Judge Says OtherOS Removal Was A Bad Business Decision But Not Illegal

This post was originally published on Techdirt.

Last year, Sony removed the ability for all PS3 owners to install other operating systems onto its PS3 console. This came as a result of console modders attempting to use it as an avenue to jailbreak the console. As a result of the move, Sony received a lot of outrage from upset gamers. Part of this outrage was a class action suit brought on behalf of PS3 owners who felt they were cheated when they were forced to lose the OtherOS feature or lose the ability to access Sony’s Playstation Network and the ability to play future games that require a connection and the latest firmware. Many gamers reacted as if this was little more than the gamer’s version of ‘Sophie’s Choice’.

We now learn, via IGN, the presiding judge has dismissed the case against Sony. Back in February of this year, Judge Seeborg had dismissed all but one claim leaving the option for an amended complaint to be filed.

While it cannot be concluded as a matter of law at this juncture that Sony could, without legal consequence, force its customers to choose either to forego installing the software update or to lose access to the other OS feature, the present allegations of the complaint largely fail to state a claim. Accordingly, with the exception of one count, the motion to dismiss will be granted, with leave to amend.

The judge wasn’t convinced by the latest amended complaint and has completely dismissed the case stating that the PS3 owners failed to convince him that they were entitled to the OtherOS feature or access to PSN outside the PS3′s warranty period. That is an interesting point. Had the PS3′s been within the warranty period, would this case have gone the other way? That is certainly something to consider. After all, the OtherOS feature was part of the whole PS3. However, even outside the warranty period, are we really to just accept it when a manufacturer deliberately disables a function?

Perhaps responding to just such concerns, Seeborg stated:

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.

A questionable move indeed. Sony may have dodged a legal bullet here, but the bullet of continued frustration that Sony customers have with this addition to many many questionable business decisions has hit it between the eyes. How much longer will Sony customers put up with this kind of abuse? What features will it cut next? While we don’t know the answer to that, we do know one thing. Sony removed this functionality in order to prevent PS3 owners from jailbreaking it. However, if the EFF has its way this year, this dismissal will be moot.

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