When the PS Jailbreak and similar USB modchip devices burst onto the PS3 scene in August, Sony predictably did everything within their legal power to label the hacks as “circumvention devices” and have them outlawed in several countries. Sony had been quite successful in that quest for several months, but a Barcelona court trial verdict last week has brought an abrupt end to that winning streak, and it was the corporation’s own actions with the console that prompted the decision.
Until PS3 firmware 3.21 was released on April 1st, all consoles prior to the new “slim” models were equipped with an “install other OS” feature which was designed to allow users to use an alternate operating system. Sony killed that feature due to concerns that owners would use the feature to exploit the system and run pirated games.
Unfortunately for Sony, the way that court No 8 Mercantil de Barcelona sees the issue is that the corporation originally sold the PS3 with the ability to install an operating system that would support homebrew software. This, combined with the decision that one should have the ability to enter and alter the “guts” of a system they’ve bought and paid for, influenced the court to not only rule that the PS Jailbreak will be legal to sell and use, but also that Sony must pay damages to the stores that had their product seized and sales undermined for months while the case was in legal limbo.
This is the second major victory this month for console users who wish to do more than just play original games from the manufacturer. Earlier this month, charges were dropped in a Los Angeles US District Court against Matthew Griffin, a 28 year-old man who had been accused of violating anti-circumvention rules related to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for running a business where he installed mod-chips in Xbox 360 game consoles. “I really don’t understand what we’re doing here,” said the judge who presided over that case. “The only way to be able to play copied games is to circumvent the technology. How about backup games and the homebrewed?”
It’s good to see the legal systems in multiple countries recognizing and supporting the property rights of their citizens. Corporations like Sony and Microsoft need to find ways to combat piracy that don’t require such a narrow window of what a consumer may do with a product they’ve bought and paid for.