Sydney, Australia ? Small business owner Eddy Stevens won a four-year legal battle against Sony today, when the High Court ruled that the modding of PlayStation consoles is legal.
The installation of a Mod chip allows games to bypass the game manufacturer?s regional coding system and therefore allows users to play software which was not necssarily purchased in that country, or possibly purchased at all. The implications for consumers in Australia is that they could get games cheaper by importing them. Some retailers are understandably upset at this, but it is anticipated that prices will be driven down as a result of the ruling.
Australia signed a free trade agreement with the US last year which mandates that copyright laws in Australia must align with those in the US by 2007. According to this FTA, consumers cannot circumvent ?effective technological measures? that control access to a tech device. In today?s decision, all six judges of Australia?s High Court unanimously ruled that mod-chips are in fact legal and that playing a game on a modded machine does not constitute an illegal copy.
Sony filed a suit in 2001 against Stevens, who at the time was running a business in Australia that supplied and installed mod-chips which rendered Sony?s regional coding useless. In 2002, the Australian Federal Court decided that playing a copied game did not violate any copyrights. Sony successfully appealed that decision several months later. Following the 2002 ruling, many modders shut down operations.
Stevens? lawyers then took the case to the High Court. The issue involved here was whether the mod-chip actually bypassed digital rights management on the console, breaching Section 116A of the Australian Copyright Act. The court accepted the argument that while it is illegal to produce a pirated copy of a game, simply playing a game by using a mod-chip is not. It was determined that even though data was copied to the consoles? Random Access Memory (RAM) without a license to do so, a consumer was not making an illegal copy of the game.
When asked for comment, Stevens said ?Geez, news travels fast, doesn?t it? Well, you can say I?m pretty happy with the verdict.?
?We always figured we would win because we were in the right,? he said. ?The whole point is, what we are doing helps consumers.? Stevens plans to restart his modding business.
A spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment said any statement from Sony would come from their UK operation.