Monday, December 12th 2011

PS3 'OtherOS' Scandal: Sony 1, Customers 0

The verdict is in: a company can flog you a product while loudly advertising a significant feature likely to sway your buying decision, then yank it away from you sometime later - and get away with it. Yay!

Sounds like a ridiculous, awful parody, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it isn't. This is what's happened with the "OtherOS" feature so unceremoniously yanked by Sony from the PlayStation 3 way back in March 2010 with a firmware update – the infamous version 3.21 - all in the name of increasing system security to prevent game "piracy". At the time the feature was advertised, many enthusiasts realized that they could use the PS3 as a cheap, but powerful computer and Linux was lovingly ported over to it. Even the US military built a "supercomputer" around a cluster of 1760 PlayStation 3's, finding them very useful for such things as researching artificial intelligence, image enhancement and pattern recognition, all things requiring intensive computer power. They can't do this any more, all because of the "fight against piracy." As machines die off, they can't be replaced with new ones. Unless those can somehow have the old firmware put on them using some unofficial workaround, of course...

Enthusiasts interested in this feature were understandably not happy at being treated in such a shoddy way. One Californian resident, Anthony Ventura, even had the guts to file a class action lawsuit against Sony over this and the case looked like a strong one. The lawsuit stated that the removal of this feature was an "intentional disablement of the valuable functionalities originally advertised as available." However, today, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg unfortunately dismissed all but one of Ventura's claims, upholding the EULA that Sony makes customers agree to when they purchase the console. In its motion to dismiss the suit, Sony wrote: "These contracts specifically provide PS3 purchasers with a license, not an ownership interest, in the software and in the use of the PSN, and provide that SCEA has the right to disable or alter software features or terminate or limit access to the PSN, including by issuing firmware updates."

Judge Seeborg's reasoning that the lawsuit should be dismissed is that Ventura is claiming rights to something which he doesn't have rights to: "All of the counts are based on plaintiffs' fundamental contention that it was wrongful for Sony to disable the Other OS feature, or, more precisely, to [force PS3 owners to decide between] permitting the Other OS feature to be disabled or forgoing their access to the PSN and any other benefits available through installing. The flaw in plaintiffs' [argument] is that they are claiming rights not only with respect to the features of the PS3 product, but also to have ongoing access to an internet service offered by Sony, the PSN."Although a little unlikely, Ventura may yet appeal this dismissal. We will publish a follow-up article if this happens.

The only part of the lawsuit that the judge "upheld", was that Venture was allowed to continue using the PS3 with the original firmware, thereby allowing "OtherOS" to be used in that configuration only. A small consolation, if any at all – how are Sony going to stop him anyway? This "option" of course, brings with it a host of problems for the now hapless user, as Escapist Magazine explains: "The plaintiffs maintain that firmware update 3.21 doesn't just forbid access to the PSN, the main functions of the console are no longer viable. To wit, if you didn't update, you could no longer play new games, play games online, play new Blu-Rays, or even play some older Blu-rays. So choosing not to update and keep the "Other OS" option alive means that no new purchases are possible and it seriously restricts the usefulness of the product." Exactly and Sony know this very well, coldly using it as leverage to force people into disabling this important feature.

However, as awful and unjust as this verdict is, it does appear that the law is apparently completely on Sony's side and therefore the judge was merely applying it. The famous phrase, "the law is an ass" appears to fit this case perfectly. In fact, judge Seeborg did actually sympathise with Ventura's situation, which is nice of him: "The dismay and frustration at least some PS3 owners likely experienced when Sony made the decision to limit access to the PSN service to those who were willing to disable the Other OS feature on their machines was no doubt genuine and understandable. As a matter of providing customer satisfaction and building loyalty, it may have been questionable. As a legal matter, however, plaintiffs have failed to allege facts or to articulate a theory on which Sony may be held liable."

So there you have it, a company can sell you a product and then a considerable time later pull a feature which is a major selling point without penalty, not even having to bother compensating the buyer for it in the smallest way. Nothing. Nada. This gives a very poor experience for the customer and leaves them wondering when the next feature will be pulled, or what other dirty tricks the company will be up to. The only thing left to do in such a situation is for everyone to vote with their wallets and boycott companies that have such nasty business ethics. This doesn’t happen often enough in practice, unfortunately.

Finally, one does wonder if the lawsuit would have been dismissed so easily if an entity with deep pockets such as the US military with its homemade supercomputer would have brought this class action...
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66 Comments on PS3 'OtherOS' Scandal: Sony 1, Customers 0

#1
Darkleoco
As always the "law" upholds the right of a company to screw you out of what you pay for, isn't that the grandest thing?
Posted on Reply
#2
AphexDreamer
I'm done with consoles that is it. D.O.N.E Done...

At least I know my PC won't be losing any of its functionality anytime soon.
Posted on Reply
#3
Darkleoco
by: AphexDreamer
I'm done with consoles that is it. D.O.N.E Done...

At least I know my PC won't be losing any of its functionality anytime soon.
If I didn't have around 10-15 close friends with PS3's I would be selling mine and my games right now to upgrade my system.....

The things Sony can get away with is truly ridiculous.
Posted on Reply
#4
AphexDreamer
by: Darkleoco
If I didn't have around 10-15 close friends with PS3's I would be selling mine and my games right now to upgrade my system.....

The things Sony can get away with is truly ridiculous.
You know I knew that I'd probably never out grow consoles and I was right.
But I never expected to despise them.
Well done Sony, well done. :respect:
Posted on Reply
#5
Darkleoco
by: AphexDreamer
You know I knew that I'd probably never out grow consoles and I was right.
But I never expected to despise them.
Well done Sony, well done. :respect:
What is so ridiculous is that we pay for a feature to have it removed not because they are necessarily "allowed" to but because another clause of their EULA makes you choose between keeping your limited functionality or having it removed.....
Posted on Reply
#6
Easy Rhino
Linux Advocate
by: Darkleoco
As always the "law" upholds the right of a company to screw you out of what you pay for, isn't that the grandest thing?
next time, read the EULA. stop screwing yourself over.

you people amaze me. take some personal responsibility for the purchases you make for once in your life.

if enough people read the EULA and understood what sony could possibly do then less people would buy sony and they would have to change their terms.
Posted on Reply
#7
Darkleoco
by: Easy Rhino
next time, read the EULA. stop screwing yourself over.
Obviously you did not read me second post or simply have a vastly different appreciation for your own rights than I do. My point was that their is nothing that gives them the right to simply remove an advertised feature of their product WITHOUT doing it in such a way that you are technically given an option, however that option is something that:
A. Limits the functionality of your console as a whole
B. Is perfectly legal due to the nature of the PSN and newly released content.
C. Is not necessary but simply cripples your product if you do not allow it.

It is not that people try to avoid taking personal responsibility it is simply that the way some of these incidents are implemented is in such a way that it strong arms you into either going along or losing the most basic functionality of your product.
Posted on Reply
#8
Easy Rhino
Linux Advocate
by: Darkleoco
Obviously you did not read me second post or simply have a vastly different appreciation for your own rights than I do. My point was that their is nothing that gives them the right to simply remove an advertised feature of their product WITHOUT doing it in such a way that you are technically given an option, however that option is something that:
A. Limits the functionality of your console as a whole
B. Is perfectly legal due to the nature of the PSN and newly released content.
C. Is not necessary but simply cripples your product if you do not allow it.
obviously they do have the right to do that as ruled by the judge. you also have a right to read the terms and agree with them and purchase it or not agree with them and not purchase it. a very simple and powerful choice that consumers find meaningless.
Posted on Reply
#9
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
by: qubit
The verdict is in: a company can flog you a product while loudly advertising a significant feature likely to sway your buying decision, then yank it away from you sometime later - and get away with it. Yay!
Loudly advertise a significant feature likely to sway your buying decision? Hardly. They didn't loudly advertise OtherOS, in fact I don't think they even bothered to advertise it at all, at least not in any form of main stream media. In fact, they didn't even include a mention of OtherOS on the box. 99% of people buying a PS3 likely never even knew OtherOS existed, and it certainly wasn't swaying their buying decisions. I don't think anyone was torn between buying a PS3 or an Xbox360, but decided to go with the PS3 just because of OtherOS. It wasn't a significant feature, it wasn't loudly advertise(it wasn't advertised at all actually), and it didn't sway anyones buying decisions.

There obviously are a select few instances where OtherOS was the reason for buying the console, mainly using it exclusively for the Linux aspect to use the PS3 in a cluster. In which case, those users simply don't update the firmware on the PS3. In fact they probably never even boot into the PS3 interface.

by: Easy Rhino
if enough people read the EULA and understood what sonycompanies could possibly do then less people would buy sonyanything and they would have to change their terms.
FTFY

It isn't just Sony, it is pretty much everyone that has an EULA.

by: Easy Rhino
obviously they do have the right to do that as ruled by the judge. you also have a right to read the terms and agree with them and purchase it or not agree with them and not purchase it. a very simple and powerful choice that consumers find meaningless.
Yep. Right when you unboxed the PS3 and powered it on for the first time it greats you with the EULA that you either agree to or not. That is when the option was given to you. If you didn't like the idea of them being able to remove features of the console that you might like, then you shouldn't have agreed to the EULA in the beginning, boxed it back up, and returned it to the store.
Posted on Reply
#10
CDdude55
Crazy 4 TPU!!!
I definitely could careless about OtherOS being removed, as it really was not a major selling point for me and the majority of people who bought/own a PS3 even since launch. OtherOS was a feature that only a tiny percentage of people cared about, it definitely was not a major feature for the system even if advertised by Sony.

Don't see why people are upset, just run Linux on another machine or dual boot.
Posted on Reply
#11
Darkleoco
by: Easy Rhino
obviously they do have the right to do that as ruled by the judge. you also have a right to read the terms and agree with them and purchase it or not agree with them and not purchase it. a very simple and powerful choice that consumers find meaningless.
The rights they have in regards to some of their products are starting to border on ludicrous due to their argument that you are simply "licensing" the software in such a way that you are given no choice in certain updates in comparison to companies with a grain of decency such as Microsoft in regards to Windows.
Posted on Reply
#12
Jizzler
Bought a PS2 for Xmas :) Will hold off on a PS3 a while longer now.
Posted on Reply
#13
Darkleoco
by: Jizzler
Bought a PS2 for Xmas :) Will hold off on a PS3 a while longer now.
That might not be the best idea, who knows what they will change/remove next...
Posted on Reply
#14
mediasorcerer
by: AphexDreamer
I'm done with consoles that is it. D.O.N.E Done...

At least I know my PC won't be losing any of its functionality anytime soon.
Yeh, maybe, but soon you wont be able to play a new release game without going on the internet and using the browser only to play it, such as bf3 etc,no internet, no play.:)
Posted on Reply
#15
Darkleoco
by: mediasorcerer
Yeh, maybe, but soon you wont be able to play a new release game without going on the internet and using the browser only to play it, such as bf3 etc,no internet, no play.:)
I'm sure their will be much more intelligent applications of systems to prevent piracy when it is not a game designed mainly for online play.
Posted on Reply
#16
Steevo
I read the EULA and this is exactly why I don't have a 360, PS3, or a contract cell phone, I bought it unlocked so I could do what I want, when I want and they can't say or do a damn thing.

My PC, I can install any software, OS, change hardware, and do what I like.
Posted on Reply
#17
CDdude55
Crazy 4 TPU!!!
by: Darkleoco
That might not be the best idea, who knows what they will change/remove next...
What would give Sony incentive to remove any major features from the PS3?, OtherOS was a very small thing and does not detract from what the system was created for.

OtherOS was a good addition, but nothing more.
Posted on Reply
#18
Darkleoco
by: CDdude55
What would give Sony incentive to remove any major features from the PS3?, OtherOS was a very small thing and does not detract from what the system was created for.

OtherOS was a good addition, but nothing more.
It's not that they would have any incentive it is simply that they have that option available to them, what if their became a viable and potentially widespread jailbreak/exploit of some sort that came from a specific type of Blu-Ray disc? What would stop them from then limiting you to playback of only specifically branded or validated Blu-Ray discs rather than your average consumer level Blu-Rays? It may be a poor example but in my opinion it certainly makes the point that their are potentially plausible scenarios that "could" result in the removal or alteration of features beyond that of OtherOS.
Posted on Reply
#19
Easy Rhino
Linux Advocate
by: Darkleoco
The rights they have in regards to some of their products are starting to border on ludicrous due to their argument that you are simply "licensing" the software in such a way that you are given no choice in certain updates in comparison to companies with a grain of decency such as Microsoft in regards to Windows.
i agree with that. once people wake from their zombie purchasing state then this behavior by the manufacturers/retailers will end. it's not that sony doesn't care about the consumer. sony bases decisions on sales. since people keep buying sony digital services then sony continues to think they are doing nothing wrong by taking away otherOs and other features. same goes with every other digital developer, manufacturer, service provider.

remember, companies survive on profits which means they survive on you and me. we make the demands and sony and others follow with the supply. they create products to compete for our dollar. as a society we have been getting lazy with our money and just throw it anyone who promises us a few fun hours. pretty god d%mned pathetic if you ask me.
Posted on Reply
#20
CDdude55
Crazy 4 TPU!!!
by: Darkleoco
It's not that they would have any incentive it is simply that they have that option available to them, what if their became a viable and potentially widespread jailbreak/exploit of some sort that came from a specific type of Blu-Ray disc? What would stop them from then limiting you to playback of only specifically branded or validated Blu-Ray discs rather than your average consumer level Blu-Rays? It may be a poor example but in my opinion it certainly makes the point that their are potentially plausible scenarios that "could" result in the removal or alteration of features beyond that of OtherOS.
Companies try to cater to what people want, doing something liking forcing consumers to use specific discs would hurt them tremendously and it would only result as a loss for them. It would be similar with OtherOS expect that that large majority of people don't care about OtherOS, it's not a significant feature to most buyers.
Posted on Reply
#21
Darkleoco
by: Easy Rhino
i agree with that. once people wake from their zombie purchasing state then this behavior by the manufacturers/retailers will end. it's not that sony doesn't care about the consumer. sony bases decisions on sales. since people keep buying sony digital services then sony continues to think they are doing nothing wrong by taking away otherOs and other features. same goes with every other digital developer, manufacturer, service provider.
In my opinion their will likely never be a change to those type of practices simply because it is improbable for a significant enough segment of their consumers to refrain from purchasing products over an issue they likely deem insignificant enough to overlook due to not grasping the full implications of how it "could" be used against them as a consumer even if the chances of any truly outrageous changes by a company to their product are nearly nonexistent.

Sorry if that ended up a bit more incoherent than I intended. :ohwell:
Posted on Reply
#22
Swansen
by: AphexDreamer
I'm done with consoles that is it. D.O.N.E Done...

At least I know my PC won't be losing any of its functionality anytime soon.
yeah i've come to the same conclusion. Luckily for me, there have been very, very few games i've cared/enjoyed enough to want to play online with for any extended period of time, so that helps. As well, i'd much rather play a "couch" multiplayer game with friends. If a games good enough, 5 years down the road that game won't be any less appealing(emulators make that situation doable). Lastly, i've always enjoyed nice graphics, but i'm to the point where i'd rather have good solid gameplay, and, i'm realizing you can keep hardware for a llooonngg time(via turning down the graphics/resolution), but you just won't be able to enjoy the flashy graphics as new games come out. However, if the core of the game is good enough, thats all that matters to me. peace.
Posted on Reply
#24
FierceRed
by: newtekie1

Quote:
Originally Posted by Easy Rhino
if enough people read the EULA and understood what companies could possibly do then less people would buy anything and they would have to change their terms.
FTFY

It isn't just Sony, it is pretty much everyone that as an EULA.
This is true, to wit, recently Ars Technica posted about how it was now impossible to opt-out of neutral arbitration (which is laughable, as it more truthfully could be called corporate puppet arbitration) should you wish to bring legal action against Microsoft if you accept the new ToS for the recent Xbox360 update. Again, to be clear, if you want to continue to use the Xbox360 after their December 6th update, you must permanently relinquish your right to legal battle in open court and to participate in a class action lawsuit.

Which is one thing already. But guess what. On December 6th, I noticed all of my GfWL titles in Steam (Arkham Asylum, Lost Planet 2, etc.) were suddenly showing my CD-Keys in Steam again. Ok, maybe a glitch or something on Valve's end right? Nope.

The ToS for GfWL has been updated too. Until I accept the new terms, I can no longer access the game save files tied to my Live profile, or play with my peers online via the Live network.

Now to be fair, I haven't read through the new ToS of GfWL to know whether the same opt-out impossibility was contained within as well. I've emailed a few sites/blogs about it and I hope to bring it to their attention. However, in these circumstances, I'm not solely being asked to agree to something to access an optional service like Xbox Live or achievement tracking. The games are perfectly able to be played offline without multiplayer and e-peen bullshit, and I assume I can still do so. Nonetheless, an interesting question remains: are the save games that my effort has created not my property when they're stored on the Live cloud systems and held hostage by a changed ToS? Have I only, in the past, agreed to receive a license to data I create, when the [Live cloud] system itself doesn't allow me the option of local storage?

I don't recall signing to Microsoft the rights to any creative work I might create while in their employ, for a salary. So is it possible that by virtue of buying a game and playing it, I've relinquished my rights to the data (stats, progress, autosaves) my play effort creates simply by virtue that it was mandatory it be whisked away to the Live cloud depository?

Does Adobe own everything I create in Photoshop if I save it to the "2013 Adobe Cloud"?
Posted on Reply
#25
pr0n Inspector
You agreed that The Company can change the EULA/TOS however it likes and whenever it likes. You always do.
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