Judge Admits She Was Wrong To Order Playstation Jailbreaker To 'Retrieve' Code From Elsewhere

from the good-for-her dept

A few weeks ago, we noted the problem of judges who don’t understand technology in highlighting how the judge in the case concerning the Sony PS3 jailbreak had ordered that George Hotz (Geohot) “retrieve” the jailbreak code that had been distributed. As we pointed out, you can’t retrieve code that out’s there on the internet. It’s not a physical good. The comments on our original article had some claims from some of our usual critics, claiming that our statement that the judge had asked for the impossible was “FUD” and not accurate, and even accused me of intentionally misleading readers here.

Well, it appears that the judge has reconsidered, and actually agrees with me and apologized for the original order:

The judge also backed off on an order that Hotz “retrieve” the code from anybody who he may have forwarded it to.

“It’s information. It can’t be retrieved. It’s just not practical,” Illston said. “What would they do, Xerox it and mail it back?”

Illston said she changed her mind because she was not clearly aware of the details in her earlier order.

“This kind of got away from me and I apologize for that,” she said from the bench.

That said, the article does still highlight how she has allowed Sony to comb through Hotz’s computers looking for any information “that relates to the hacking of the PlayStation.” Hotz’s lawyers had protested this, and the judge said that it’s standard to search through the entire contents of someone’s computer to find things like child porn, to which his lawyer noted that “we’re certainly not dealing with child pornography,” but the judge didn’t bite. Despite concerns from Hotz’s lawyer, the judge told them “That’s the breaks.”

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Comments on “Judge Admits She Was Wrong To Order Playstation Jailbreaker To 'Retrieve' Code From Elsewhere”

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Overcast (profile) says:

Wow, a judge.. that admitted they were wrong. Perhaps that’s the real news here, lol.

I’m curious with this whole concept – about how long it’s going to be before it’s illegal to have clothes altered or against a ‘EULA’ to alter clothes you have purchased.

Because it makes about as much sense as it being illegal to mod a console..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

From here, via Wired:

“At first, the judge said ?That?s the breaks,” but later clarified that Sony’s search would be limited:

‘Here, I find probable cause that your client has got these things on his computer,” she said. “It?s a problem when more than one thing is kept on the computer. I?ll make sure the order is and will be that Sony is only entitled to isolate ? the information on the computer that relates to the hacking of the PlayStation.’

The judge ordered Sony’s attorney and Kellar to work out the time and place where Hotz would allow Sony to sift through his computer and ordered him not to delete or modify any files connected to the jailbreak.”

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Agreed. Personally, I would rather that the judge stomped on this right away, and said that the search was not necessary because we are not dealing with something that can lead to criminal charges.

Hell, the guy has ALREADY said that he is connected with the jailbreak…. this seems like a fishing expedition to try and find out who else was involved.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The judge ordered Sony’s attorney and Kellar to work out the time and place where Hotz would allow Sony to sift through his computer and ordered him not to delete or modify any files connected to the jailbreak.”

What I don’t get is why a party to lawsuit gets to do the forensic work on the computer. It seems that a neutral, third party would be much more unbiased. And before AJ or someone slams me on this, it’s probably technically legal – it just doesn’t seem just.

teka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Why oh why

rather then a milling output, i would suggest an automated mixer that can accept pre-measured dough components, then tip the completed material onto the pizza tray moving through the line. This could be replaced with a system that retrieves a pre-made dough ball, or even a pick-and-thaw dispenser that thaws par-cooked dough.

For shaping i would suggest a press-style mold. Lock the pizza pan into place on the line, apply pressure with a properly shaped disc to stamp an optimum shape. Automated application of non-stick oil before pressing would help.

Printbed sauce application system would be interesting. Even more if it could handle 2 or 3 input lines, allowing artistic swirls of marinara, alfredo sauce and/or peppery olive oil or pesto. Imagine an evolutionary algorithm slowly developing the perfect flavor! Cheese application might be possible with the same system, though odd pelletizing or compounding might ruin.

A delta-robot with a vac’ gripper might be a better choice, allowing rapid placement of items like sliced cheeses, discs of pepperoni and/or sausage. Optional is a low-power CO2 laser and aiming array in conjunction with the feed-tube for the pepperoni, allowing the addition of monogrammed meat product.

Final is a pass-through oven, and i think developments in the pizza industry are pushing these to be smaller and faster all the time..

So.. um.. where was i..

It is good that the judge eventually retracted this demand.
And .torrent = .pizza

average_joe says:

The comments on our original article had some claims from some of our usual critics, claiming that our statement that the judge had asked for the impossible was “FUD” and not accurate, and even accused me of intentionally misleading readers here.

You certainly are being vindicated here. I’m happy to admit it: I was wrong. I apologize for calling it FUD.

Eric says:

IT person who works w/ the law

As a person who’s done several searches for porn for a Judge I can tell you that Judges can pretty much order whatever they please, it’s really quite scary and amazing.

When doing our searches we would make a sector by sector ghost of the original drive and then seal that and put it away in a evidence locker, to show proof of no tampering.. ie adding things or deleting things.

It doesn’t matter if you find that the guy killed someone on the computer, you can only present forth what the Judge ordered you to look for. It’s not like, “HA, we got him for something else too.” In the cases I worked, the person was in the court room when the order of the computer search was done and a police officer escorted the person to his house to retrieve the computer.. to make sure it wasn’t tampered with.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: IT person who works w/ the law

Here’s another recent example of why this is a good idea:
I had a SSD partially die on me at home. The drive was not encrypted, but I had to send it back to the manufacturer to receive a new one. I didn’t want them to have my data, but I couldn’t access the drive long enough to wipe it within Windows, or even a Linux live CD.

So I brute forced it to repeatedly reboot the system, encrypt random portions of the drive until it died, then reboot and continually write random shit to the drive for 24 hours. I have no idea if they’ll be able to get any of the data, nor if they care, but I encrypt everything now, there’s no reason not to.

teka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

as we have seen here, (link), some judges like to wield their unchecked power of Contempt charges, shredding 5th amendment protections.

“give the bailiff the password or face contempt charges and a week in jail”
-week later
“give the baliff the password or face contempt charges and 2 weeks in jail”

right not to incriminate oneself? never heard of it.


a-dub (profile) says:

We really need to have better protections for computer searches. Someone correct me here, but if a warrant is issued to search a home for item X, and they discover an illegal item Y, then item Y cannot be collected until another warrant is issued…is that correct?

They cant just search a persons house for anything incriminating, it has to specific, correct? If so, why are they able to search his computer for anything when they are specifically looking for sony ps3 info.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

> if a warrant is issued to search a home for
> item X, and they discover an illegal item Y,
> then item Y cannot be collected until another
> warrant is issued…is that correct?

Nope. If I have a warrant to search for counterfeit currency and while doing so turn up a kilo of cocaine, I can legally seize that as well.

There is a restriction that only allows the police to search places where the items on the warrant can reasonably be located. So if I have a warrant to search for a shotgun, I can’t look in the drawers of a person’s desk or inside their DVD cases, because a shotgun couldn’t physically fit in those places.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Further, even if you allow the police to enter you home without a warrant, and a shotgun is in plain sight, they can take action as a result.

If the court says “check the computer for files related to the hack”, that could include pretty much any user generated file, as the data could be stored as a program, as a text file, as a spreadsheet, or heck, as an image (or images proving “the hack”). So if he happens to have other less than legal stuff in those sorts of files, the potential is that the police will see it.

Let’s just say if you don’t want the authorities raking around your computer, don’t do something that gives them legal reason or probably cause to do so.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

A very good paper for this topic AJ 😉

Just remember that this paper is only relevant to USA searching laws, other countries have different laws and procedures.

Also if you are in the situation where searching or seizure could become a concern, the best advise is to contact a qualified attorney/solicitor that has dealt with Digital Evidence.

Oh and AJ you might be interested in this latest case (8th circuit) where a cellphone (we call them mobile phones) was classified as a computer. Interesting 4th Amendment concerns for phones now [ http://blog.simplejustice.us/2011/02/09/if-it-walks-like-a-duck.aspx ]

Anonymous Coward says:

Stupid judge. No wonder why these retard judges can’t realize that Sony sold the product under the pretext that you can run Linux on it and later changed their mind and hence should be fined for false advertisement. Our kangaroo courts blindly do what big corporations want them to do with no thought whatsoever and they wonder why they end up looking stupid for not knowing what they’re doing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“So you disagree with the decision to revise the order?”

No. I disagree with the decision to blindly make such a stupid order without knowing what she’s doing to begin with and with the fact that she so blindly sought to serve the corporate interest that she couldn’t even be bothered to understand her decisions. She reversed the order only because, due to the dynamics of the situation, she had no choice, but to the extent that it was in her power, she only sought to serve the corporate interest with no regard for law, the public interest, or the fact that Sony falsely sold the product with the claim that people can install Linux on it and that it’s fraudulent for them to later tell people that they can’t. The judge didn’t care about upholding the law, she only cared about serving the corporate interest even if it means doing so blindly.

Anonymous Coward says:

This guys lawyer is a lightweight. Fighting a company like Sony over a case like this is the big time.

I wish copyminimalists in the US would organize themselves properly. Set up a legal aid fund, appoint a panel of specialists to review cases on merit, and fight a couple each year, to the limit. Throw big lawyers and big money at it. If you see the level of stupidity exhibited by some judges, I wouldn’t be surprised they base their decisions on which of the lawyers has the most expensive suit.

It’s high time you guys drew a line in the sand and told the corporations, this far and no further.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

claiming that our statement that the judge had asked for the impossible

I don’t know if you’re referring to me… but what I said was that you wrongly blamed the judge for the idiocy. Judge’s don’t write orders, they sign them. The write opinions, but there was no written opinion in this case.

The person who came up with the asinine idea to “retrieve” the code came from Sony’s lawyer, not the judge.

Any Mouse (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And you’re saying the judge should hold no responsibility for what they sign. Which makes you look the tool. Judges have a lot of power, and there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that. We need to expect them to read and understand what they are signing, not just blindly put pen to paper, so yes. The judge /is/ to blame.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Illston said she changed her mind because she was not clearly aware of the details in her earlier order.”
The way that’s said makes me think she didn’t even come up with it. Damn, I could get away with that at work.
“Why would we install the control system that way?!”
“I was clearly not aware of the details in my earlier order”

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: Re:

TrueCrypt allows you to create a volume for plausible deniability. If you put in one password, it takes you to your real desktop. If you put in a different one, it takes you to a separate desktop where (presumably) you store nothing incriminating.

If they make you give up your password, you give up the one that goes to nowhere.


G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hidden partitions show up as partitions that are hidden within the MBR and are actually part of the GUID Partition Table (GPT).

In fact a Hidden Partition is just a type of partition, nothing different about it.

If you are talking about specific Image files that reside within a partition they show up as files anyway and can be easily read and analysed as Disk Images and are part of the standard diagnostic search performed by any competent forensic investigation.

Anonymous Coward says:

What does Sony actually expect to find? Other people to sue I guess? The code and break itself is in the wild on the internet they aren’t going to find anything else that isn’t out already I would guess. Why should a non-US based company get to seize any US citizen’s computer and sift through it?
Especially now that they have blogged their own key? Can’t wait to see the US when Idiocracy becomes reality. We are so heading there.

Yeah Right says:

Re: Re:

Well, it’s harassment, plain and simple. Sony’s just being nasty and having the guy’s stuff confiscated. Probably gets it back a couple of years down the road.

This stuff only happens to small fry. Corporate fascism, that’s what it is.

Imagine it being the other way round. Someone brought a class action suit against Apple over iPhone privacy last week. Just imagine the judge ordering all Cupertino hardware seized for evidence gathering.

Think about it.

Ryan Diederich says:


Imagine you go to open the hood of your car to put in oil for instance. But you cant get the hood open, it doesnt even look like it CAN open.

Flabergasted, you call the maker, and they inform you that whats under the hood is secret, and that you cant see it. It only opens with special tools that only they have.

They tell you that you need to send it to them for the mantainence, and that it will take 2-6 weeks, and they arent liable for loss or damage of your car.

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