Sep 192011

This weekend Sony asked all of us PlayStation 3 users to sign their updated TOS (terms of service). Most people will click on the “Accept” button (as we keep doing it everywhere) without reading any of the numerous legal mumbo jumbo pages. But with this particular change we are signing away our right to participate in class action lawsuits against Sony. To retain that right we need to send Sony a snail-mail letter within 30 days. Nice trick – counting on very few people actually following up on this due to the disparate levels of convenience for opting in and out.

So, good people of PlayStation Network, you are signing away your right to participate in a legal action against Sony if they again fail to protect your confidential information, or for anything else that will go wrong. In case you have a problem, you’ll have to resolve it by arbitration. In other words, if something goes wrong, you’re more or less out of luck.

I’m also curious and concerned why they are migrating us (their users) and our wallets and funds from “Sony Network Entertainment America” to “Sony Network Entertainment International LLC” (better legal shelters outside the country, perhaps?).

As soon as I found out that my account and pertaining confidential information might have been stolen I canceled my credit card and never gave the new number to Sony. I just don’t trust them because of their history of either doing bad things or not preventing bad things. Here are some examples:

– Sony arrogantly tried to dictate an industry standard and collect high royalties on Betamax which backfired and made them lose the videotape format war to JVC and VHS. Consumers who trusted them and bought the Beta VCRs were out of luck.

– Sony acted arrogantly with the rootkit scandal. In 2005 they were quietly installing malware-like applications from their audio CDs without users’ permission while violating some software licenses with their own code.

– In 2009 Sony yanked out the initial option to run Linux on PS3 without explanation. Those of us who wanted the dual boot were stuck with a harsh choice: either run Linux and lose access to PlayStation Network (and online gaming), or update the OS and have Linux wiped off of our systems (see OtherOS).

– After this George Hotz, one of the smartest kids in the USA and a hack wiz, tried to counter the Sony’s move by hacking the PS3 so it could still run Linux. Also known as Geohot, he has among other things successfully and repeatedly jailbroken many various flavors and versions of the iOS (operating system) on the iPhone, iPod and iPad devices (and yes, I’ve donated to him in the past because he devised the jailbreak I used to unlock my iPhone several times when I went overseas). The court previously ruled against Apple that jailbreaking was NOT illegal and that users have the right to do whatever they want with a piece of hardware they own, but Sony still flexed their giant legal muscle with lawsuits against George (see Sony Computer Entertainment America v. George Hotz). Although they didn’t win, there was a settlement and the whole episode must have caused a lot of distraction in George’s life and waves of outrage among free speech and technology aficionados, university professors and other experts.

– Another controversial lawsuit is Sony BMG Music Entertainment et al. v. Tenenbaum where some of our judicial officials seem to be strangely fond of Sony, Warner Brothers and similar giants, inflicting a cruel and unjust punishment (and unconstitutional according to the judge who reduced it tenfold) of $675,000.00 on a person who shared thirty $1 songs as a young college student. This fine has just been reinstated in the federal appeals court (and to my surprise supported by the Obama administration, so I’m starting to distrust the Main Street vs the Wall Street talk as the actions speak louder than words).

I bought a PS3 as an early adopter of Blu-ray technology in spite of the format war because it truly was an engineering marvel. My big screen TV, my surround sound home theater, everything was Sony.
But now I’m hoping to see a Blu-ray drive and Skype on Xbox 360 when I’ll happily get rid of my PS3. Whatever happens, I’ll vote with my wallet. I’m so done buying Sony.

I contacted my state Attorney General (Lisa Madigan) to see whether anything can be done about this circus, for example whether all Illinois residents can be opted-out on the state level and keep the right for the class action lawsuit due to the very different levels of convenience in opting in and out.

Be the change you want to see in the world. [Mahatma Gandhi]

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