PlayStation Network: Want to play online? Forget the class action suits.

PlayStation Network users will have to promise not to join any class action suits, or else they can forget about signing onto PSN.

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    The PlayStation Network terms of service have been changed in the wake of a series of 2011 outages. Here, a pair of PlayStation controllers.
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Earlier this year, Sony servers suffered a major breach, which exposed upward of 100 million PlayStation Network and Sony Online Entertainment accounts, and sent the online gaming community into an uproar. At the time, analysts estimated that the attack could eventually come to cost Sony $2 billion in cash – not to mention the massive hit the company took to its reputation.

This week comes news that Sony – clearly spooked about the legal and fiscal after-effects of another breach – will require PSN users to waive their right to wage class-action lawsuits before signing onto the network. "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," reads one section of the new PlayStation Network terms of service.

Of course, there is a runaround: PSN members can mail a letter to Sony headquarters, asking to opt-out of the "no-sue" stuff. (As the Register wryly notes, that particularly runaround will require users "to do something many probably haven't done in years, if ever" – mail a snail mail letter, via the US post.) Unsurprisingly, the new terms of service have been greeted with howls on gaming message boards, and some stern language on the tech blogs.

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"Either way, this is pretty low, and you'd have to be a fairly dyed-in-the-wool Sony devotee (or just another corporate apologist) to think this reasonable, ordinary, and acceptable," Matt Peckham of PC World writes. "Reasonable would be allowing you to [opt out], not by typing up a letter and mailing to Sony Legal in California. The latter's obviously, cynically intended to deter anyone from bothering."

Meanwhile, over at Gamasutra, Chris Morris jokes that Sony has written another chapter in the "How Not to Do Crisis PR" handbook. But Morris argues that the move – although not handled gracefully – will have little impact on most gamers. "[T]his really seems to be more a case of the collective gaming public getting riled up over something that has little, if any, consequence for them," Morris writes.

Is he correct? Or are the new terms of contract – to use Peckham's formulation – "anti-consumer"? Drop us a line in the comments section. In the meantime, for more tech news, sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter, which ships every Wednesday.

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