I loaded some homebrew drum machine software on my PSP last night. Ok, so it's not anything I'm ever going to use to make a track or play live with, but it's a start. The very fact that you can use the PSP as a pattern sequencer at all is pretty awesome. This is why it's so unreasonable that Sony is trying to crack down on the PSP homebrew market, making it harder for programmers and hackers to add functionality to the device.

In Sony's world, the name of the game is not useful devices--the name of the game is media. People will buy one Playstation or one PSP or one discman, but they might buy 50 games or 100 movies or 1000 cds, and Sony has a hand in publishing all of those formats. Like the Xbox, Sony's happy to lose money on the PSP device itself because it knows it can print money from the sale of games, UMD music, headphones, replacement batteries, and so on. The list of games is slowly growing and the movies are actually coming along pretty quickly with weird titles like Oldboy and Time Bandits (wtf?) scheduled to come out soon. So even though the homebrew and PSP-mod community is making the devices themselves more attractive by adding features and functions and fun and useful things people can do with the PSP, Sony doesn't care if people are going to buy the units and never buy the $40 games.

I'm sure Sony has a plan to make a web browser application, an organizer, a phone book, instant messenger, audio recorder, and whatever else can be done with the thing in good time. The problem is, no one wants to or should have to wait for Sony on this. This is just another example of a company trying to not only control the way you buy a product, but the very way you use it as well. If I wanted to mod my toaster to make it only brown the toast on one side, the toaster manufacturer would have nothing to say about it. Sure, as soon as I screw it up, they won't take it back under warranty, but that's not something the PSP mod community is worried about. And yeah, there are piracy issues and there are probably a lot of people just chomping at the bit to get UMD ISO files of new games and movies that they will never pay for, but you know, that is beginning to be part of the cost of doing business. I don't think the piracy is helpful or useful, but surely someone creating a homebrew game or application, loading it to the internet, and letting anyone with a PSP download it and play/use it for free is a worthwhile cultural exchange.

And that's the crux of it. Copyright law is in place to encourage culture by financially incenting people to create new things. When copyright and licensing rules restrict creation the way Sony intends to do with the PSP, the way record labels do with sampling, and the way just about every software company does with licensing rules, the whole system fails to encourage anything other piracy and rebellion. I'm happy there are people out there with the skills and time and desire to code custom drum machines for handheld gaming devices, and I hope Sony never has their way with those folks.