Sony sued over PS3 Linux lockout

Class action suit claims publisher breached "covenant of good faith and fair dealing" by removing Other OS feature with firmware update.

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Sony has on multiple occasions refined the functionality from the PlayStation 3, adding in features such as on-demand, streaming video through Netflix and cutting out the likes of PlayStation 2 backward operability (the latter of which came through a hardware revision). In that vein, the publisher began the month by axing gamers' ability to install the Linux operating system through the "Other OS" functionality as part of PS3 firmware update v3.21, a move that brought older iterations of the hardware in line with the new Slim models.

Linux was one of the reasons some users preferred the old PS3 models.
Linux was one of the reasons some users preferred the old PS3 models.

At least one gamer isn't taking the reduced functionality lying down. This week, Anthony Ventura of Santa Clara, California, filed suit in the US District Court of Northern California, claiming that Sony breached its sales contract, as well as "the covenant of good faith and fair dealing," by removing the Other OS feature from the system. Ventura is asking that the suit be made a class-action complaint on behalf of PS3 owners who purchased the console between November 17, 2006, and March 27, 2010.

Ventura alleges that the removal of the Other OS feature was unlawful due to four primary reasons. First, the suit claims that Sony marketed the Other OS functionality, and many owners purchased the system over competing products because of the removed functionality.

"Indeed, Sony stated on its Web site playstation.com that when it designed the PS3, 'it was fully intended that you, a PS3 owner, could play games, watch movies, view photos, listen to music, and run a full-featured Linux operating system that transforms your PS3 into a home computer,'" the suit reads.

Second, the suit notes that the Other OS feature is valuable, in that it "saves consumers money from having to…buy many additional electronic devices or applications." Third, the suit claims that Sony reneged on its promise to support the functionality, and it did so by surreptitiously announcing the removal of Other OS only as an update on playstation.com. The suit claims that the disablement came not as a way to enhance security but as a method to curtail the use of the feature to illegally pirate software.

Lastly, the suit addresses the fact that the v3.21 update is optional, noting that those who wish to continue using the Other OS feature must give up other valuable functionality.

"PS3 owner are not technically required to install Update 3.21," the complaint reads. "However, Sony has built a vast and sticky web of restrictions that will prevent users from accessing many of the PS3's Other Advertised Features for anyone who declines the 'upgrade.'" These features include PlayStation Network access, accessing online play, using new games, and watching Blu-ray videos.

The suit seeks compensatory damages, restitution, injunctive relief, attorneys' fees, and other costs associated with filing. Sony declined to comment on the suit.

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