CHOICE membership

Exclusive gaming platforms and the abuse of peoples rights

I recently got in touch with the ACCC about a company that I believe is flouting Australian law. I did a short course on law at Griffith University some years ago. It was primarily about Law of Torts, liabilities, responsibilities. I was taught at that time that apart from the singular limited exceptions applied to Music industry contracts no business may impose restrictions on the normal rights of Australian citizens under Australian law. However the ACCC told me that companies can do whatever they like. I replied asking if they were saying Businesses did not have to follow Australian law when operating in Australia? The fellow backtracked some but then claimed that they had no obligation to provide products that were fit for purpose? This is obviously untrue and seems deliberate misinformation?
The company of concern to myself is PlayStation who is using their exclusive control of the PlayStation “platform” operating system to impose limitations on my rights as an Australian citizen in several ways. The NSW fair trading people were sympathetic but I do not want a refund, the machine is excellent value for money. But Fair Trading NSW does not have the power to force PlayStation to respect the rights of Australian citizens and there is clearly something crooked going on at the ACCC. I do remember a story some time ago on one of the current affair/news type programs where something similar had occurred. It’s not just consumers being abused either, there are stories on gaming community news sites indicating that Sony PlayStation are abusing game developers also. I had never had a gaming console before I purchased this one. I have never been particularly interested in computer gaming. But I have been hearing about virtual reality for several years now and the PSVR system was the cheapest way to get a reasonable quality VR experience at the time I purchased it.
I was not prepared for the degree of control they exercise over my property, censoring games, gameplay and normal adult activity. Even going so far as to deliberately limit the machines capability with malicious programming to impose these restrictions.

That is correct, and product don’t even need to be safe when sold in Australia. Choice has a campaign to try and persuade lawmakers to make sure that legally, products are safe…

Like fit for purpose, there is no law requiring a company to only sell products which are fit for purpose. If a consumer purchases a product and finds it isn’t fit for purpose, then the provisions of the Australian Consumer Law come into effect…

A business can chose to sell any product they chose. There have been many examples of products which have been sold and aren’t fit for purpose. Some of these have been subject of product recalls. If a business knowingly sells products which are not fit for purpose, then this is very poor business practices and personally, they should not be in business.

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Hi @rewrisk

You are right that no business may infringe on your statutory ACL rights, but you don’t seem to want anything remedied. While I understand that you are upset about the control and censorship you say Sony imposes, you also say you don’t want a refund.

Are you just highlighting these issues for us? If so, could you please provide objective details on the censorship, etc, and the abuse of game developers?

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Unfortunately the games you think are your property are like movies and music (and other software): you own a licence, no more. This becomes especially obvious when you have a game that requires an online connection to play and the company shuts down the other end of the connection.

As for game censorship, that is partly up to developers and platform owners, and partly up to Australian regulators. Australia does not have an R category for computer games, and so there are many games that will never be released here or are released in ‘edited’ versions.

Finally, games consoles are a ‘closed shop’. They can decide what is published for their platform, and so for example Nintendo will only ever release ‘family-friendly’ games. Additionally, consoles have security features that are intended to prevent you ‘misusing’ them (i.e. not using them for their designated purpose, or adding your own functionality). I am not sure about Australian law, but in the US it is illegal to even try to circumvent copyright protection ‘features’. Australia has almost certainly signed up to the same international agreement and legislated its requirements.

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It is entirely ridiculous for anyone to expect to have control over property they have sold. “Family friendly” is an oxymoron, there are no families without adults engaging in sex. Prudes are almost always perverts. I do not believe “the games you think are your property” at all. You assume the position you intend to defend while ignoring the obvious gross violation of rights. Australia may not have an R category for computer games but neither are they illegal. I can purchase games that might be rated R for my computer. Sony PS has some bizarre hangup with VR and a history of attempting to abuse the rightful liberties of consumers. I have at least one VR game that I know has been censored by Sony which I know is available in uncensored format on computer. Another that can be lawfully modified to include all manner of perfectly legal content. Sony is abusing the rights of every adult who purchases a PlayStation for their own use. I am also aware that the overwhelming majority of PS owners are adults. This has nothing to do with copyright. I am also aware that Sony bullies developers into compromising their games to fit in with their bizarre censorship policies. Games built for VR that Sony forced developers to release as pancake games. Sex is required for existence, perverts oppose normal to force perverse.

I don’t want a refund because it is a great value machine and there are many great titles, VR game/experiences. The problem is that it is an “exclusively controlled platform” controlled by people who think they have a right to censor normal adult behaviours. A game that I have that was created for VR which Sony forced the developers to release early in pancake mode is Gal Gun 2. The VR was patched in shortly after the official release but not on the PlayStation. Another game I have which I had to order from Japan because Sony bought and killed it by restricting it too Japan only was similarly developed to be played in VR but again they forced the developers to release the main game in pancake mode but with a replay facility, or memory mode in which most of the game can be experienced in VR but with some notable exceptions. That game is called Happy Manager. Another game I have called Skyrim that the developers encourage modification in. Modifications are possible in the pancake version on PlayStation but not the VR version, though on computer the VR version can be modified? So I guess I want Sony to stop pretending to be lawfully elected governors. If they want to play politics they can do that in the political arena. Not abusing the rights of those who are held hostage to an exclusive operating system owned by Sony but installed on our personal private property.

Just wow!

One has a choice to make a particular purchase and as part of any purchase decision should be whether the product best suits ones needs.

Game/software developers often make their games/software available for use across a number of different n platforms…and one has the choice to purchase alternative products which allows the games/software of one’s taste to be run.

There are numerous examples of software being restricted to one or more operating system or where software developers chose to only support ones which they think are in their own interests. Examples include Google v Apple v Microsoft v Linus v HarmonyOS v PS4/5 etc etc.

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Lot’s of companies make software that can run on computers using the windows OS.
But you can not get programs to run on PS from anyone but Sony PS.
It is monopolised exploitation abusing personal property rights.
It was several months after I purchased the console that I realised the extent of the problem.
I spent many hours researching over several weeks before making the purchase.
Under Australian law companies are not supposed to be able to impose restrictions on peoples rights.
We don’t enjoy the enshrined rights the US has but the rights we do have are supposed to be protected?

Which laws are these? Companies all the time impose restrictions on people’s rights. It is worth looking at Terms and Conditions which most companies issue in relation to the goods or services they provide. Sony is no different and has chosen to provide products or services under its own T&Cs.

This aren’t necessarily the case. US businesses, like Australian and most other companies around the world operate in environments where ‘rights’ are restricted. It is worth reading T&Cs from the major US multinationals to see the conditions which they impose of their customers/users.

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We can believe something is generally unfair or a violation of fundamental rights, but that does not necessarily make it technically illegal in Australia. When examining these situations, it’s helpful if the specific laws in question are referenced (a link to the specific act and section) and to understand what legal rights we have under law as opposed to things we might see as a fundamental or implied right.

I agree with the explanations given here already. As @postulative pointed out before, we don’t always own things in the way we might believe, especially when it comes to connected networks. For example, we might own the physical TV set or games console, but don’t confuse this for ownership of the network content, its use or distribution.

Platform exclusivity or more broadly content exclusivity is not necessarily illegal unless it runs afoul of exclusive dealing laws, which are more about protecting market competition than individual consumer protection. I’m sure some PC gamers dislike consoles and choose to avoid them because of platform exclusivity.

Most laws around censorship are in place to allow content makers and distributors to place limits on content rather than giving people the right to view content. In this way, they do often have a legal right to restrict or limit the content that we receive via their networks. It doesn’t necessarily make the content illegal or wrong, but you will need to go to another network to get access to the content. It also doesn’t mean that organisations can do anything they want - they are also potentially liable for any harm caused by content on their networks. They are also accountable to other laws - both Sony and Valve have received penalties in the recent past for their refund practices for example.

That doesn’t mean that we have to agree with the way things are, there are organisations such as Digital Rights Watch that advocate for protection of fundamental digital rights and changes to current laws and regulations (that’s not necessarily a blanket endorsement of the organisation, just an example). In 2014, CHOICE also made a submission (See 10 June 2014 – Competition policy review issues paper) to the government’s Harper Review of Australia’s competition policy framework that involves some of these issues, especially around pricing and access to content.

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There is your problem. They own the software and they can licence it however they please. You do not own it, you buy the right to use it in certain specified ways.

I would like to know specifically what “rights as an Australian citizen” have been limited. If you mean you have the right to use their software any way you like I think you will find that you do not.

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This information is out of date. An R rating for video games was introduced some years ago. See more here.

To add to what was said before, Sony are not infringing on your legal rights by deciding what is on their platform any more than Woolworths is by deciding what to stock. If Sony would like a game altered for their platform (which they own the legal rights to the format) they can do that.

Yes, it would be illegal for Sony to try and control what you do with your PlayStation. However it is completely legal for Sony to decide what you do with their software, including the bundled operating system. You do not own the operating system, you have purchased a limited license which does not allow you to modify, sub license or copy the software.

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In 2013 an R rating was introduced in Australia for video games . When you purchase a video game whether hard copy {disk} or digital download you must agree to the EULA {end user licence agreement } before you can access it . You scroll past screens of legal jargon and an "I accept " tab high lights for you to tick . No tick no play .

Read the EULA and you will find Sony or any of the other gaming industry hardware suppliers are not breaching any laws regarding usage or censorship for use in Australia or any other country .

The problem is we , and I include myself , often do not read that which we should .

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I have a right to be able to be able to use my property. They are required to ensure the products they sell are reasonably fit for purpose. Installing software designed to impose limitations on my rights is an obvious and deliberate violation of both my rights and also their responsibilities.

“If you mean you have the right to use their software any way you like”
No I mean they are required to ensure the equipment they sell is fit for purpose.
That means they are required to provide an operating system that enables reasonable functionality.
A system deliberately designed to impose limitations upon the normal rights of consumers is not reasonably functional.

Complaining that the owner of the software has made policy decisions that you disapprove of does not seem very productive to me. In my view you are drawing a rather long bow in the way you define ‘fit for purpose’. If it doesn’t meet your needs then don’t buy it.

I do not understand your aim in bringing this up here, there does not seem to be anything useful this forum can help with.

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Thanks for the information Brendan.
My issue is largely that I see Sony PlayStation damaging the development of the medium.
VR has hardly begun and there are media reports indicating that their actions are damaging some of the companies attempting to drive it’s development.
D3’s Happy Manager was crippled by Sony’s stupidity and D3 had to have invested a great deal in the game because it is quite large compared to most VR games and reasonably finely drawn.
Neither does it seem reasonable that they can deny consumers the VR update for the game Gal Gun 2 which was designed to be played in VR.
This has had to have made that game less popular? So their behaviour will have damaged that company also.
So far SonyPS has had the far greater share of the VR market being so much less expensive.
PC VR is incredibly expensive, there is a new standalone true VR option available now which should see SonyPS face more competition.
I realise they can not afford to allow the sort of wild west paradigm that kept the internet alive during it’s incredibly rocky infancy.
But I find myself quite resentful of the control they exercise over my property also.
Now the government is elected and are supposed to represent the citizens of Australia were that the case it would be acceptable that they determine what is legally permissible.
It is not acceptable however that Sony PS can dictate what I can do with my own property, can impose limitations beyond those inherent in it’s physical engineering.
I don’t necessarily oppose their having exclusive control of the platform so long as they are not using that control to abuse the rights of consumers. If they can not manage the platform without abusing consumers rights then they should not be allowed to control it.

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They are legally accountable for policy decisions that are damaging to their partners. It is also as I have stated about their designing software to deliberately impose limitations on peoples normal rights.

In Australia the legal system does not allow the EULA to impose limits on your rights. Apart from the single exception of music industry contracts Australian law does not allow the rights of Australian citizens to be limited by any legal mechanism other than government legislation.