A court case taken by Sony against an Australian man for providing and installing mod chips has backfired spectacularly on the company, with the company not only losing its case but also triggering another probe into the legality of its region protection system for software.
Federal court judge Roland Sackville ruled that mod chips do not break copyright legislation in Australia, as Sony had failed to show that the consoles have a copyright protection measure installed for the chips to break. More importantly, however, Justice Sackville also highlighted the fact that the chips allow people to play perfectly legitimate games purchased from overseas.
This is a contentious issue for Sony in Australia. ACCC, the Australian consumer watchdog, has taken Sony to task for its policy of region locking videogames in the past, claiming that it denied Australian consumers access to cheaper games from overseas. The body is now thought to be carefully studying this latest ruling with a view to reopening its inquiry into the legality of region locking console software.
The European Union was also thought to be investigating the legality of region locking on both console software and DVDs some time ago, but has been silent on the issue in recent months. Console chipping is thought to be illegal under both US and UK law, thanks to legal clauses which prohibit the production of devices which deliberately circumvent copyright. A test case in Canada recently proved that the same is true in that country also.
However, devices which only circumvent region coding and not copy protection, such as Datel’s forthcoming Freeloader disc for the GameCube, are not covered by this legislation.