Sony divides the international market into three parts: Japan, the US and the rest of the world. A console bought in one area will not run games purchased in another area, ensuring regional control.
According to reports, David Ball sold around 1,500 units of a mod chip known as the Messiah 2. This could be inserted in a PS2 to bypass the regional controls, meaning that any region's CD or DVD would play on a UK console. More importantly for Sony, however, the chip also allowed a PS2 to play pirate copies of original discs.
Sony sued under the recently enacted Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003. This implements the European Copyright Directive that, among other things, adds new protections for anti-copying technologies and digital rights management.
In particular, the Regulations allow rightholders to take action against those individuals who circumvent what the law calls Technological Protection Measures, or TPMs, to make unauthorised use of copyrighted works. Action, including criminal action, can also be taken against those who make and distribute equipment designed to circumvent TPMs.
On Wednesday Mr Justice Laddie ruled that Ball had breached the Regulations by selling the mod chips. He then upped the ante by ruling that the use or advertising of mod chips, knowing that they circumvent TPMs, is also unlawful.