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Sony wins restraining order against Geohot

Sony has been granted a temporary restraining order against George Hotz, better known as Geohot, for allegedly jailbreaking the PlayStation 3.


Sony has been granted a temporary restraining order against George Hotz, better known as Geohot.

"After consideration of the record and the arguments of counsel, the court finds that a temporary restraining order is warranted," Northern District Court of California judge Susan Illston wrote in a judgment dated Wednesday and released yesterday (PDF). "Plaintiff has submitted substantial evidence showing that defendant George Hotz has violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act."

Sony initially filed its request for a temporary restraining order earlier this month. It said at the time that Hotz bypassed "effective technological protective measures" in the company's PlayStation 3 firmware version 3.55 by offering up a jailbreak that allows users to run custom packages on the console. Sony said the jailbreak specifically violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the Computer Fraud Abuse Act.

Sony also alleged in the filing that Hotz's jailbreak could open the door for the "use or playing of illegal copies of PlayStation 3 video games on the PS3 system."

For his part, Hotz has said that he's against piracy.

"Actually, no," Hotz said in response to a question on G4TV earlier this month asking if his jailbreak allows users to run pirated games on the console. "The way piracy was previously done doesn't work in my jailbreak. And I made a specific effort while I was working on this to try and enable home-brewing without enabling things I don't support, like piracy."

Hotz then pointed out that the DMCA specifically allows for mobile phone owners to jailbreak their handsets at no legal risk. However, because it doesn't mention any other devices, Hotz believes that Sony found its opening to include violation of the Act in its restraining order. And the very fact that Sony can do such a thing, Hotz said, makes little sense to him.

"I think the same precedent should apply," Hotz said in the interview. "If you can jailbreak one closed system, why can't you jailbreak another?"

In the court battle that ensued between Sony and Hotz over the restraining order, the alleged jailbreaker didn't make the DMCA the crux of his argument. Instead, he claimed that the court Sony filed its restraining order in had no jurisdiction over him.

"Sony's position is that anytime a user allegedly 'exceeds authorization' when using [its] products, irrespective of whether such user and conduct is in New Jersey, Germany, or China, then such individual could be hailed into this Court in California," Hotz argued in his court filing (PDF). He then pointed to an earlier ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit court that he says, "explicitly rejected such a position."

"Accordingly, Mr. Hotz shall demonstrate that he is not subject to personal jurisdiction in this court," his filing read.

Sony disagreed in a follow-up filing (PDF) with the court. The company argued that Hotz was "aiming his malicious conduct at a California business from a New Jersey address." In addition, the company said that he used "other interactive tools based in this district, such as Twitter and YouTube, to report on his hacking of the PS3 system."

Finally, Sony turned its attention to the PlayStation Network. The company said that Hotz "fails to unequivocally deny that he has, or has ever had, a PlayStation Network account," thus making him subject to the online service's terms of service.

"These terms prohibit, among other things, 'using, making, or distributing unauthorized software or hardware in conjunction with the sites, or taking or using any data from the sites to design, develop, or update unauthorized software or hardware," Sony noted in its rebuttal. "The terms also include a forum selection clause and consent to jurisdiction in San Mateo County, California."

The court agreed with Sony's sentiment, saying that it can exercise jurisdiction over Hotz. However, the court agreed to allow Hotz to offer up a "fuller factual record" on his claim that it has no jurisdiction at a hearing scheduled for February 1.

Until then, Sony has achieved its goal: all links to the jailbreak have been removed from Hotz's home page.