Geohot vs Sony: Score One for the Little Guy

Renowned hacker George “Geohot” Hotz–or his lawyers–has managed to rebut just about every argument thrown his way by Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA) that would tie his court case to California. The 21-year-old has been aiming for a change of venue–ideally, somewhere in his home state of New Jersey, where he wouldn’t have to add travel and lodging to his growing list of expenses.

If you have a fetish for legal jargon, you can read the 17-page document that outlines Hotz’s latest arguments yourself, but here are some of the key points.

Hotz’s acts were not directed at SCEA because SCEA doesn’t manufacture the Playstation 3.

The system and its firmware are made by Sony Japan. Sony Japan is the owner of all rights, title, and interest in, to and under the copyrights in the PS3 Programmer Tools. SCEA, which is not even a subsidiary of Sony Japan, focuses on the sales of products and video games.

Hotz’s actions have nothing to do with video games and he does not directly provide users the ability to run pirated video games or any other pirated software.

Hotz has not purposefully directed his activities at SCEA.

Hotz was allegedly unaware of the existence of SCEA. The documentation that he received with his Playstation 3 remains sealed, unopened and unread, and the previously-owned systems he’s obtained did not come with documentation. This seems a little too convenient–like the courtroom equivalent of “the dog ate my homework”–but if he swears by it under oath, then barring further evidence, little more can be done than accuse him of having cooties.

On the game system itself, there is no reference to SCEA, only to Sony Japan. The box the system comes in states in numerous places that it is a product of Sony Japan and all rights belong to Sony Japan. There are no references to California.

Hotz never accepted the Playstation Network’s Terms of Service.

There’s no evidence Hotz ever accepted the Playstation Network Terms of Service or created an account. The allegation that Hotz registered the “blickmaniac” account was refuted on the basis that the serial number SCEA claimed corresponded to the “blickmaniac” account does not match the serial number Hotz provided in court.

Further, the Playstation Network Terms of Service do not relate to hardware, only to software obtained via the Playstation Network, which Hotz affirms he never obtained.

This legal battle is far from over, and odds are that our dear Mr. Hotz is going to have to face the music one day, but Sony has clearly been doing a poor job pursuing this hacker in a legally binding manner.

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6 Comments on Geohot vs Sony: Score One for the Little Guy

The Realist

On March 29, 2011 at 11:21 am

So this guy is going to run the risk of being extradited to Japan for which American has an extradition agreement with?

That’ll cost him a lot.

the dude

On March 29, 2011 at 11:35 am

Nah, last time I checked prison was free to attend. :)


On March 29, 2011 at 12:19 pm

No he does not want the case extradited to Japan. He’s saying his actions fall under sony japan’s jurisdiction. Sony Japan is incorporated in Delaware so the case should have been there. Then since sony is bending the rules and trying to screw hotz over the location, he should have his way and get the trial in New Jersey.——thats what i got from reading half the court document with my basic knowledge of law……


On March 29, 2011 at 12:27 pm

“trying to screw hotz over the location”

I would make his life a living hell if I was Sony.

This guy is a complete for any of you to give him your support you are ing idiots, there is no political activism at play here.


On March 29, 2011 at 3:09 pm

This is an interesting case. Hotz’s conduct may be analogous to jail-breaking phones, which is not actionable. It may not. Won’t get to it for a while, because the court has not settled jurisdictional issues yet.

Bear in mind this is a civil case. Imprisonment is not on the table. Extradition is not on the table.

Hotz’s reply brief is not great. If SCEA is unable to maintain the suit as the sole licensed North American distributor of PS3s, which is unlikely, then the suit will merely be refiled by Sony Japan. Registered foreign corporations can sue here.

The user manual and blickmaniac arguments are silly. The Pavlovich argument is stronger. However it is not dispositive. Cal Supreme noted Pavlovich was a close call, and unlike Pavlovich, there is evidence Californians did download Hotz’s code.

phillip fraley

On March 29, 2011 at 4:07 pm

sounds like it’s going to be a long drawn out fight