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PSN Terms of Service Sept. 15, 2011 | Waiver of Right to Class Action Lawsuit

So be honest: Did you actually read the new Terms of Service agreement that was posted in advance of Firmware update 3.72 several days ago? I’ll admit it—I didn’t! I scroll right through those things like a chump. The faster I can get to the “Accept” button, the faster I can reconnect to PSN and regain access to online gaming, the PSN store, Netflix streaming, etc. Perhaps I was overhasty on this occasion, as Sony included a rather surprising clause in the latest TOS, acceptance of which waives my right ever to join a class action lawsuit against the corporation. More details—and information about how to reclaim the aforementioned right, should you wish to do so—after the jump.

Note that the story that follows below is applicable to U.S. subscribers to PSN services. I have no knowledge of the TOS agreements in other countries or regions.

It’s not hard to guess why Sony is feeling embattled by class action lawsuits: It was hit by the first of these within days of the commencement of the April 2011 PSN multiple security breach fiasco (which we covered exhaustively). By July 2011, Sony faced fifty-five class action lawsuits in direct response to these attacks. Fast forward to September 2011, when, according to an article by CNN’s Mark Milian, Sony took heart that the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that class action lawsuit-limiting language developed by American telephony company AT&T is legal. PSN’s new TOS creates similar strictures for PSN consumers. After all, as Milian’s article states, it is often prohibitively expensive for the average consumer to individually sue a corporation, so the new language should dramatically reduce Sony’s exposure to consumer lawsuits.

So what, exactly, is the new language? To “refresh your memory” of the TOS document that you doubtless poured over for hours on your television screen, you might pull up the full document online (Adobe PDF file), which handily flags revisions when compared to the previous TOS agreement. The relevant changes for our purposes appear in Section 15 (pp. 17-19). I quote a portion of this section below:

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 legal action, unless both you and the Sony entity with which you have a dispute specifically agree to do so in writing following initiation of the arbitration. This provision does not preclude your participation as a member in a class action filed on or before August 20, 2011.

Perhaps in an effort to make this change or palatable or to shore up its chances of withstanding a legal challenge, Sony has provided an opt-out clause (TOS, p. 17). You have thirty days from the time that you accept(ed) the agreement to opt out by sending a letter to Sony with the following information:

1. Your name
2. Your address
3. Your PSN account
4. “A clear statement that you do not wish to resolve disputes with any Sony entity through arbitration.”

This letter should be sent to the following address:

6080 Center Drive
10th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Attn: Legal Department/Arbitration
Attn: Sony Legal Department: Dispute Resolution

A template letter in the form of a Google document has been created for your convenience by Patrick Klepek of GiantBomb.

I am happy that Sony has permitted us to refuse the waiver, but this still feels like a disingenuous move: Sony is extending us the ability to work for a right that we inherently possessed until a few days ago. What percentage of PSN subscribers will opt out? How many people even know about the change such that they understand that they have the option to opt out? Does anyone read the TOS?

So let’s hear from you, intrepid PS3 dévotés: How do you all feel about the TOS change? Will you mail an opt out letter to Sony?