Sony and GeoHot settle over PS3 hacking lawsuit

By on April 11, 2011, 1:24 PM
Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) and PlayStation 3 jailbreaker George Hotz, also known as GeoHot, have announced the settlement of the lawsuit filed by SCEA against Hotz in federal court in San Francisco, California. The parties reached an agreement in principle on March 31, 2011, and as part of the settlement, GeoHot consented to a permanent injunction. The terms of the settlement were not fully disclosed.

SCEA accused Hotz of violating federal law by posting online information and software about how to circumvent the PS3's security system, thus allowing users to play pirated videogames. Hotz denies any wrongdoing on his part, though he was required to take down the postings challenged by SCEA.

"Sony is glad to put this litigation behind us," Riley Russell, General Counsel for SCEA, said in a statement. "Our motivation for bringing this litigation was to protect our intellectual property and our consumers. We believe this settlement and the permanent injunction achieve this goal. We want our consumers to be able to enjoy our devices and products in a safe and fun environment and we want to protect the hard work of the talented engineers, artists, musicians and game designers who make PlayStation games and support the PlayStation Network. We appreciate Mr. Hotz's willingness to address the legal issues involved in this case and work with us to quickly bring this matter to an early resolution."

"It was never my intention to cause any users trouble or to make piracy easier," Hotz said in a statement. "I'm happy to have the litigation behind me."

Sony's legal attacks against the hackers that released the PS3 root key and custom firmware began three months ago. The group known as fail0verflow was 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.

Looking back, Sony largely won this legal battle. The company succeed in getting GeoHot to hand over his hardware, even demanding two copies of the data, one in encrypted and one in decrypted form. A federal judge allowed Sony to obtain the IP addresses of everyone who visited GeoHot's personal website for a period of 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. The same judge also later granted the company access to GeoHot's PayPal account for the last two years.

Sony's official stance remains if you crack your PS3, you'll get banned. GeoHot meanwhile previously said "beating them in court is just a start." Apparently, settling is the same thing as winning.




User Comments: 28

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Lurker101 said:

GeoHot was quite happy to take peoples hard earned money to "fight" this court case, and has folded like an accordion. I know there's plenty of people on here who gave GeoHot their hard earned money to fight Sony. I want to know just how cheated and disgusted they feel now.

Guest said:

I think if Sony had asked for the 1st born of everyone who had even heard of Geohot, the judge would've granted it them. To be fair, Geo didn't have much chance. Whether he was legally right or wrong, Sony has so much more money, power, influence, and time that he never really stood a chance. Sony could have carried this on for years. They may have known that they would've eventually lost. But they also know that if they can keep this going for long enough, Geo will have to give up. Such a shame that this sort of thing can happen. The law will always be in their favour. If you buy a PS3 and want to change something about it, then it should be perfectly legal to do so, as it's your property. If I want to knock down my house I can, if I want to set fire to my car and its safe to do so I can. If I want to run different software on my PS3 I can't. Insane.

Guest said:

You think his lawyers were free even though he settled out of court? Get a life. Geohot went out of his way to help a community and they supported him. End of discussion.

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

lol to everyone who gave him money!

"A federal judge allowed Sony to obtain the IP addresses of everyone who visited GeoHot's personal website for a period of 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" like that would help it wouldn't be usable in court nor be enough for a warrant for anything. He probably folded because anonymous is getting readying to bring Sony down from the shadows.

Guest said:

He tried his best. But his lawyers would've told him what he was up against and to just give it up before it bankrupts him, which it will, people wont donate their money forever. All Sony needed to do was flex their corporate muscles, which they did by getting the judge to order all that evidence. Then just sit it out until he cracks.

Scshadow said:

I'd prefer to hold judgement until I know what these terms they agreed on are. But this looks like geohot folded under the pressure. Chances are, Sony didn't budge one bit and geohot got scared(granted I would be too). If so, I feel so disappointed in geohot. There was high hopes that this case would have many implications, mainly towards protecting the consumer.

Lurker101 said:

scshadow said:

I'd prefer to hold judgement until I know what these terms they agreed on are

Good luck with that. The terms of the settlement are "confidential" and "by contract", he is not allowed to tell anyone why he settled, what the settlement terms were or his feelings about the settlement. This has been said by Geohot himself on his own blog.

Guest said:

Let me guess what the terms of the confidential settlement were. GeoHot avoids prison, and in return he turns over ALL information on the people who downloaded anything from him over to Sony so they can go after him.

Hope this is a learning lesson for all those idealists who paid for his vacation to South America.

-gwailo

mosu said:

I'll never buy Sony.Period

Guest said:

GeoHot: ĢIt'd be fun to be on the other sideģ

Future Sony employee? :)

Guest said:

Like Lurker said, Geohot folded like a cheap lawn chair. Sony wins.

Cota Cota said:

Even tho Sony is a d***, they were doing the right thing on fighting to lock their console, not only to prevent piracy but to stop cheaters too, dont know why you guys keep standing at Geo's side, yeah he is fighting for "opening" more the PS3 since you actually own it, but when it comes to online gaming YOU ARE ACTUALLY A GUEST AND SHOULD FOLLOW THE RULES.

For me this Sony/Geo crap has been nothing but a crossfire between piracy, users rights and the bunch who just follow a side, and just let me tell you this if you want a fully customizable gaming platform, make yourself one.

zillion said:

Cota said:

Even tho Sony is a d***, they were doing the right thing on fighting to lock their console, not only to prevent piracy but to stop cheaters too, dont know why you guys keep standing at Geo's side, yeah he is fighting for "opening" more the PS3 since you actually own it, but when it comes to online gaming YOU ARE ACTUALLY A GUEST AND SHOULD FOLLOW THE RULES.

For me this Sony/Geo crap has been nothing but a crossfire between piracy, users rights and the bunch who just follow a side, and just let me tell you this if you want a fully customizable gaming platform, make yourself one.

Agree.

Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

I don't buy all this "Sony won and GeoHot had to settle" crap. Sony never had to settle. They could have said F U and kept this going due to their near limitless resources. Why would Sony spend millions of dollars not to take this to court?

I would say each side could do considerable damage to the other and this was just the best way to settle it before it got out of hand and so everyone could save face.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

darkshadoe said:

I don't buy all this "Sony won and GeoHot had to settle" crap. Sony never had to settle. They could have said F U and kept this going due to their near limitless resources. Why would Sony spend millions of dollars not to take this to court?

I would say each side could do considerable damage to the other and this was just the best way to settle it before it got out of hand and so everyone could save face.

Why would they want to sue someone who has no money or no assets? They got what they wanted, GeoHot to give them everything they wanted. Now they have a list of people who downloaded the key, or whatever, and they're going to use that information against people who try to use that information to circumvent the PS3/PSN EULA or otherwise do stuff they don't like.

This was always about setting precedent. GeoHot was just a means to the end.

NeoFryBoy said:

Haha. Hotz was used and tossed to the side. So much for "putting up the good fight".

Guest said:

He is a ***** for not posting anonymously. He wanted the spotlight and now he has it. Glory hounds shouldn't be bailed out by the community.

venomblade said:

so the tracking of peoples IPs by who visited the site isn't a breach in privacy?

Guest said:

1St ...! Out of court settlement is not the same as winning Emil..sorry :( I do hope the supporters of Geo are happy now, seeing how he went on vacation with their financial support, bank a few bucks, flashes some to his lawyers.... an @ the end made a undisclosed deal behind closed doors with SONY to save his own selfish thieving hyde...lol. He played the very same pple that he supposedly fighting for. lol... ~ just imagine Geo... on the sands drinking jelly coconut and a few beach chicks giving him sun tan saying to himself ...~ "Man! I cannot believe these suckers really thinks I could beat SONY an send me all this $$$$ dough? Such losers...! Uhhm girls... you missed a spot.

Lokalaskurar Lokalaskurar said:

so the tracking of peoples IPs by who visited the site isn't a breach in privacy?

Nope. Just ask Google

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Disappointed that this case didn't get to go through the courts, but it's understandable why it didn't. It appears both sides had just as much to lose if not more then win and leaving the situation at a status quo was much less riskier. While I agree that Sony comes out of this looking like the winner especially since they can continue to use their scare tactics, nothing has really changed imo.

SCEA said:

Our motivation for bringing this litigation was to protect our intellectual property and our consumers.

I'm sure you had all those loving consumers in mind when you tried to strip our rights away from us.

gwailo said:

GeoHot avoids prison

-gwailo

This was a civil case, prison was never on the table.

Cota said:

Even tho Sony is a d***, they were doing the right thing on fighting to lock their console, not only to prevent piracy but to stop cheaters too, dont know why you guys keep standing at Geo's side, yeah he is fighting for "opening" more the PS3 since you actually own it, but when it comes to online gaming YOU ARE ACTUALLY A GUEST AND SHOULD FOLLOW THE RULES.

For me this Sony/Geo crap has been nothing but a crossfire between piracy, users rights and the bunch who just follow a side, and just let me tell you this if you want a fully customizable gaming platform, make yourself one.

If someone violates the PS3s online services by either cheating or using pirated games they can already be banned and this was not the main issue. Sony disagrees with consumers position that we may alter our legally purchased products as we see fit. Why people are against their own rights is beyond me. It doesn't really matter if you like or dislike GeoHot personally, his position was still overall in our favor.

Omnislip said:

Relic said:

Disappointed that this case didn't get to go through the courts, but it's understandable why it didn't. It appears both sides had just as much to lose if not more then win and leaving the situation at a status quo was much less riskier. While I agree that Sony comes out of this looking like the winner especially since they can continue to use their scare tactics, nothing has really changed imo.

SCEA said:

Our motivation for bringing this litigation was to protect our intellectual property and our consumers.

I'm sure you had all those loving consumers in mind when you tried to strip our rights away from us.

gwailo said:

GeoHot avoids prison

-gwailo

This was a civil case, prison was never on the table.

Cota said:

Even tho Sony is a d***, they were doing the right thing on fighting to lock their console, not only to prevent piracy but to stop cheaters too, dont know why you guys keep standing at Geo's side, yeah he is fighting for "opening" more the PS3 since you actually own it, but when it comes to online gaming YOU ARE ACTUALLY A GUEST AND SHOULD FOLLOW THE RULES.

For me this Sony/Geo crap has been nothing but a crossfire between piracy, users rights and the bunch who just follow a side, and just let me tell you this if you want a fully customizable gaming platform, make yourself one.

If someone violates the PS3s online services by either cheating or using pirated games they can already be banned and this was not the main issue. Sony disagrees with consumers position that we may alter our legally purchased products as we see fit. Why people are against their own rights is beyond me. It doesn't really matter if you like or dislike GeoHot personally, his position was still overall in our favor.

I don't think you quite understand. Sony reckon that you should honor the contract you entered into when buying the product. Didn't you read that? What a shame. You have to right to complain at this, since everyone, including Geohotz, agreed NOT to tamper with their system. Then they did. And somehow you think they are in the right? I think not.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I don't think you quite understand. Sony reckon that you should honor the contract you entered into when buying the product. Didn't you read that? What a shame. You have to right to complain at this, since everyone, including Geohotz, agreed NOT to tamper with their system. Then they did. And somehow you think they are in the right? I think not.

Sony argued that the PSN User Agreement which is online only if I'm not mistaken constitutes a breach of contract in this case and as such we consumers do not have the right to modify legally purchased products. I disagree with this notion, while I accept they can remove violators from said services (e.g ban), I don't believe they have the right to dictate what we can and cannot modify for personal use. And since this issue was settled we still in my view do not have a definite answer on who is right.

Cota Cota said:

Sony argued that the PSN User Agreement which is online only if I'm not mistaken constitutes a breach of contract in this case and as such we consumers do not have the right to modify legally purchased products. I disagree with this notion, while I accept they can remove violators from said services (e.g ban), I don't believe they have the right to dictate what we can and cannot modify for personal use. And since this issue was settled we still in my view do not have a definite answer on who is right.

Exactly, like i said this is a crossfire, no side puts the real cards on the table "modify for personal use" its getting generalized, because one thing is to "mod it" and another one is to exploit certain features of the device (obviously is piracy), but it seems that people cant understand those two totally different parts because even if Geo released his code to mod the PS3 there will always be people who will use it to pirate games (and by the way im a PC gamer so no worries if your console gets owned) and by the power of the blah blah blah... we all know what happens when a game gets heavily pirated, or you hadnt noticed those 60 dlls your game costs?

Either way dont mix the cards and learn why we cant (and shouldn't) get complete access to all our device features, just because you totally own a car it doesnt means you can drive over people.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Exactly, like i said this is a crossfire, no side puts the real cards on the table "modify for personal use" its getting generalized, because one thing is to "mod it" and another one is to exploit certain features of the device (obviously is piracy), but it seems that people cant understand those two totally different parts because even if Geo released his code to mod the PS3 there will always be people who will use it to pirate games (and by the way im a PC gamer so no worries if your console gets owned) and by the power of the blah blah blah... we all know what happens when a game gets heavily pirated, or you hadnt noticed those 60 dlls your game costs?

Either way dont mix the cards and learn why we cant (and shouldn't) get complete access to all our device features, just because you totally own a car it doesnt means you can drive over people.

You're right, most people don't realize the difference between modding for personal use and modding to gain a competitive/unfair advantage (e.g. cheating/piracy). However the same can be said about hackers and pirates, both are lumped in together as being 'terrible' for the industry when they are not one and the same in many cases.

Looking at your car analogy, we consumers have the right to modify or 'supe up' our cars without the manufacturer telling us what we can and cannot do minus government inspection. But you're right that in general we do not have the right to just run people down, nevertheless this still happens. An example being in my local area two young males were illegally street racing one another when one of them lost control at 110 MPH colliding with an SUV, killing a mother of two and ejecting one of the kids. Do you think because of this terrible incident that we should not have the right do alter or even own high powered cars? I personally don't, punishing everyone for the actions of a few is misguided. The same can be said with gun rights, but that is a whole different mess that I don't think we should explore :p . Of course this is an extreme example that I brought up with real consequences, we're talking about a video game console here that in most cases will lead us gamers to having a bad K/D ratio because some kid thinks he's funny using an aimbot.

As already said I'm all for Sony banning consoles/users who are taking advantage of the system by trying to ruin the experience of others. However I personally find this to be predominantly an issue about control which I don't believe they should have outside the misuse of their service on top of using scare tactics against their own customers.

Guest said:

It is important to note that SONY never considers you, the purchaser, as the actual owner of the console. Their mindset is that you are licensing, on a permanent basis, their console and as such are bound by their terms for the use of such a console.

Come to think of it I could have sworn I saw an old PS2 EULA that said something to that effect, although as far as I know current license agreements don't contain such an archaic concept. It is clear that it is still their mindset, however.

The problem here is that Sony acquired the information they wanted before the legal process even really started. In the discovery phase they got everything they needed: all of Geohot's data and the IP addresses of each potential abuser. They had no need to continue the process and be seen as "picking on the little guy"--they wanted information (including potential information Geohot may have containing other ways of cracking the PS3 that he hadn't released yet--iPhone jailbreak dev team members often hold back some exploits in hopes that Apple won't find and patch them before their next version, giving them the chance to jailbreak yet another version).

The trial itself was never anything Sony wanted to get into; they could have willingly dropped the case and still been considered the victor--they have your IP's, Geohot's data (including any lists of exploits he hadn't yet mentioned so they can patch those as well), and the ability to delay the PS3 cracking scene by a decent period of time.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

It is important to note that SONY never considers you, the purchaser, as the actual owner of the console. Their mindset is that you are licensing, on a permanent basis, their console and as such are bound by their terms for the use of such a console.

Agreed, this is sadly the position of many tech companies now and one I firmly disagree with. "I bought it, I own it" principle that has been around for ages in my opinion should still be used, as it is one of the few consumer protections we have.

Guest said:

How about this latest breach where user names, email, passwords, date of birth, address and possible credit card info has been compromised. Time for a negligence class action suit against Sony. When you ask your loyal customers for that kind of information and then make security an afterthought because your main goal is getting more revenue from your customers that is the epitome of negligence.

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