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Sony to appeal mod-chip ruling

The games division of Sony said that it would appeal a recent Australian federal court decision which it sees as giving a “green light” to people to modify PlayStation consoles to play pirated games, according to media reports. Sony Australia and its parent companies claimed that a Sydney vendor had infringed Australian trade mark and copyright laws by selling pirated games and mod-chips.20 Sep 2002

The Australian Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act of 2000 makes it an offence to make, sell or promote devices to override copy-protection technology. Mod-chips are small devices that allow PlayStation users to play games on their consoles without needing a unique access code – intended for overriding the region controls on the consoles that stop, for example, US games being played in Australia.

The federal judge ruled that the vendor had infringed Sony’s trade marks by selling pirated games. However he decided that chipping the consoles was not illegal, reasoning that modified chips overrode a device that only prevented copied games from being played and did not prevent them being copied at the first place.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had welcomed the ruling saying that it allowed Australian PlayStation users to play personal back-up copies and games purchased abroad.

Sony said that the decision was in contrast with other rulings in similar cases worldwide. The company also claimed that “close scrutiny” by the Full Bench of the Federal court would be necessary, since the case was the first to be judged under the relevant session of the (amended) Australian copyright law.