Geohot Goes On Vacation; Sony Accuses Him Of Fleeing Legal Action

from the no-rest-for-the-weary dept

Sony continues its crazy, pointless and damaging attack on George Hotz (Geohot), the guy who jailbroke the PS3 to add back in functionality that Sony itself used to offer, but disabled. The latest move is to accuse him of skipping the country to South America, implying he took money raised in donations to flee. Geohot has responded by noting that it’s Spring break and he’s on a vacation that he planned months ago. Sony also freaked out about the computer equipment that Hotz recently was forced to hand over, saying that it had been sabotaged by Hotz. The company claimed that Hotz had “removed integral components.” However, Geohot’s lawyer pointed out that Sony was completely overreacting, noting that the hard drives just didn’t have the controller cards attached, which is hardly sabotaging the drives.

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Comments on “Geohot Goes On Vacation; Sony Accuses Him Of Fleeing Legal Action”

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Jeremy7600 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh brother.. I already did, and yeah, there are some real doozies there, like one person saying you CAN’T do whatever you want with something you bought (and this beautiful strawman to go with it) because you shouldn’t have the right to take something you own and harm someone with it. (or take a plate and throw out the window with intent to harm someone)

He obviously missed the context of the conversation that people are referring to modifying, destroying, or otherwise altering the products they own, not harming or infringing on the rights of others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Hahaha, you should have read the piece that kotaku had. The comments of those “gamers” were all bad and misinformed. “He should be sent to Guantanamo” more or less summarizes them all. Also against the anonymous group, they ran an article about some unmasking, that I can can see why they did that since their poor security led some hackers to release an assload of passwords.

Greevar (profile) says:

Completely overreacting Sony.

The neutral party examining the drives already noted that they are only missing a RAID controller, which is a very common and easy to acquire device (that they probably already have on hand) that he was never ordered to supply. This is just Sony being a bunch of overzealous and deluded children trying to create an uproar in order to make GeoHotz look like a criminal rather than just a defendant in a civil suit. This isn’t a criminal trial and he’s under no subpena to remain in the US, so George can go wherever he damn well pleases without being cast under suspicion of fleeing litigation. Also, accusing him of using donated money to “flee” is tantamount to libel or slander (which ever applies) on Sony’s part since they can’t, and didn’t bother, to prove that he used donations for legal fees to go on a trip that he’s been planning since November.

Anonymous Coward says:

Heaven forbid a computer expert would use a non-standard configuration then fail to inform sony when they forgot to ask for the card. When faced with legal action its best to follow the letter of the law and not the spirit.

When asked to provide a hard drive you provide the most minimal parts that someone would consider a hard drive. Extra stuff like a raid controller, encryption co-processor, encryption keys etc that don’t get listed wont be provided. The controller would most likely be looked on as part of the hard drive. An onboard Raid controller may not be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Because Sony is so worried that their past reputation will catch up with them, they require that all salesmen or whom ever will sell their product to sign agreements that they will not speak bad of Sony products.

This means if there is some sort of known issue with the product, they can’t tell you. So you are never going to find out directly from the salesman anything damaging or to guide you in your decision based on the better of products.

I simply won’t buy a Sony product, like poster #12 above.

Sony can continue to be the a$$. They won’t get my money now or in the future. They are their own worse enemy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Totally

By taking away the functionality that swayed me into getting a PS3 instead of a 360 and adding a ton of shit I DON’T want on it without being given the option, they lost ALL of my future business. I used to, well, tolerate Sony. Now they can go cram it with walnuts.

I also remember when I used to be able to fire a system up and play a game. Now it is fire it up, download another pointless update that further nerfs the system and eats up precious hard drive space, reboot, load ANOTHER update for the game I want to play and then play it (IF I have any time left to do so, which after 15 minutes, I typically don’t care anymore.)

Sony Strategy: Ruin the functionality of the product, load it with bloatware (or a rootkit!), ask for more $$.

Yeah, no thanks.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

I do not know what to think in this case ...

Some conspiracy theories pop into my head about this case.

1) Sony put some sort of spyware on the PS3 that they are don’t want anyone to find, so they are making a huge stink to make people run the other direction.

2) The chinese provided chips for the PS3 and that included spyware. Hence shutting down the alt OS option makes sense from the stand point of liability. (US government, Universities, corporations, etc using them for research.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I do not know what to think in this case ...

“After running my own company I find it harder and harder to believe that actions aren’t directed and guided with an underlying reason.”

This is completely true, though sometimes the underlying reason is not always transparent to the public and sometimes even has to do with internal conflicts that would look silly to those from the outside (and they often are silly).

But the rootkit thing would be a good explanation of why Sony is doing what they’re doing, its almost a better explanation than anything I’ve read so far. The other best explanation is that they were planning on selling the console at a loss to make up profits in games and they didn’t expect many people to use it for non-gaming reasons. After the govt (and perhaps others) did start using it for non-gaming reasons, they considered the possibility that they may have underestimated the extent that people will use it for non-gaming reasons and so they decided to do something about it.

It’s really hard to decipher Sony’s true motives here, but I’m sure if the Playstation does have some secret rootkit, it will be discovered eventually. Even if you can effectively hide the rootkit within the hardware/software (highly doubtful), if the rootkit communicates with the outside, you can’t hide the network traffic that it produces, and people who can view the network traffic from outside the hardware (which is relatively easy to set up, even in such a way that’s impossible for the PS to detect) can see the traffic (even if it’s encrypted, people will see that there is some weird traffic there and once they know it’s there they will dig further into the PS hardware to unmask it further). There is just no way Sony can get away with this if it is the case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hmmm...

He won’t win, partly because Sony is a big corporation and the laws don’t apply to big corporations the same way they apply to individuals (depending on the circumstances. In the case of Google, because Google often serves a public good, the laws will tend to disfavor them). Now, if it were the other way around, Sony would have a good chance of winning a (bogus) defamation case.

Either way, I don’t really think this is defamation. I don’t think trying to speculate on someones motives constitutes defamation.

For it to be defamation one would have to claim something about someone that one knows is not true. For instance, if someone said that they saw me rob a bank when they never saw such a thing (because I never robbed a bank) and so they know (or at least should have known) better, then that’s defamation. Speculating on why someone left the country shouldn’t be defamation.

Adam says:

I think that it’s quite funny that all the nay sayers on this case seem to believe that he’s responsible for game pirating and hackers in online games. I hate to break it to all them that cheats for COD existed far before George and his team even got close to having the hypervisor figured out. Though I will stand and say that this enables piracy, I don’t think thats really an issue here. PS3 blue-rays we’re being torrented long before George released the keys. On top of that when I buy a console game I buy it typically for the extras that come with pre-orders or buy it because I waited ages for it to come out. I think most console gamers will agree with me that you went out and BOUGHT GT5 because you waited 6 dammed years for it, you weren’t about to pirate something you waited so long for and miss out on potential extras. All in all I think people a little confused and mis-educated about the whole situation. It would have been in Sony’s best interests to leave OtherOS alone and let George and his team work on breaking the hypervisor they so kindly used to restrict access to any amount of usable computing power. Then we’d just have a 7 core PPC linux system running without any need to fake authentication to Sony’s XMB. But they had to screw with s*** and look where it got them. Don’t lock someone out if you don’t want them to break in.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s so amusing when everyone gets their panties in a bunch because an adversarial legal system gets…adversarial. Reading the filing, this is fairly typical lawyering.

Let’s try to put ourselves in the shoes of some of the parties that we don’t necessarily agree with. I know empathy is bad form on Techdirt, but try it for a minute.

You are a neutral third-party, hired by Sony to get some files off of Hotz’ hard drives. Sony has subpoenaed the drives and they are delivered to you in boxes. Just the drives. You plug them into a standard SATA controller or whatever and they won’t mount. Maybe you get the impression that they have been RAIDed. Uh-oh.

Now, you could theoretically go out and do all sorts of things to try to read the drives. You could buy a random RAID controller card down at Best Buy and see if they mount. But these aren’t just your hard drives, these drives are evidence in a case. If you do anything to them that screws up the data on there, it’s a big problem. If you inadvertently change a single bit on those drives, it’s a big problem. So do you risk plugging the drives into a card you’ve never used before, with drivers and software you’ve never used before, that might not be in the exact same RAID format and might overwrite the partition tables on the drives just to be helpful?

No, you don’t, because you’re not an idiot. So you call up Sony’s lawyers and say “hey, I can’t read these drives because they’re RAIDed.” (The lawyers probably only have a vague idea of what that is, because they’re lawyers). “I need the controller card, or at least to know which one he used, to make sure I get the data off without potentially screwing up the drives. If that’s not possible, I guess I could just try random cards, or I could image the drives and try to get the data off that way.”

Imagine for a moment you’re Sony’s lawyers and the neutral third-party is telling you this. He says that there’s a very small but nonzero chance that plugging these things into a random card will cause a problem. He also says something about imaging the drives, which basically means about 8 additional steps you have to justify when you start talking in court about where you got the files from. “Well, no, your honor, these files aren’t from the hard drive directly, they are from an image that was made from the hard drives and then reconstructed with different software…”

Your next option, which is also annoying, is to go back to Hotz’ people and ask for the controller card or the specs. You don’t have forever to get this data – there are discovery deadlines, hearing dates, etc. You want to give the neutral guy the maximum amount of time to get the stuff off the hard drive in case MORE issues like this crop up. So you write a letter to Hotz’ lawyers:

“Dear Hotz’ Lawyers, plz send controller card and/or specs. Kthx, Sony.”

By doing this, you run the risk that Hotz’ lawyers will go complain to the judge that you’re harassing them, which will cause you problems in court later. It’s a chance you have to take, because a potential problem in court is better than a potential problem with corrupting the evidence.

Hotz’ lawyers call back: “OK, but Hotz says he’s in South America for the next couple weeks. He’ll get it to you when he gets back.”

This is the second or third time something like this has happened. You get frustrated. If you don’t have your data by the discovery cutoff or by the next hearing or whatever, you will have to ask for a continuance or an extension. You’ve got a 50/50 chance of getting one, depending on how the judge feels that day. If you don’t get one, then you lose that data as evidence and part of your case falls apart. That is a risk you really don’t want to take.

So, you put a note in your next filing that says “we keep asking for stuff and we’re not getting it promptly because Hotz is out of the country and won’t make other arrangements to get it to us.” You make it sound a little nasty to show that you’re serious. You do this for two reasons: 1) to put the judge on notice that you might be asking for a continuance/extension and you want it on the record that you’re having real problems and not just making shit up at the last minute, and 2) so if the worst case happens and the judge denies you a necessary extension, you have it on record for an appeal later.

Could all this have been avoided? Maybe, had Sony known to ask for the controller card in advance. That is a simple oversight that snowballs into a lot of work for lawyers, as described above. They may have also not asked for anything beyond the hard drives because they didn’t want to get in a fight about what was absolutely necessary to get the data they needed, so it could have been a tactical move that didn’t turn out well also.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Wow, a wall of text that repeats the same fallacious argument over and over! I never get tired of those! Not at all!

Which fallacious argument was I repeating over and over, or are you just trolling? Was it:

  • That you have to handle evidence in court proceedings with more care than the average tech at Geek Squad?
  • That attorneys, even for technology companies, are not necessarily very technical?
  • That making aggressive arguments in court proceedings that vigorously support your clients is pro forma for any proceeding, and that it’s not unusual to see it here?
  • That there are perfectly plausible reasons why Sony’s lawyers and/or the neutral third party did not go down to Best Buy and start buying up RAID cards that don’t involve malice?
  • That there are also reasons, caused by how the legal system works in general, for Sony’s lawyers to complain loudly when there is a holdup in getting things they need to investigate their case?

Or perhaps the one you find most fallacious:

  • That this doesn’t provide convincing evidence that Sony or their lawyers are wholly malicious or completely devoid of common sense?
Jeremy2020 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Sony made the claim, “But Sony notified the judge that, when it got the drives from Hotz, they were no longer working. ?Hotz had removed integral components from his impounded hard drives, rendering them completely non-functional.? (.pdf), the company claimed in a filing.”

PDF at

Perhaps, you should have read the story prior to posting your theory on the incompetence of Sony’s lawyers in not asking questions of the third party on the issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Perhaps, you should have read the story prior to posting your theory on the incompetence of Sony’s lawyers in not asking questions of the third party on the issue.

From their perspective, the drives were non-functional without the controller.

Further, the claim that Hotz deliberately withheld the controllers is completely separate from the issue of whether Hotz used money for his legal defense to take his trip to South America (which is what I was asking Infamous Joe about).

The Infamous Joe says that this was actually claimed:

So, claiming he used money donated for his defense was what part of those points?

But Mike Masnick says it’s only implied:

implying he took money raised in donations to flee

What is the specific claim, or how, specifically, is it implied? I see in the brief where they say that Hotz’ bragging about the size of his legal defense fund online undercuts his argument that he can’t support the case being adjudicated in California. Where does it imply or claim that he took the money and used it for a vacation?

Any Mouse (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Note that it is Sony making the claim, not the neutral third-party hired to examine the data who likely has the technical know-how to read the drives in an hour or two, regardless if they’ve got the controllers or not. It really isn’t that difficult to recreate a RAID array without the original controller cards. By the way, those controller cards? They are not part of the hard drive, so they were not requested.

Cynyr (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Did the court order him to turn over all parts required to make the drives functional? or just the drives? once sony discovered that they had not asked for enough parts, did they then ask the court to make Mr. Hotz provide the missing parts?

I’ll ignore the part about the planed trip(the only way i’m sure his lawyer let him go), and i bet he can produce a receipt of sale predating this proceeding.

The Devil's Coachman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Imagine for a moment you’re Sony’s lawyers”??? I can’t imagine being a more disgusting thing, no matter how hard I try. “Imagine for a moment you’re Jeffrey Dahmer, and you’ve just had a rather unusual lunch” would be a more acceptable choice. Sony’s lawyers fellate dead iguanas that have been decomposing for two weeks, and proclaim it morally upright and commendable. That’s what you’re asking people to imagine.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Encase?

Too bad there aren’t any ‘industrial drive cloning programs that are used to clone and preserve evidence’….

If you are doing ANYTHING with the actual hard drive that’s part of the evidence…. FAIL you just corrupted the evidence and there is no confidence in anything you produce from that drive.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

At the end of the day, this guy is working really, really hard to be an asshole.

By doing what exactly? By following the subpoenas to the letter? Isn’t that what you are supposed to do? If Sony’s legal team doesn’t know what to ask for, it’s not Geohot’s fault.

Or, are you saying Geohot is an asshole for reverse engineering Sony’s system? Something which is completely legal?

Or, is he an asshole for circumventing the technological protections, even though for uses of reverse engineering Congress placed an exemption in the DMCA for situations just like this?

Please clarify.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

He is pushing the envelope in all directions.

The drives, without the controller card, are useless. Worse, hooked up incorrectly, could actually lead to a loss of data. His intention? I would think quite possibly yes.

Going out of the country? He can claim it was “planned a long time ago”, but it seems to be timed so well.

He is is just playing with the system, acting rather smug. It will be a joy to see him lose in court and spend the rest of his life trying to explain it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“It will be a joy to see him lose in court and spend the rest of his life trying to explain it.”

He’s a hacker on spring break heading to south america with a ton of donation cash in his pocket. He probably probably already has offers to work in countries that could care less about sonys IP…

I’m sure he’s worried to death…..

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

He is is just playing with the system, acting rather smug. It will be a joy to see him lose in court and spend the rest of his life trying to explain it.

Wait…Geohot is playing the with system?

What would you call what Sony is doing? If demanding the details of everyone who viewed Geohot’s blog or the YouTube video in order to cast fear at other hackers out there isn’t “playing the system”, I don’t know what is.

Vincent Clement (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“He is pushing the envelope in all directions.”

Good for him. Sony’s lawyers will be pushing the envelope in all directions. Nothing wrong with pushing back.

What part about ‘adversarial’ don’t you understand in an adversarial legal system? The point of the legal system is to push the envelope. Would you quietly take a civil or criminal charge against you or would you fight back?

Anonymous a-hole says:

Re: Re:

Sony’s lawyers or Geohot?

Sony’s lawyers asked for the drives. They got the drives. Now they’ve found out they need additional hardware to deal with those drives.

If they don’t like the results, maybe Sony’s lawyers need to figure out what they actually want before asking for it?

a-dub (profile) says:

Lost respect for wired.

What a load of BS. They asked for his hard drives…he gave them. If the prosecution’s IT people cant figure out the rest, then so be it. They should have known someone like Hotz isnt going to have consumer grade hardware.

This guy is a freakin genius and he knows exactly what he’s doing. There’s no way in hell he would jeopardize this case because its verdict has such far reaching consequences.

His trip may look a little odd on the surface, but why shouldnt he try to enjoy himself. Sony’s CEO’s didnt put their lives on hold for this case and neither should Hotz. I sincerely hope Sony’s leadership are incensed by his little vacation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Lost respect for wired.

Yep just a sign of bad legal services committed on the behalf of Sony.

They should know that they would only get exactly what they asked for. You want hard drives, sure no problem. It can’t be helped that they are in a RAID that needs a controller that they lacked the technical chops to know to ask for.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think next Sony should sue for not automatically providing a disk/raid controller for use in this case. Obviously they should, I mean we’re talking about Sony here, jees.

Then sue for not automatically installing and setting up said disk/raid controller. Clearly these people should be chomping at the bit to do this for a company as prestigious as Sony.

Then possibly find a way to sue South America (as in the whole bloody continent) for potentially harboring such a malicious criminal. They should know better, come on!

Yeah, think this would pretty much be inline with the Sony executive decision making process. Sigh…

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