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22 February 2011, 15:43

Action against Sony for blocking Linux on the PS3 broadly dismissed

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The US District Court for Northern California has broadly rejected a class action launched in response to the removal of the 'Other OS' (Linux) option from the Playstation 3. As Groklaw reports, the judge agreed with arguments advanced by Sony's lawyers that hardware acquired by a user need only support console functions during the one year guarantee period. Sony explicitly excludes software functions and Playstation Network services from this guarantee period and reserves the right to amend their functionality at any time. According to the judge, the user acquires usage rights for the software only. The judge thus rejected the complaint that Sony Computer Entertainment America had breached the Consumer Legal Remedies Act and Civil Code §1770.

By removing the 'Other OS' option, Sony may, however, have breached the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) which makes unauthorised changes to computer systems a criminal offence. Sony's lawyers had argued that no-one was forced to install firmware version 3.21. The plaintiffs disagreed, stating that the update forces users to forego either the 'Other OS' option or the PSN services responsible for the majority of console functions, including instant messaging, online parties, access to patches and additional functions. The plaintiffs now have 20 days to launch an appeal.

George Hotz, the subject of legal action by Sony for alleged infringement of the very same CFAA, has appealed for further donations to allow him to pay for better lawyers. So far he has instructed two lawyers whose costs to date come to $10,000. Hotz reports that this amount has been covered in a first round of donations. He now plans to instruct three more lawyers to place him on an equal footing with Sony's legal team.

Hackers are currently equipping themselves with new tools to get around their banishment from the Playstation Network. PC-based software by the name of Charles, which acts as a proxy server between the console and the Playstation Network and allows users to switch ID numbers for PSN accounts and console hardware, is currently circulating online. The ID numbers are apparently sent to the PSN in unencrypted form. Banished hackers have already succeeded in logging back into the PSN and carrying out further infringements using fake IDs – this could lead to the exclusion of innocent players. Use of this kind of proxy software is an even more thorny issue, as it could potentially allow the theft and sale of account and credit card numbers. To prevent such abuses, Sony Computer Entertainment would be well advised to improve the future encryption of data traffic between PS3 consoles and the PSN.


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