Sony’s War on Makers, Hackers, And Innovators

This week I’m going to switch gears a little and declare an enemy for all makers, hackers, and innovators — it’s in a very different space: the consumer electronics industry. And who is this slayer of progress? Sony.

If you’re over the age of 25 you likely have a long history with Sony. They were the company we all had something from. If you only had $20, Sony had the best $20 headphones. If you have $500, again, Sony usually had the best. From their world-changing Walkman to a Sony Trinitron monitor, Sony has been part of our lives in one way or another for decades.

In this article, we’ll explore Sony’s long history of going after legitimate innovation, hobbyists, and competition. Sony, we’ve been keeping score. We’re tired of you picking on people who want to program their robot dogs to dance. We’re tired of you suing people who want to run their own software on something they bought. Sony has made so many mistakes with technology choices (Memory Stick, Magic Gate, UMD!), perhaps they’ll end themselves soon enough, but we’d like to think there’s at least someone there would wants to avoid Sony spending its last days sending DMCAs to anyone who tweets “46DCEAD317FE45D80923EB97E4956410D4CDB2C2″.

I couldn’t find one location that documented Sony’s all-out war on makers, hackers, and innovators, so I started my own (and it isn’t pretty). The talented artists, designers, and engineers who work at Sony deserve better, and their customers deserve better. Don’t worry, I’m not just going to spank Sony. I’m going to give Sony some ideas to right this ship and also let them know it’s time to reconsider suing George “geohot” Hotz, the Playstation 3 hacker Sony is dragging to court for unlocking his PS3 to run his own software on it.

There are likely a few other examples, but I’ve boiled it down to a top 7 list — these are in mostly chronological order. We’ll explore each one and why it’s been bad for makers as well as Sony.

  • Sony DMCA delayed disclosure of Sony BMG rootkit vulnerability
  • Sony threatens Aibo hobbyists for creating software that enables Sony’s Aibo robot dog to dance
  • Sony sues Connectix and Bleem to block software that allows gamers to play their PlayStation games on PCs
  • Sony attacks PlayStation “Mod Chips” and enforces a system of “region coding”
  • Sony sued Gamemasters, distributor of the Game Enhancer peripheral device, which allowed owners of a U.S. PlayStation console to play games purchased in Japan and other countries
  • Sony removes OtherOS option, removes Linux support
  • Sony is suing makers, hackers, and tinkers for jailbreaking of the PS3 to play homebrew games
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