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Sony sued for dropping Linux from PS3

Console downgrade 'unfair and deceptive'

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A PlayStation 3 owner has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Sony that accuses the console maker downgrading millions of devices by removing their ability to run Linux.

The lawsuit takes aim at Sony's highly controversial move last month to disable "other OS" support from older PlayStation 3 consoles. The decision was announced a few months after the prolific hacker, George Hotz, aka geohot, devised a way to effectively jailbreak the console with the help of that Linux feature and a soldering gun.

Sony claimed it was neutering the devices for "security reasons," but a more transparent explanation would have been they didn't want to face the wrath of game makers and film studios who were worried their content would be much easier to copy. Those concerns are probably justified, but the end result for many PS3 owners is their devices suddenly lost the ability to run Linux.

Sony has long touted Other OS as a feature that distinguished the PS3 from other consoles. Imagine if iPhones suddenly lost their multitouch capabilities.

"This disablement is not only a breach of the sales contract between Sony and its customers and a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, but it is also an unfair and deceptive business practice perpetrated on millions of unsuspecting consumers," the complaint stated.

"Plaintiff chose to purchase a PS3, as opposed to an Xbox or a Wii, because it offered the Other OS feature as well as other unique PS3 features (such as the ability to play Blu-ray discs and access the PlayStation Network), despite the fact that the PS3 was substantially more expensive than other gaming consoles."

Removal of the Other OS capability is achieved by installing software update 3.21. PS3s will continue to run on older versions of the software, but effective April Fools Day, they were no longer able to access a host of features, according to the complaint, which was filed in US District Court in the Northern California District. Those features included the ability to sign into the PlayStation Network and to run many newer games and movies released on Blu-ray.

The suit, filed on behalf of PS3 owner Anthony Venture, of Santa Clara County, California, seeks class-action status, which would allow millions of other PS3 owners to sign on as well.

The controversy is the latest to demonstrate the pitfalls of digital rights management, which anger a device's most dedicated fans as they do a poor job of protecting copyrighted content.

Meanwhile, geohot has said he's working on a workaround to the PS3 neutering. Stick around. This battle royal has plenty more rounds to go. ®

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