playstation.com is down

The Anonymous/Sony battle that’s been raging this week just blows my mind. Could you imagine end-users demanding permission from Nintendo to use NES cartridge programmers back in the 80s? Or the ability to install an alternate OS? Well that’s basically what’s happening here in 2011.

At one point Sony provided users with the tools to install a sandboxed Linux distribution on their PS3s. They removed that functionality about a year ago in a firmware update citing “security reasons”. This rubbed many people the wrong way as they’d basically removed a key feature from the console which may have influenced purchasing decisions.

A few months later some talented programmers figured out how to run their own unsigned code on the PS3 which, aside from facilitating piracy, also re-enabled the Linux “OtherOS” option. That too, was killed with a firmware update from Sony.

To top things off, Sony’s been on a lawsuit bender since February, sending out C&Ds to anyone with a whiff of piratical intent and very publicly going after George Hotz for playing a minor, yet visible role in the crumbling of the PS3’s security model.

Enough was enough, and this week the “Anonymous” group targeted Sony with a DDoS attack. PlayStation.com is down right now and the PlayStation Network is suffering as well.

A video popped up on youtube with a list of Anonymous’ demands. They are:
– Let people run whatever software they want on the PS3
– Stop suing the people who figure out how to run their own software on the PS3
– Don’t sue anyone just for downloading information that would teach them how to run their own software on the PS3.

It all boils down to control. Who owns the PlayStation sitting in your house right now – you or Sony? I’m pretty sure it’s you. Does that mean that Sony retains the right to control what software you run on it? I think it means they have the right to try. But circumventing their efforts shouldn’t be illegal. And in fact, if we cite the iPhone jailbreak as a precedent, it isn’t. A court ruled last year that running unauthorized software on an iPhone was a legally protected activity. I’m not sure what’s different here or why Sony thinks the rules don’t apply to them.

Anonymous’ goals are laudable, but their methods are crude.

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