Sony divides the international market into three parts: Japan, the US and the rest of the world. A console bought in one area does not run games purchased in another area, ensuring regional control.
The device that permits region-coding modification is called a mod-chip that, once installed, permits the use of imported PlayStation games and back-up copies.
In a series of actions over the last few years Sony has been seeking to prohibit the use of these mod-chips, and has been largely successful. However, in December, an Italian court had to consider the legality of mod-chips in the context of the seizure of mod-chipped PlayStation 2s by the Italian authorities.
According to a report on Silicon.com the court described the controls installed by Sony as "absurd", and considered the question of whether under Italian law a company could prohibit certain uses of its products.
The answer was no. Silicon reports that the court ruled "the product's owner can use it as they see fit." In the court's opinion, the purpose behind the chips was to "avoid monopolistic positions and improve the possibilities for use of the PlayStation". The court said:
"It's a little like Fiat marketing its cars while banning them from being driven by non-European citizens or outside towns."