In this time of digital monopolies, where publishers are the utmost authority on entertainment entitlements, it’s important to ask who exactly owns your media library? As online sales for video games continue to increase over time, allowing users to forgo the traditional annoyances of disk collecting and leaving the house, it seems property rights are also being left to the confiscation whims of big tech giants, as a PS4 user sadly realised when he was locked out of his gaming titles for violating “hate speech” policies.
Under the condition of anonymity, a self-confessed racist gamer calling himself Rob told OneAngryGamer.com that Sony Interactive Entertainment locked his entire digital gaming library for over a week. The incident occurred during his suspension for awful community behaviour involving offensive slurs and the promotion of white supremacy. In a provided email, Sony informed the user of the terms of service violation, highlight specific policy which prohibits reported acts of hate speech that’s deemed racist, sexist, xenophobic or directing hate towards protected classes on the basis of race, sex, religious beliefs, cultural identity, gender identity or sexual orientation.
“My account was temp banned for calling people faggots and niggers,” Rob told the publication. “This includes the temp revoking of the licenses for ALL digital downloads in my library, however, a game on a disc still works just fine. You might not agree with my actions since I know you’re not a racist, but I am and I don’t care. [It’s] fun to talk shit online and most people are racist anyway, plus those terms are thrown around like hotcakes, so who gives a shit? As I know you know, speech restrictions are a slippery slope and tend to go beyond the initial reasons for their instalment.”
There could be an argument for a censorship slippery slope, however, this is irrelevant to the wider concern of PlayStation’s policy punishments. If the platform and its users find being a bigot to be a policy violation harming the wider community, there’s nothing wrong with enacting certain punishments. The question on our lips should be whether confiscating someone’s entire digital purchases, including those limited to single-player gameplay, is entirely ethical.
Below are the screenshots of Rob’s digital library once it was placed in a limited state, showcasing how digital titles were simply locked behind Sony’s suspension wall as the platform withheld the gaming licenses. The punishment effectively acts as a strict mother grounding their child from playing their games, which would be humorous besides the fact it’s actually a multi-billion dollar enterprise withholding an adult customer’s belongings. If such an account was permanently banned, we must ask who the library belong to and whether they’ll be compensated.
While there is no right to game in the online community sphere, particularly if you violate the community ToS, the right to own personal property upon purchase has its legal and philosophical precedents. PlayStation isn’t just another Netflix-style streaming service where customers pay for the privilege to use their platform’s library. The library is paid for and cultivated by the customers themselves, no different to physical marketplaces for trade and a physical library kept within the confines of the home.
Why does this dynamic change when their games are hosted on their servers? Is the term “digital purchase” itself false, where the titles act more as rentals until an account is deemed too problematic? You’re free to have your opinions this individual, who’s seemingly just another shitposting racist reactionary of the alt-right, there is a question of property rights violations to be had. The content of the speech, whether you believe in his right to say it, is irrelevant to the concern of big tech companies holding your own digital property hostage, without even informing their users of such a possibility
PlayStation has completely failed to address game confiscation within their own policies. “Account suspension means that you cannot use your account to access PlayStation Network for a set amount of time,” the ToS reads, specifically addressing the use of multiplayer features. “A ban means that you will not be able to use your account to access PlayStation Network at any point in the future. Other users with their own local accounts on the same system can use their account as normal. If an account has been permanently banned, we will not refund you for any unused period of subscriptions or any unused wallet funds in line with the SEN [ToS].”
“It might be possible I’ve been perm banned now because I responded to Sony’s email with ‘No worries! I’ve already decided not to buy a ps5 😉 White Pride Worldwide,’ so their mods might be getting salty hahaha. that’s purely speculation though…” Rob continued. “To further clarify the reasons for the banhammer, I already know why as I stated in my previous email so it’s not a surprise to me that I got banned. Talking about forced ‘migration’ into the West, directing other PSN users to various chans and White Nationalist content, and calling other players niggers and faggots, etc.”
This situation makes Rob an obviously unsympathetic character. It’s hard to argue for the rights of someone who openly mocks marginalised identities and needlessly antagonises our institutions just to turn himself into some martyr for the alt-right. It stinks of the cringey “gamers rise up” meme. Even still, outright bastards like Rob deserve their due when corporations overstretch their bounds on community guidelines into infringing on customer rights. We simply can’t ignore wrongdoing purely because it’s being waged against bigots.
Sony itself can acknowledge such wrongdoing, like when they apologised to a for restricting their digital library of a bigot using stereotypical insults against Mexicans, so why can’t the general public? Is it enough for these companies to make an apology and make implied promises it’ll never happen again? Or should consumers demand clearer policies and laws which protect digital libraries from arbitrary restriction? Maybe it’s about time the digital world catches up with the liberties previously afforded on discs or cartridges.
Thanks for reading! This article was originally published for TrigTent.com, a bipartisan media platform for political and social commentary, truly diverse viewpoints and facts that don’t kowtow to political correctness.
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