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Sony: PS3 hacker GeoHot fled to South America

Sony says PS3 hacker George Hotz has fled the country, but Hotz says he's only on vacation.

Update, 7:01 p.m. PT: with Hotz saying he is on a long-planned vacation.

If you've been following the drama between Sony and hacker GeoHot (aka George Hotz) then you're in for a fun twist today: Sony is accusing Hotz of fleeing the country, but Hotz says he's just enjoying spring break.

Sony makes the allegation in a court filing (PDF, see page 2, line 24) dated Friday.

After news stories began appearing today, Hotz wrote a blog post to set the record straight.

"Actually, it's true I'm in South America, on a vacation I've had planned and paid for since November. I mean, it is spring break; hacking isn't my life," he writes. "Rest assured that not a dime of legal defense money would ever go toward something like this. And of course [Sony-employed law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton] loves the idea of painting me as an international fugitive. I have been in contact with my lawyers almost every day; I would not let the case suffer."

George Hotz telling Sony how he feels. YouTube

Hotz is well known for reverse-engineering the multi-digit code that allows the installation and execution of non-Sony-recognized code on PlayStation 3s, essentially allowing anyone with a PS3 to run homebrew software, or even pirated games.

A federal magistrate a couple weeks ago OK'd Sony's request for Hotz to hand over his hacking gear--his PS3 consoles, computers, and other equipment--untouched. It seems that before turning the stuff in, he allegedly made edits, deleting key evidence that Sony likely planned to use against him.

What's more, Hotz was allegedly caught lying about having a PlayStation Network (PSN) account. But Sony says it was able to prove that in February of last year, Hotz allegedly purchased a new PS3 and, tracing the serial number, Sony says it concluded that he had set up a PSN account under the screen name "blickmanic," which is also a name Hotz used on previous Web forums on iPhone jailbreaking.

Besides jailbreaking PS3s for non-sanctioned use on PSN, Hotz was a very vocal and active member of the iPhone/iOS jailbreaking community, bringing several key userland jailbreaks to the devices, including blackra1n and limera1n. While Apple consistently moved to patch the exploits Hotz used in its software, it never went overtly litigious as Sony has.

It's unclear what will happen in this case next. It's not publicly known where in South America Hotz is staying, what gear he has with him, and what assets he has access to. Recently, a court granted Sony access to Hotz's donation-based PayPal account, so that cash source may well be totally unavailable.

Whatever the case, we expect this to be far from over. There are egos, weird and obscure copyright laws, and potentially millions of dollars still at stake. If you're like me, you might want to make some metaphorical popcorn as well.