Sony on the hook for millions after killing Linux support on PS3

Decision to patch out Linux support in a PlayStation 3 update will cost Sony millions of dollars

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Do you remember six years ago when your living room Linux box stopped working? The box in question was the original “fat model” PlayStation 3. Sony had included the functionality to install other operating systems to it, but decided to kill off the feature partly because barely anyone was using it, but mainly because it was causing them all kinds of piracy headaches.

The handful of people that were using it were understandably miffed at this. Miffed enough to club together to hit Sony with a class-action lawsuit. A lawsuit that Sony has just lost, Ars Technica reports.

They lost it in part because the company claimed it was a voluntary update. It was really only every voluntary if you considered the original PlayStation 3’s value was chiefly as a handsome black box: refusing the update would stop your PS3 from connecting to the internet, playing any games online, preventing any games that required newer firmware from even loading, playing files off a media server or installing future updates.

As such gamers in the United States who can prove they purchased the original “fat” PS3 and installed Linux on it will get a cheque from Sony for the princely sum of $55 (~£37). Those who can’t prove that can get a considerably smaller consolation prize just by claiming that they knew about the functionality and were planning to use it some day. They’re only getting $9 for their trauma though - or around six quid. Gamers in America can also get that tiny reward if they “attest that he or she lost value and/or desired functionality or was otherwise injured as a consequence of Firmware Update 3.21 issued on April 1, 2010.”

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The real winners are the lawyers who have been battling the class action lawsuit for six years though, who will receive $2.25m in legal fees from Sony. As part of the settlement, Sony has also agreed to send out emails to tell its customers about how it slipped up, as well as shell out for banner ads on gaming sites to alert customers.

Right now, Sony is probably regretting the somewhat baffling decision to allow people to install Linux in the first place. It was only ever a niche interest for its customers, probably sold less than a handful of consoles in a generation where Sony were extremely slow off the blocks anyway, and has now cost them millions of dollars in legal fees. Don’t expect to see other console makers being so open with the systems in future.

Images: credit_00 and declanTM used under Creative Commons

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