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Accused PS3 Hacker Hotz Contests PSN Account Link, SCEA Jurisdiction Claim
Accused PS3 Hacker Hotz Contests PSN Account Link, SCEA Jurisdiction Claim
March 28, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

March 28, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

In a newly revealed set of legal documents, accused PS3 hack George "GeoHot" Hotz refutes Sony's claim that he created a PlayStation Network account using one of four PS3s he purchased.

Last week, Sony alleged that a PS3 Hotz had purchased had been used to create a PSN account under the name "blickmanic," from a location whose IP address resolved near Hotz' home.

Hotz' connection to the PSN account is important, legally, because it would prove that he agreed to SCEA's terms of service, which would give the California-based company a stronger claim to interest in the case.

But new documents filed by Hotz' representation, as noted by Groklaw, show the serial number Sony says is associated with the blickmanic account does not match that of a new PS3 Slim purchased by Hotz. Hotz also allegedly purchased three used PS3 systems, whose serial numbers have not yet been disclosed by either side.

Hotz' lawyers also included a reference to a comment from Hotz' blog, claiming to be from a neighbor of Hotz who borrowed his console to create the blickmanic account.

"See, I live next door to George Hotz and we've always been good friends," the post reads. "At the time I bought the console, I was waiting to be connected to the internet by my ISP so I asked Hotz if I could use his for a while. Good neighbors, that's all."

In another document, Hotz testifies that he was not aware of the existence of SCEA, and that he believed the PS3 to be a product of Sony Japan, as indicated on the box and firmware installation. Hotz' representation even provides photographic evidence that Hotz did not open the sealed manuals that came with the new PS3, which would have identified SCEA's involvement with the system.

The fight over jurisdiction in Sony' case against Hotz has been roiling since January, when a circuit court judge expressed reservations about the trial being heard in California.

Since then, Sony has been granted a restraining order against Hotz' publication of hacking instructions, and gained access to Hotz' personal hard drives and information from Hotz web provider.

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Kamruz Moslemi
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Court battles, aint they excitin'? I feel like I am watching grass grow over there.

Ed Alexander
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If this is just to figure out jurisdiction, I'll need some popcorn for the actual trial.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Not aware of the _existence_ of SCEA? Is there even punishment for lying in court/on court-related documents or is our entire legal system this much of a joke that he would try this?

Daniel Piers
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It's only a lie if they can prove he is lying, and it isn't entirely impossible for someone to lack a comprehensive understanding of the structuring of a multinational corporation.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"It's only a lie if they can prove he is lying"


You can't technically prove anything because a claim of fact requires evidence, but presenting evidence is claiming a fact, so you need more evidence to prove _that_, and on and on... and of course, maybe none of this is real and we're all in the Matrix. With a creative enough defense, how could any court case ever end?

Anyway, no, it's not impossible. So let's say that a kid smart enough to hack an iPhone and PS3 doesn't realize that a company as big as Sony that publishes a lot of games in America is going to have an American branch (eyeroll)... What's the best that can happen? Seems like a thief saying he shouldn't go to jail because he didn't realize the jeweler had a silent alarm...

Either what he did was right or wrong, I'm not taking sides here, but it was right or wrong regardless of SCEA being printed in large neon letters on the box. This whole jurisdiction issue is evidence of just how childish adults are nowadays (both Geohotz and Sony's legal defense). Could have just patched it up and offered him a job. Could have just had a trial in his hometown out of respect. But no, Sony has to try and get the best venue they can instead of worrying about making better hardware, and Geohotz has to prance around arrogantly in front of the hacker community in rap videos while acting like an innocent and ignorant little lamb in front of the court. Everyone has to "cleverly" minimax the system, whether it be the legal system or economics. Common sense is dead.

Maurício Gomes
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SCEA theoretically takes care of entire america, in fact if you request to Sony (any of them) to make a PS2 game, while living in Brazil, they will give contact of someone at SCEA.

Yet, all Brazillian games released on PS platforms, were authorized by SCEE instead. So...

Duong Nguyen
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So the core of his defense is he is too stupid to know what SCEA is? or that Sony is a multi-national corporation of which has branches in every major country, esp in the US? I guess...

Olivier Riedo
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The core of his defense is he didn't agree to SCEA's terms and supposedly did none of the trivial things that'd make him implicitly agree to them even without reading them or knowing them. It's important beyond the mere jurisdiction problem because those terms are the only thing making reverse engineering of software illegal in the US. Outside of such a contractual obligation there's currently no protection offered by US copyright law.

Wylie Garvin
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No. What he's saying is that this lawsuit does not belong in California.

Hotz lives in New Jersey, the acts he is alleged to have committed were performed in New Jersey, and nothing he did really has any link to California. SCEA apparently chose to sue him in California because its convenient for them and inconvenient for Hotz.

Its also not clear that SCEA has any standing to sue. They don't own the copyrights to the software that Hotz allegedly violated the DMCA by hacking. They don't manufacture the PS3 hardware that Hotz bought. They are trying to claim he has some kind of contract with them because of some PSN terms of service, but they haven't yet proven that Hotz has ever even had a PSN account. SCEA has also apparently abused the jurisdictional discovery process to try and get info that they are not supposed to be able to get.

My theory is that SCEA's actual goals are twofold: (1) to make this as painful and expensive as possible for Hotz to dissuade future hacking attempts by Hotz and others, and (2) to discover the identities of the "failoverflow" hackers who actually got past the PS3 security and explained to the world how to bypass it. I think those are the people that Sony actually wants to go after, and they are using this case against Hotz to try and go fishing for their identities.

Jamie Mann
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I don't recall buying a SCEE Playstation 3; I do recall buying a Sony Playstation 3.

Similarly, I used to own a Ford Mondeo, not a "Ford of Europe GmbH" Mondeo.

One question though: what's the T&C situation with the used PS3s? I would have assumed that any legal agreements made by the previous owner would become null and void (especially if the sale was made via a third party - e.g. GameStop); is this true/always the case?

Leandro Pezzente
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I guess Sony its a little bit afraid of this hack's intruction being disclosure.

Luis Guimaraes
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This could be a game.

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SCEA should have hired Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney for this one.

Darcy Nelson
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The only reason Hotz being unaware of the SCEA is important at all, is because it demonstrates that he was unaware of agreeing to any terms or conditions preventing him from doing what he did.

Ken Nakai
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Technically, how can you expect a consumer to know the difference between any of Sony's subsidiaries? I just got a notice about the transition over from SCEA to SPNA or whatever the new PSN subsidiary is.

Honestly, is it really worth all the court fees? They should just give him a job. He'd probably squee until he realizes he's just won a job as a QA tester for the next 10 releases of My Little Pwny...

Mihai Cozma
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I agree with you, I mean when I got my PS3, I got it from Sony, no idea it had branches and such (at least they don't have one in my country from what I know).

I don't know too much about these things, but I think SCEA is actually a totally different company from Sony Japan, even if "it takes orders" from the later one, and when you agree with terms and conditions imposed by a company from other country, you are basically signing nothing and agreeing to nothing. At least in our country (Romania) my agreement with PS3 terms and conditions is totally meaningless. However, I cannot buy games from PSN (because they don't have any on PSN Romania and I cannot buy them from PSN UK or whatever because I have a romanian credit card), so I have that account just for trophies and other games that require you to have a PSN account to log in to their servers.

Eric Geer
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I agree---I had no idea Sony had different branches either---I could have assumed--but never took the time to really look into it---

I knew nintendo had the branch set up because I'm actually interested in their company and what they are doing

Brent Orford
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Man I'm just a fan off all these awesome pictures of Hotz that Gamasutra keeps digging out for these articles.

Ardney Carter
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Gamasutra has a habit of pairing really awkward pictures of people in articles where there is some kind of controversy. I'm a fan. There was one a while back of some British politician that had me laughing in my cubicle for a while.

Aaron Truehitt
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Yeah, the recent picture is a complete "Oh $#!%.." look.