Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) has won an appeal to have the ‘chipping’ of PlayStation consoles banned.
The Federal Court decision means it is now illegal to sell modification chips in Australia although, unlike the US, it is still legal to own one.
SCE had initially sued Sydney retailer, Eddy Stevens, last year for selling pirated games and modification chips, but Federal Court Judge, Justice Ronald Sackville, ruled that the technology disabled by mod chips could not be classed as copy protection because it also prevented the legal playing of backup copies or games purchased overseas.
The modification chips in question work by overriding regional coding. PlayStation consoles and games operate under three different codes that prevent games bought in the US or Japan being played on an Australian console.
The new court ruling has found in favour of SCE, ordering that the company should be awarded costs and making the chips illegal. It said “ ... if, as in the present case, the owner of copyright in a computer program devises a technological measure which has the purpose of inhibiting infringement of that copyright, the [Australian] legislature intended that measure to be protected”. The damages award is still outstanding.
Managing director of SCE Australia, Michael Ephraim, said the company was delighted with the outcome of the case.
“We hope that it sends a clear message to other people across the world dealing with pirated material, that we will not accept piracy in any form and will take action against those who unlawfully abuse the intellectual property rights of Sony Computer Entertainment and third party games developers,” he said.
Ephraim said the company had spent $1.5 million per year during the past four years in its fight against piracy. While he admitted the ban on selling mod chips in Australia would probably drive chipping underground, he said the protection of copyright would remain a long-term goal and stressed that Sony would remain on the attack.
Manager of Sydney-based home entertainment reseller Quantronics, Clinton Lamb, defended the practice of chipping consoles but said nobody was condoning piracy.
“I don’t see it [chipping] as a dodgy business but when people sell pirated games it gives everyone a bad name,” lamb said. “Eddy [Stevens] tied his own noose by selling pirated games — everyone in the industry is against that.”
Stevens, meanwhile, is considering an appeal to the High Court. “Our industry will be recognised for its legitimacy and respect will be given to its technologically minded people,” he said.