Sony agrees to pay millions for removing Linux support from the PlayStation 3

You’ll be eligible to receive $55 if you used Linux on your PS3, if the settlement is accepted.

The PlayStation 3 console.
Credit: William Hook

Sony may finally pay the price for ripping the “Other OS” feature away from PlayStation 3 owners. Under a proposed settlement that must still be accepted by a judge, Sony will pay $55 to gamers who provide proof that they used the Other OS functionality. Gamers who bought the PS3 based on its Other OS feature but never got around to using it will be eligible for $9.

The sorry history of Other OS support

When Sony launched the PlayStation 3 in 2006, it included an Other OS feature that allowed you to install and use another operating system on its PowerPC hardware. Yellow Dog Linux was the first Linux distribution to support the PS3, and was followed by Debian, Fedora, Gentoo, OpenSUSE, and Ubuntu.

But after advertising this feature, Sony removed it with the 3.21 firmware update on April 1, 2010. Sony wrote that this feature was removed “due to security concerns.” The notes for the firmware update read: “Disabling the ‘Other OS’ feature will help ensure that PS3 owners will continue to have access to the broad range of gaming and entertainment content from SCE and its content partners on a more secure system.” Sony clearly wanted a more locked-down platform

You could choose to stay on an older version of the firmware, but then you wouldn’t be able to connect to the PlayStation Network and use online gaming features, or play PS3 games and Blu-ray discs that required a newer version of the firmware. Your PlayStation 3 would become much, much less useful as a gaming console if you wanted to continue running Linux.

The Other OS feature was only available on the original PlayStation 3, known as the “fat” PS3. The “slim” PS3 never included such support.

Yellow Dog Linux on the PlayStation 3. Bob n Renee

Yellow Dog Linux provided the Firefox web browser and other Linux desktop software.

Sony wants to finally wrap up the court battle

Understandably, Linux users who purchased the PS3 with the intention of running Linux on it weren’t happy. Sony went out of its way to remove an advertised feature—not just an accidental feature that hackers happened to discover, but a legitimate feature that consumers based their purchasing decision on. It wasn’t the first time Sony advertised Linux support, either. Previously, the company released a “Linux for PlayStation 2” kit that helped turn the PlayStation 2 into a Linux-based PC.

A class-action lawsuit was filed against Sony in 2010, and it’s been on and off in court ever since. In 2011, the suit was dismissed. In 2014, an appeals court partially reversed the dismissal. Sony is now trying to wrap up the long court battle by offering a settlement, as Ars Technica reported.

The settlement isn’t final yet, as it still has to be accepted by a judge. A hearing is scheduled for July 19, 2016. If Sony’s proposed settlement is accepted, you must submit a claim with proof you owned a PS3 and used the Other OS feature to receive $55. To get $9, you must submit a claim with proof you owned a PS3 and attest that you knew about the Other OS feature and intended to use it. Sony will also notify PlayStation users about the settlement over email.

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