Is your computer address now part of litigation between Sony and a teen computer whiz? It could be that you’ll join us in that reality after a federal magistrate in San Francisco approved four subpoenas sought by Sony Computer Entertainment in its lawsuit against George Hotz, who infuriated the company by publishing information on its Playstation 3 that allows consumers to alter or “jail-break” product software. The subpoenas — which raise online privacy concerns — let Sony obtain the IP addresses of those who visited sites run by Hotz, including potentially the editors of this site. What happens to those who visited his site but did not act on disputed information he posted there? Does just the act of reading about how to jailbreak a PS3 cause Sony harm?
The company’s main argument in seeking the subpoenas was that they were legally necessary to show it can pursue its case in California, as Sony contends most of those who visited Hotz’s sites lived in Northern California. (Critics earlier had decried the corporate choice for litigation, arguing the Silicon Valley proximity favors Sony and creates greater financial and other challenges for Hotz, who lives in New Jersey.) Sony’s secondary argument was it needed the court orders to obtain further evidence to show it suffered harm from the disclosure of the jail-breaking information.
The first subpoena is for the IP addresses of people who visited Hotz’s website www.geohot.com. Sony also was permitted to obtain Hotz’s Tweets. The third subpoena is for a Google Blogspot account at www.geohotps3.blogspot.com. Sony’s fourth subpoena is directed to YouTube to seek out those who have downloaded what Sony calls a “private video” on jailbreaking a Playstation 3.