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Sony wins subpoena for PS3 hacker's PayPal records

Noose slowly tightens around GeoHot

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A federal judge in San Francisco has given Sony permission to subpoena the PayPal records of George Hotz, the hacker being sued for jailbreaking the company's PlayStation 3 game console.

Tuesday's order by US Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero said the information subject to Sony's subpoena “shall be provided on an Attorneys' Eyes Only basis” and is limited to information relating to whether Hotz has enough ties to Northern California to be sued in federal court in that district. Hotz, who goes by the hacking moniker GeoHot, is a resident of New Jersey, and has argued that the court lacks the authority to try him.

The ruling comes in a copyright case Sony brought in January against Hotz and 100 other hackers believed to have also devised a way to run unauthorized games and apps on the PS3. Earlier this month, Sony got approval for a subpoena allowing it to obtain the IP addresses of everyone who visited Hotz's personal website for the past 26 months.

At the same time, Sony also received permission to subpoena Twitter, Google and another service for information related to accounts held by the 21-year-old Hotz.

In Tuesday's order, Spero went on to order Hotz to sign a consent form permitting Sony to obtain his Twitter posts from January 2009 to the present and to “appear in California for a deposition relating solely to the question of personal jurisdiction.”

Sony's lawsuit alleges that Hotz violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by posting videos and blog posts showing how to bypass technical measures Sony put into the PS3 so it would run only games and apps permitted by the console maker.

The PayPal subpoena covers “documents sufficient to identify the source of funds in California that went into any PayPal account associated with geohot@gmail.com for the period of January 1, 2009 to February 1, 2011.”

Sony has argued that such information will prove that he has ties to Northern California and therefore can be sued in San Francisco, which is about a half-hour's drive from headquarters for Sony Computer Entertainment America, the division that's suing the hacker. ®

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