2 Sides to every argument
Let's just recall briefly what Sony did to be victimised by a bunch of criminals who have illegally accessed their customer data. They sold the Playstation 3 with nice computer hardware and gave owners the option to install alternate OS's (Linux) on the device. A tiny minority used this functionality (as evidence - of the 70+ PS3 owners I have contact with, I know of 1 (me) who used this option), including for scientific research (not me if I'm honest) which Sony was happy to brag about in their publicity, as none of their rivals had been so nice. As a result of people using OtherOS to bypass the security within the PS3, and then publishing how to do it, they took the feature away in a system upgrade ('optional', the alternative being no more use as a gaming system which was extremely unlikely to impact anyone using the PS3 for scientific research) in an effort to ensure games continued to be developed. Some of their customers tried legal recourse by suing them, but were rebuffed when the judge said Sony never promised to keep the OtherOS functionality, as stated in their published T&Cs which these same customers had agreed to. So, now on a legal roll, Sony brought suit against the customers who had broken their agreements and tried their best to encourage software piracy (OK - gave people the option :)), but that failed because of jurisdictional issues (which means that the T&Cs are still legally binding).
So every day now bright, motivated coders drag themselves out of their pits and look at this hardware, and remember this story. They also remember their beloved using it as yet another example of money wasted on technology that didn't work out due to PSN being taken down as a result of hacktivists activities. Probably they don't get that same feeling of enjoyment any more using it for games (because of previously stated hacktivist activity) or Linux (assuming they ever used it). For some this will have been 4-figure ($ or £) investments in hardware and software and yet they still can't shoot their friends in the face online due to previously stated hacktivist activities (although this facility is now, finally, restored).
None of this condones vigilante (cyber) attacks or the theft of private data from individuals with no input to the situation anyway, but my guess is there's still a lot of people out there who feel the hacktivists's punishment hasn't yet even started to balance the personal inconvenience they have had inflicted on them (not to mention costs to Sony, 3rd party devs etc…). Clearly most of the news industry can't seem to include any of this in their reports, they just dumb the whole thing down to the Sony are bad message, but I think after announcing this has so far cost Sony at least $170 million it is understood all too clearly in Sony's boardroom - don't trust Linux users .. err … I mean do no evil.
I only take issue with one of your points. Your timeline is out of kilter. IIRC (and that’s a fairly big if) OtherOS was removed as a result of the decoding and then publication of the security keys.
I am being devils advocate above btw, no need to flame me. IMHO Sony are complete arseholes. But so is every other big tech corporation, particularly in the console market. Microsoft (no explanation needed – the name is enough). Nintendo have achieved levels of control freakery over the years that Sony and MS can only dream of. (Surely Apple have a console coming out - they seem perfect for this sector :)) The whole thing stinks, but there is a legal way of letting any company know if you feel strongly about their practices. Don't give them your money. It's really, really that simple.
Hacktivism is great at making a point. This has generated publicity that marketing execs would kill for. People know the story (Sony are bad). Stop now. If people agree with the hacktivists they will stop buying Sony. But carrying on the vendetta suggests the people behind it don't want the public to make a free and informed choice, it suggests they want to force them to believe what they believe or make it impossible for the public to choose an option they don't like. That isn't hacktivism, that's fundamentalism.