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Judge OKs Sony access to 'Geohot' PayPal account

Sony Computer Entertainment America has been given the go-ahead to access the PayPal account of George Hotz--also known as "Geohot"--to try to establish jurisdiction in a case.

Who thought the PlayStation 3 would cause this much trouble for Geohot? CNET

A U.S. district court judge in the Northern District of California has granted Sony Computer Entertainment America access to famed hacker George Hotz's PayPal account.

According to a ruling (PDF) filed Tuesday by Judge Joseph C. Spero, SCEA will be able to examine PayPal donations made to Hotz--better known as "Geohot"--between January 1, 2009, and February 1, 2011, to see if some of the funds received came from Northern California. If so, Hotz would be forced to fight his case in that district, rather than in his home state of New Jersey, as his attorney has requested.

Hotz's battle with the company started in January when it requested a restraining order against him. The company alleged at the time that Hotz bypassed "effective technological protective measures" in Sony's PlayStation 3 firmware version 3.55 when he released a jailbreak allowing console owners to run custom packages on the device. SCEA alleged in its suit that Hotz violated both the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Computer Fraud Abuse Act.

Hotz and his legal team argued that he was not "subject to the personal jurisdiction" of the Northern District of California. It was a claim that SCEA categorically denied, saying that Hotz was "aiming his malicious conduct at a California business from a New Jersey address." The company also argued that he used "other interactive tools based in this district, such as Twitter and YouTube, to report on his hacking of the PS3 system." SCEA, based in Foster City, Calif., is a subsidiary of Sony Corp.

The court agreed with SCEA and granted the company its temporary restraining order in January.

However, earlier this month, the battle over jurisdiction continued, prompting SCEA to request, and secure, a subpoena on Hotz's Web site hosting company, Bluehost, as well as Twitter, Google, and YouTube. SCEA said that the information it collects from those services would be used to establish jurisdiction. The company also planned to determine the "defendant's distribution" of the PlayStation 3 hack.

Now that it has been given access to Geohot's PayPal donations, as well, SCEA might just be able to prove its case for jurisdiction. However, the judge made it clear in his order that SCEA is allowed only "limited information." The company must also "inform PayPal and other subpoenaed parties that any information produced in response to the subpoena shall be provided on an Attorneys' Eyes Only basis."