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article imageSony agrees to pay compensation to people who ran Linux on a PS3

By James Walker     Jun 22, 2016 in Technology
Sony has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit by paying compensation to PlayStation 3 owners who installed the Linux operating system on their console. Sony later removed the built-in feature without warning, leaving many customers unhappy.
The case has been ongoing for several years. The PlayStation 3 is now an outdated console and the compensation is unlikely to be claimed by many people. As Digital Trends reports, Sony agreed to settle the lawsuit in front of Californian Judge Yvonne Gonzalez this week. It still needs to be approved by a federal judge before owners can claim their money.
The case centres around the "Install Other OS" feature that was present on the original release of the PlayStation 3. It allowed console owners to install other operating systems onto their console, overwriting the default Sony software with a stock version of Linux.
The feature was unusual because it gave players an officially supported way to tailor the operating system of a closed device. Usually, consoles and similar products are locked down and can only run the software they come with out of the box.
In 2010, Sony ended the fun. It intentionally disabled the "Install Other OS" feature with the v3.21 software update for the console, citing "security reasons" as its motivation for the unpopular change. It claimed it would make the PlayStation 3 ecosystem less vulnerable to threats by preventing third-party operating systems compromising Sony services.
People who had Linux installed on their consoles could choose to decline the update. Doing so came with a long list of caveats, however, that effectively excluded them from the PlayStation platform going forward. They would be left unable to access the PlayStation Network for online gameplay and wouldn't be able to run any games written for the new software. Even video playback would be restricted.
The feature was used by a minority of people and most gamers wouldn't even have noticed its removal. For those who actively ran Linux on their console, the update effectively removed a key feature of the PlayStation 3 though, leaving them unable to access a component used in some places as a selling point for the device.
The class action lawsuits began almost immediately after the update's release. However, they were all dismissed due to a lack of evidence presenting how Sony was liable. In 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed one of the dismissals, returning the case to the courts and ultimately leading to the decision this week.
Under the agreement with Sony, you'll be able to claim a $55 settlement if you actively ran a third-party operating system on a PlayStation 3 console that you owned. Proof of this will be required. A smaller settlement of $9 will be offered to people who either intended to use the feature or perceived its removal as reducing the value of their console. Settlements are only available to North American customers.
Sony has agreed to open up its email database for the purposes of the lawsuit. It will be contacting registered owners to let them know if they are eligible to receive compensation. The final hearing has been scheduled to take place in November, after which Sony will begin to accept claims.
"Install Other OS" attracted a lot of attention amongst enthusiasts at the time of the PlayStation 3's launch. Several years down the line, it is once again being noticed as its removal is finally allowed to pass.
Sony's unusual decision to allow gamers to install other operating systems made the PlayStation 3 popular with enterprising players. The v3.21 update wasn't going to go unnoticed but Sony's poor handling of the situation made things worse for many. People who still feel sore about the update will now be able to claim $55 for their trouble, enough money to pick up a new game for the PlayStation 4.
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