Sony gets Geohot's hardware, judge rules

Sony has won its battle to impound computing equipment used by security researcher and hacker George Hotz, also known as Geohot, to derive and publish the private key used to lock the digital rights management system on its PlayStation 3 console.

Hotz earned the ire of Sony by building on research from hacker group fail0verflow, members of which discovered a flaw in the DRM system used to prevent third-party code running on the PS3, and publishing the private key required to develop a custom firmware for the console.

It didn't take long for custom firmware to arrive that allowed illegitimately downloaded copies of games to be run on an otherwise unmodified console - leading to a raft of legal demands against those who publicise the key, and Hotz being called to court under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

In Sony's original filing with the court, Hotz was required to hand over all computing hardware that was used to derive the private key and create his custom firmware image - his PC, his games console, and even his smartphone if it had any possible connection to the case. As you might expect, his lawyers argued that such a requirement was a major breach of privacy - an argument the court has now rejected.

According to a report from Wired, US District Judge Susan Illston has ordered that Sony's demands are met - with the proviso that the company "is only entitled to isolate […] the information on the computer that relates to the hacking of the PlayStation."

When attorney Stewart Kellar, acting for the defence, argued that Judge Illston was handing Sony the ability to access any file on the computers owned by Hotz, the Judge responded: "That's the breaks.

"Here, I find probable cause that your client has got these things on his computer," Judge Illston continued. "It’s a problem when more than one thing is kept on the computer."

The case against Hotz, and anyone with the temerity to post details of the now-public key on a website or blog, continues as Sony struggles to contain what is rapidly turning into a disaster of epic proportions for the company's computer entertainment division.