Sony Computer Entertainment America may win its fight to get its case against a hacker tried in California, as it has filed documents that it says tie him to the state.
Sony's original lawsuit says George Hotz and several other people violated copyright, the computer fraud and abuse act and California law by publishing a jailbreak for the PlayStation 3 that allows other operating systems to be run on the console, as well as pirated games. Sony's complaint also says Hotz acted to circumvent the copy protections built into the device and trafficked in circumvention devices and components thereof. The trafficking refers to Hotz publishing the code on his blog.
A big part of the legal battle between Sony and Hotz has been over where the case should be argued. Hotz and his legal team say it should be in New Jersey, where Hotz lives. Sony says it should be in California. If Sony can show that it was harmed in California, then the judge will probably grant its motion to have the case tried there.
In its latest filings, Sony cites the terms of service that anyone who sets up a PlayStation Network account has to agree to. Anyone who accepts them is in a binding agreement with Sony, which explicitly states that any disputes with the company must be brought to court in San Mateo County. Sony says Hotz created an account under the name blickmaniac that matches the serial number of the PlayStation 3 that Hotz bought in February 2010. By creating an account on the PSN, Hotz has essentially said he is willing to submit to the jurisdiction of a California court, as per the terms of service.
On top of that, Sony argues that a large number of people downloaded Hotz's jailbreaking software live in California. Therefore, the company argues, the case should be argued in California because the harm Sony suffered (the jailbreaking) occurred there.
Sony also says that Hotz has thwarted the discovery process, removing vital components from the hard drives of the PS3 systems he delivered. When the company asked for the components, Hotz's counsel responded that Hotz was in South America.
Hotz's lawyer, Stewart Kellar, has argued against arguing the case in California because it would be a hardship for him to travel to California and it would set a precedent for companies being able to assert jurisdiction over anyone, anywhere, on relatively flimsy grounds.
Hotz has argued that the software he wrote only restores functions to the PS3 that were there before, as earlier versions of the firmware allow it to run other operating systems. Current versions do not allow this.
Suing hackers might not necessarily solve the problems Sony has with pirated software or unauthorized firmware modifications. A Sony employee accidentally re-tweeted the code key to the PlayStation 3, which would allow any user to get around the very copy protections and firmware restrictions Sony is currently arguing about in court.
Soon after the lawsuit against Hotz was filed Sony issued an update to the PlayStation 3s operating system, to protect it against such modifications. Loading the update was required for anyone who wanted to use the PlayStation 3 network. But a Canadian software developer, Youness Alaoui, has also published a workaround.
Alaoui says the code he published is actually legal in Canada, and what he wrote doesn't allow for pirated games to be run, so he isn't violating copyright - he says on his blog he isn't providing the code to anyone, only the tools to build it.