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Hal Licino

Sony Playstation’s EULA Strips Users’ Right to Class Action Suits

Oct 13 2011, 08:54 PM by

The United States Constitution is one of the seminal documents in the history of humanity, and one of the primary foundations of democracy around the world. It enshrines inviolable human rights that cannot be denied to any U.S. citizen… unless they agree to the Sony PlayStation Network EULA (End User License Agreement) - in which case they have effectively signed away their rights to being legally represented alongside a group of other gamer-citizens. This abandonment of fundamental legal rights would likely be the source of endless Supreme Court challenges in any other industry, but is being widely heralded with yawns from EULA-hardened computer users who are accustomed to clicking onto I Agree without even skimming the boilerplate they’re agreeing to.
100 Million Personal Data Breaches
When Sony’s PlayStation Network site was attacked by hackers in April and 77 million user profiles were stolen, a class action suit swiftly followed. A similar attack on Sony Pictures garnered another 25 million accounts, thus setting the number of people violated by the Sony breaches at over 100 million. At the heart of the suits is the evidence that Sony did not implement the most bullet-proof security precautions, generally regarded to be indispensable for safeguarding such a vast amount of personal data.
Mano a Mano Court Challenges
Facing the potential of billions of dollars in damages, Sony has revised the PlayStation Network’s EULA to restrict the most basic legal rights of any U.S. citizen by stating that "any Dispute Resolution Proceedings, whether in arbitration or court, will be conducted only on an individual basis and not in a class or representative action or as a named or unnamed member in a class, consolidated, representative or private attorney general action." The reason why this statement is so legally significant is that it would be economically foolhardy for any private citizen to take on a major multinational conglomerate such as Sony mano a mano in court. The vast legal budgets of the corporation would keep their attorneys coming at you in waves and would soon exhaust the financial resources of any but the richest private citizen. The overwhelming power and reach of corporate legal teams is legendary. If you don’t believe it, just paint an image of Mickey Mouse on your store window and see how long it takes Disney’s lawyers to sue you into submission.
Eliminating Legal Rights at the Click of a Mouse
The legal right to band together with other U.S. citizens who have been similarly affected is a basic tenet of the American judicial system. What Sony has done is no different than if General Motors required you to sign a waiver prior to driving out of the Chevy dealership that if there is a manufacturing defect in all new Cruzes that makes the wheels fall off you have no recourse but a face-to-face face-off in court, just you vs. GM, regardless of whether it has affected millions of other buyers. The essence of the class action suit is to provide a level playing field. The numbers of the violated consumers is meant balance out the millions of dollars a guilty corporation would gladly spend to save themselves paying billions of dollars in damages. This basic legal right cannot be eliminated at the click of a mouse, but Sony is doing that anyway.
iTunes Holds You Liable in Perpetuity
Corporations are accustomed to slipping in outrageous and indefensible statements in their EULAs. Apple’s iTunes calls for users to be bound to the current terms as well as to any future changes of their EULA. Therefore if next year Apple determines that you must erase all the content you legally purchased, or provide the labor to build a new complex in Cupertino, you have clearly already agreed to it.

Egregious EULAs are not new, but Sony is treading on new and dangerous legal ground. Stating that 100 million violated users have to provide 100 million separate court challenges is not just disingenuous but provides a perilous precedent for the illegitimate restriction of the legal rights of all computer users.

Posted in Tech Editorial

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