Judge allows Sony to subpoena Paypal for GeoHot records

Sony Computer Entertainment has scored another victory in their lawsuit against PS3 hacker George “GeoHot” Hotz and others, as a U.S. district court judge in the Northern District of California has granted the corporation permission to subpoena information from Hotz’s PayPal account.

The ruling comes just two weeks after the judge approved a motion granting Sony access to IP information of visitors to Hotz’s personal blog, YouTube PS3 “jailbreaking” video, and even those who have communicated about Hotz’s PS3 hack on social networking website Twitter. Sony’s attorneys claim that by posting a circumvention technique to allow installation of an alternate operating system for running homebrew applications, Hotz has violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA),caused the company “irreparable harm,” and broke “effective technological protective measures.”

Judge allows Sony to subpoena Paypal for GeoHot records

According to the order filed Tuesday by Magistrate Joseph Spero, Sony is allowed to examine PayPal donations made to Hotz between January 1, 2009, and February 1, 2011 to determine if enough funds originated from Northern California to establish jurisdiction for the corporation to fight the case there rather than in Hotz’s home state of New Jersey. Although US District Judge Susan Illston had initially ruled that there was not enough evidence to establish jurisdiction in California, the issue has remained a point of contention in the case since it originated in January.

Also this week, Hotz’s attorneys have filed a motion for protective order against Sony, arguing that the corporation’s requests related to the case have been “overbroad” and intended “for the purpose of annoyance, embarrassment, [and] oppression” of Hotz.

One of the requests that order refers to is Sony’s decision to pursue the seizure of Hotz’s personal computer equipment. Hotz has now requested that the corporation encrypt the data extracted from his devices, citing the fact that the equipment contains “other individuals’ personal information and data, clients’ proprietary data, and confidential business information, which includes high value breakthrough innovations in the field of technology,”

Sony’s actions in this case have been met with heavy criticism by citizen’s digital rights advocates, including the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), for the “dangerous message” the case may send over corporate heavy-handed desires to control the use of electronic devices. “Sony is actually saying that it’s a crime for users to access their own computers in a way that Sony doesn’t like, ” EFF representatives recently wrote.

Although the case against Hotz has influenced some high-profile PS3 hackers to call it quits, it has not seemed to deter others or slow the pace of the console’s hacking community. Just this week, a YouTube video was posted by a user going by the name of ThatBoringHacker showing purported evidence of successfully cracked PS3 3.60 firmware just one week after its release. That hacker has continued to remain anonymous thus far, and told MyCE that he intends to remain that way to avoid legal action from Sony. If the corporation’s actions against Hotz is any indication, however, they will not hesitate to subpoena additional records that may reveal identifying information.

This story continues to develop and is far from over. We’ll bring you more news on the case of Sony vs. Hotz as is becomes available.