Feature written for The Escapist.
Odds are pretty good you don’t bother to read every EULA you agree to, and odds are even better that someone is counting on that fact.
When Sony issued Update 3.21 on 1 April 2010, it presented owners of fat PS3s with a stark choice. Accepting the update meant accepting the removal of OtherOS, a feature that allowed the installation of other operating systems on the console; declining the update meant forfeiting access to the PlayStation Network (PSN), including the online store, any remaining credit, PlayStation Home, and online gaming. “We don’t say it’s a game console. PlayStation 3 is clearly a computer,” boasted Ken Kutaragi in 2006, but now people had to choose between the two. Disregarding all of its own pre-launch hype, Sony no longer wanted its customers to have both.
Mark Ashelford, a partner at London law firm Lee & Thompson who specializes in rights issues for digital media, has worked with both games developers and streaming services and likens the current state of the industry to the Wild West. There is a balance to be made between the lawless frontier where “everyone’s taking digital content from anywhere they can get it” and the convenience of managed distribution offered by publishers and games-on-demand services that “take on the role of sheriff, where the consequences of breaching the rules are that you’re kicked out of the town.” But what happens when a sheriff enforces rules that are self-serving or too stringent, or unfairly refuses the right of reply?
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