating

The root key allows you to modify your PS3, the problem is that it gives you to much power and when some people have that kind of power they tend to cheat, not leaving a side the piracy problem.

And to complement your reference, if i had a motorcycle i would like to mod it to look like a taco that craps icecream on the road, but im sure i cant trow icecream of the street whit out breaking the law.

"Rules keep you from doing certain things, but they also protect you" else just ask any gamer that played online and got hacked because the root key drama

krayzie said:

why do we use "jailbreak" term outside apple products?

Nima304 said:

This is stupid. I'm losing more and more respect for Sony.

Whoaman said:

Bye Bye Sony. Spero is a total &ss and it would be more appropriate if he provided his services in China.

Guest said:

Sony = The New World Gestapo

How much does a judge cost these days? Anybody checked his bank account lately?

BOYCOTT SONY

Guest said:

It's great to see Sony taking action. When people cheat and hack like that, it makes online games pointless to play. Everyone involved should get jail time as far as I'm concerned.

Guest said:

I felt a little bit guilty when I bought a sony home theater system (it was on sale/open box item at best buy).

After reading this i feel down right dirty. I will never purchase another sony product. I damn sure will never own a PS3.

Guest said:

I will never buy another $ony product again..

Guest said:

Jailbreaking your own property is fine, nobody is arguing that. What happens when those jailbroken ps3 gets on the network and brings viruses that affect everybody else system? I'm sure you have virus protection on your computer, why? Because people with affected computers, affect yours. Jailbreak your property all day long, just don't make it to be something it's not. Think about prescription drugs, it's yours, your name is on it you bought it, but do you own it? No.

Guest said:

It's fine using a jailbreak on your own PS3. Distributing the root keys for everyone else on the interwebs is what Sony had a beef with, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, everyone can refer to those who would use that information for malicious purposes.

It is impossible to say "this software will not be used for pirating/hacking" and completely regulate/enforce your statements.

Good for Sony.

Guest said:

It's impossible to say whether or not the car that Ford sells me will be used to violate the law, yet they're allowed to continue selling lots of cars.

It's impossible to say whether or not the handguns that are sold will be used for illegal purposed, yet they're still sold.

Why are you ****** okay with "someone might shoot me, but I defend his right to own that gun", but not "someone might use this to pirate a game, so he NEEDS TO BE STOPPED"?!

Guest said:

Bottom line, though you payed sony for the device, you don't own it, Sony owns you, your family and anything that came with 25 ft of a sony console...

If you're foolish enough to give your money to a corporation like sony you get what you deserve...screwed one way or another.

Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

Guest said:

It's great to see Sony taking action. When people cheat and hack like that, it makes online games pointless to play. Everyone involved should get jail time as far as I'm concerned.

Yes because online cheating IS the end of the world isn't it?

Let's allow a corporation ruin one man's life just because you suck at online games.

NeoFryBoy said:

I still don't understand why people are harping on Sony. Some kid indirectly stole millions of dollars from them through illegal actions. They have a right to be pissed. They have a right to sue.

Guest said:

WTF Sony chill out!!! IGEOHOT is not the problem

Whoaman said:

I'm amazed at all the half-baked comments mostly by some moronic Guest.

If I own a car than it is perfectly in my right to customize it how I see fit and I can share the methods I use freely with anyone I want. If someone uses that knowledge to do bad things then that is their deal.

Plain and simply Geohot is being harassed by a large corporate entity with deep pockets who have lobbied this "lawyer in name only" to terrorize this smart kid. The only purpose of this is to teach us all that the law doesn't matter since big corporations can buy it and do what they like.

**** Sony. Me and all in the know will spread the story and avoid Sony like the plague.

Guest said:

Should not have posted the info where the scum of society has access. Go ahead and mod your systems, cars, w/e. You do own them after all.

Don't share the root keys with the rest of the world. When one does something that can negatively affect others, and in this case (people who hack or pirate; thus hurting businesses or having an advantage over others), then it crosses the line. Geohotz obviously did not intend for it to happen, but people will use it for nefarious means. Contrary to what you nimrods believe, that is the real problem here.

Like I said, go ahead and mod your systems, nothing wrong with doing that.

And yes, Sony probably would have been better off hiring the guy. Too late for that. Oh well.

Guest said:

Just another reason to avoid Sony.

Many years ago, I was an ardent fan of Sony and their products and would only buy Sony consumer electronics products. But not any more. A few years ago, Sony did several stupid things in a short period. I can remember only one. They paid a company to drop a half baked silent install rootkit for windows on their music cd's. Ostensibly this was done to prevent end users from making more than one or two copies of their music cds. The rootkit was badly designed and soon exploited by malware authors. The complete disregard for the sanctity of the personal computer was the last straw for me.

Sony are obsessed with anti-piracy. What they fail to realize is people who do pirate games, music, video etc are not necessarily people who would pay for their products if they couldn't get pirated copies. The income loss that they perceive isn't real.

They're like good ol' captain Ahab. I can imagine Sony saying of copyright violators: "...to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee."

All you can do really is vote with your feet. I have. I don't buy their products. I don't support their signed artists.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

I don't understand why they need to get his paypal info? Just because people give him money, doesn't mean they're giving it to him to pay for the hack. Could someone explain the reasoning behind this? Please? Because I really don't get the point of it. I just don't see what accepting money has to do with any of this. They already know what he did and have proof of it.

If he was smart, though, he would do what I do. I NEVER keep money in my paypal account. The only time there is money in there, is just before I buy something. And as soon as someone pays me, I transfer it to my bank account. There is never money in my paypal account for more than a few minutes. Although, I guess I can see a few reasons as to why people would keep money in there. I just think it smarter to put it into your bank account. But that's just me.

Guest said:

Whenever i read an article regarding this, there's always that someone whining, "I'll never buy Sony again!" and "Sony is part of the NWO!" and crap like that.

News flash: No one cares. At the end of the day, Sony wins.

This kinda reminds me of those people a few years ago, who somehow made the evening news for boycotting Made in China products. With today's economy, I bet you those same people still buy china-made products because some of them couldn't fit their budget to buy the alternative brand.

In this case, it's Sony. Made in Japan. Known to produce quality products. I'm willing to pay slightly higher compare to other brands given my product experience. If i were to stop buying their products, it would be for product related reason, not for their business ethics nor sympathy for this kid.

Let the lawyers and judges sort it out.

Guest said:

I was considering replacing my dead PS3 but luckily I was able to sell my secondhand games, I used to be a Sony fanboy for all their products before PlayStation even existed. After following this, I'm done with Sony. I do NOT use ripped software and games, but I believe once you buy a product, you OWN it. You should have every right to do with it what you please - let aside stealing games - I mean if you want to (in laymen's terms) jailbreak your electronics - YOU OWN THE DAMN PRODUCT - it's your right to do with it what you please. Again aside from using it to steal games or any other commonsense illegal uses.

BOYCOTT SONY

ramonsterns said:

neofryboy said:

I still don't understand why people are harping on Sony. Some kid indirectly stole millions of dollars from them through illegal actions. They have a right to be pissed. They have a right to sue.

Are you kidding me?

Guest said:

And to think, some of that money was for the iPhone Jailbreak, and some of it is donations for his lawyers fees.

On his website, he mentions that he accepts donations for this legal fees, and to help with court costs, and now, Sony has gotten that information too, and perhaps freezing his lawyer funds.

Another installment of Corporations screwing over the average citizen.

I support his cause, we as law abiding citizens whom buy & own something, have the right to modify as we see fit, until we cross some illegal line.

Guest said:

There is not one single thing of SONY in my house and there never will be.....

nismo91 said:

i think letting someone else accessing your paypal account is very offensive. why dont sony access geohot's facebook and twitter account as well? geez

Guest said:

Lets see Sony trying to sell electronics when it is clearly apearent that they do no follow FCC, CE, Underwriters Labratories and Electronics&Computing Safety standards.

And what the heck is up with all the astroturfing by Sony here?

Guest said:

I wonder what would happen if i posted up the source codes for gaystation 3.... stay tuned for more at 11;)

Omnislip said:

war59312 said:

I hope he sues the court and Sony on constitutional grounds via Fourth Amendment.

He has a 100% expectation of privacy when it comes to his paypal account.

Those who break laws have no entitlement to those laws.

Of course, if he isn't found guilty, then he will sue like nothing else.

stewi0001 stewi0001 said:

If you make the guy go bankrupt, what good will that do? I don't know the guy or everything he did but a big company sucking him dry will only cause anger and mostlike the want for revenge. So what I see this could end up leading to is that sony might win the war in the court but any hackers that are sympathetic to him, well I hope you get the idea.

Also what do they have to gain from him? A couple grand? SONY just hire the guy already, it's what the US government tends to do! XD

Staff
Rick Rick, TechSpot Staff, said:

Omnislip said:

Those who break laws have no entitlement to those laws.

Of course, if he isn't found guilty, then he will sue like nothing else.

Yes, I find "innocent until proven guilty" rather inconvenient too.

NeoFryBoy said:

matrix86 said:

I don't understand why they need to get his paypal info? Just because people give him money, doesn't mean they're giving it to him to pay for the hack. Could someone explain the reasoning behind this? Please? Because I really don't get the point of it. I just don't see what accepting money has to do with any of this. They already know what he did and have proof of it.

If he was smart, though, he would do what I do. I NEVER keep money in my paypal account. The only time there is money in there, is just before I buy something. And as soon as someone pays me, I transfer it to my bank account. There is never money in my paypal account for more than a few minutes. Although, I guess I can see a few reasons as to why people would keep money in there. I just think it smarter to put it into your bank account. But that's just me.

If I sell a corporate secret (and then brag about it on the internet like a douche) the judge can give that corporation the right to take back the money as a small part of damages. The lawyers are stil building the case and a subpoena to see how much money he's made at Sony's expense is part of this case.

NeoFryBoy said:

Guest said:

...

Another installment of Corporations screwing over the average citizen.

...

How is GeoHot an average citizen? I think that's the problem with you George sympathizers. You keep comparing yourselves to him. How many people in the world could do something like this? More than a few less than 100? But they had some form of understanding that the problem with the world is not Sony or Microsoft. And now they aren't being sued for malicious acts.

Zeromus said:

Can't wait until they migrate from suing to launching ICBM missile strikes at homes of individuals attempting to get undeserved publicity.

Lionvibez said:

From the amount of clueless comments in here it sounds like half of you don't even know what jail breaking is.

And then that next guy he stole millions from sony what????

Whatever it is your smoking can I have some?

miska_man said:

At one point in time I was a fan of Sony too. The PS2...oh boy. The best at the time. But then things went down hill with the high price tag of the PS3 and the PSPgo. Now with this huge anti-piracy mess, I think they need to revamp their gaming business model or get out of the game and stick to making TVs and Blu Ray players.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

neofryboy said:

If I sell a corporate secret (and then brag about it on the internet like a douche) the judge can give that corporation the right to take back the money as a small part of damages. The lawyers are stil building the case and a subpoena to see how much money he's made at Sony's expense is part of this case.

Yeah, but GeoHot didn't sell the hack. He freely distributed it. All the money he's received has been from people donating to help pay for his lawyer. How can you freeze someone's account when they didn't charge anything for the hack? He has made no money off of this. The donations are going right from his paypal account to his lawyer's fat wallets and court fees. And even if he does make money from this, it's not from the hack itself. So I still understand how they can do this. The guy didn't charge people for the hack.

What Sony should do (and i'm not endorsing this, just saying what I would do if I were them) is find out how many systems were hacked, how much money has been lost, and then sue GeoHot for that amount, plus sue the people who used the hack. His paypal account just has nothing to do with distributing the hack.

NeoFryBoy said:

Yeah, but GeoHot didn't sell the hack. He freely distributed it. All the money he's received has been from people donating to help pay for his lawyer. How can you freeze someone's account when they didn't charge anything for the hack? He has made no money off of this. The donations are going right from his paypal account to his lawyer's fat wallets and court fees. And even if he does make money from this, it's not from the hack itself. So I still understand how they can do this. The guy didn't charge people for the hack.

What Sony should do (and i'm not endorsing this, just saying what I would do if I were them) is find out how many systems were hacked, how much money has been lost, and then sue GeoHot for that amount, plus sue the people who used the hack. His paypal account just has nothing to do with distributing the hack.

He didn't have to directly sell it to make money.

There is a lot of money mixed in with his paypal account. The judge is not giving Sony any of this money. Sony is ITEMIZING his income and determining how much if anything (and you can guarantee he has made money on the hack) he has made on this. The lawyer donations and the jailbreak donations are separate from the hack donations.

The big issue is, Sony needs to prove he did this maliciously. If he made a hefty sum after releasing the iphone jailbreak and the same after releasing the hack to youtube that could make him look bad. It looks like he thought, "I made a ton on this iphone thing. I could probably make way more off of screwing Sony."

war59312 said:

n/m No need for reply..

omegafate omegafate said:

i personally think that sony needs to grow up and join with nintendo and microsoft shit they have pretty much giving up on stopping the "hackers". i mean oooo wow they are going to ban people for "hacking" or "jail breaking" there consoles.there are many vpns and so on for console game play which can be routed through.

besides u cant tell me the judge isnt getting pay offs and so on to side with sony. hell even geohot him self stated on AOTS (attack of the show) that the "hack" only enables his programing, which in turn only allows homebrew games and such, and does not allow pirated games,unlike other "hacks". if your wanting to attack someone attack the people who are allowing pirated games

logistics people!!!!!!

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