Sony Suffers Setback In PS3 Hacking Case

It's been several months since news of the PS3's core vulnerabilities hit the news, but the case remains stuck in judicial limbo. Sony wants to move the case to California on the grounds that Hotz accessed the PlayStation Network (PSN), which is physically located in that state. Hotz's lawyers have counter-claimed that since Hotz is not a resident of California and is a person, rather than a corporation, the suit should be prosecuted in New Jersey where Hotz himself lives.

Sony currently claims to have evidence that George Hotz and one "blickmaniac" are the same person, based on the fact that one of the four PS3's Hotz has purchased could be linked to the serial number for the 'blickmaniac' account. According to Hotz's lawyers, the serial number on the one PS3 Hotz purchased new isn't the same as the serial number Sony lists as attached to the 'blickmaniac' account. The level of nit-pickery going on here is enough to make a person's eyes cross; let's step back a bit and examine the larger picture.

Hotz's lawyers are attacking Sony's argument on a number of levels, including the question of whether or not the SCEA (Sony Computer Entertainment of America has the right to sue GeoHotz at all. According to the defense team, all references and manuals that ship with a PS3 refer strictly to Sony Japan. Sony has yet to demonstrate that Hotz ever signed on to the PlayStation Network. As Groklaw summarizes:  "There's no evidence Hotz ever accepted the Playstation Network terms of service or opened an account. Personal jurisdiction over Hotz in California would be "unreasonable". And Hotz's motion should be granted because SCEA 'has abused the jurisdictional discovery process.'"

Hotz's attorneys are doing their level best to turn the heat up on Sony by alleging that the electronics giant is playing dirty. 
Initially, SCEA stated that Mr. Hotz had a PSN account under the name “Geo1Hotz”, which incidentally, does not include any information relating to Mr. Hotz... Now, SCEA claims that Mr. Hotz must have created a PSN account for the name “blickmaniac” because the serial number of one of the Playstation Computers that Mr. Hotz purchased-- including 3 Playstation Computers that were purchased used-- was used to register a PSN account. The serial number utilized by SCEA, however, is different from the serial number proffered by Mr. Hotz's attorney.

As things stand right now, the SCEA has failed to provide compelling evidence to justify trying the case in California. It's been unable, despite substantial discovery, to link George Hotz to any account created on the PlayStation Network and has not demonstrated that Hotz profited in any way from his work. The defense further alleges that the SCEA's lawyers have acted in bad faith in multiple ways. Finally, there's the question of what, exactly, the SCEA does given that
Sony Japan... is responsible for manufacturing, distributing, and marketing the Playstation Computer. Sony Japan is the owner of all rights, title, and interest in, to and under the copyrights in the PS3 Programmer Tools... When one purchases a Playstation Computer and looks at its outer box, it has plastered on numerous places that it is a product of Sony Japan and all rights belong to Sony Japan. It only references Sony Japan-- not SCEA. When one takes the Playstation Computer out of its box and inspects it, it states it is a product of Sony Japan and all rights belong to Sony Japan. It does not reference California. When one installs the Playstation Computer firmware update that Mr. Hotz allegedly circumvented, which can legally be obtained through the internet as Mr. Hotz did, upon installation, it only refers to Sony Japan.

The mud-slinging, berating, and ad hominem attacks have already begun—and all we're doing is arguing over where a case should be tried. It can only get better from here. Thanks to Groklaw for its comprehensive coverage of this issue.