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No court order against PlayStation hackers for now

No personal jurisdiction

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A San Francisco federal judge declined to order New Jersey-based hacker Geohot to turn over the technology he used to root the PlayStation 3, saying she doubted Geohot was subject to her court's authority.

The move by US District Judge Susan Illston on Friday was a blow to Sony, which argued that the 21-year-old hacker, whose real name is George Hotz, should be forced to surrender his computer gear and the code he used to circumvent digital rights management features in the gaming console. Illston rejected arguments that Hotz's use of Twitter, PayPal, and YouTube, all located in the Northern District of California, were sufficient contacts with the region to establish personal jurisdiction.

“If having a PayPal account were enough, then there would be personal jurisdiction in this court over everybody, and that just can't be right,” Illston told James G. Gilliland Jr., an attorney representing Sony. “That would mean the entire universe is subject to my jurisdiction, and that's a really hard concept for me to accept.”

Sony's motion for a temporary restraining order came in a lawsuit it filed on Tuesday against Hotz and more than 100 individuals who belong to a hacking collective known as fail0verflow. At the Chaos Communication Congress in late December, fail0verflow members revealed the key used to sign PS3 games and demonstrated how to use it to run homebrew apps on the console. A few weeks later, Hotz independently deduced the “metldr” key, which allowed him to root the PS3.

Sony's suit claims that by publishing the means to bypass the protection measures built into the console, the hackers violated provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It also claims they violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act “by transmitting in interstate and foreign commerce a communication containing a threat to obtain information from a protected computer without authorization.” Both laws carry stiff civil and criminal penalties.

Sony attorneys asked Illston to order Hotz and the other hackers to give Sony “any and all computer hardware” and software used to root the PS3. They are also seeking unspecified monetary damages.

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