After a four-year legal battle an Australian small businessman has come up trumps against Sony after the High Court ruled that installing mod chips in PlayStation consoles was legal. The chips allow gamers to bypass manufacturers’ regional coding systems and play cheaper games that have been made outside Australia.
Stevens v Kabushiki Kaisha Sony Computer Entertainment was the test case for the technological protection measure aspects of the Copyright Act 1968, and if Sony had been successful, would have created a precedent whereby it could take action against others in the modding business. Senior associate at Gadens Lawyers, Nathan Mattock, who acted for small businessman Eddy Stevens on the matter, said applying the technical aspects of the case to the legal framework had been a challenge, given there were no precedents to rely on.
The case looked at two factors: the legality of mod chips and the issue of copying games into the random access memory (RAM) of PlayStations. The question was whether playing a game, which requires information to be copied into the RAM, was breaching copyright if the manufacturer had not granted a licence to copy that data. The court held that playing a PlayStation was not creating an illegal copy.
“It’s been a long journey but it’s great to have an outcome,” Mattock said. “To have the High Court confirm what we believe is correct, and to help someone like Eddy Stevens, is very satisfying.
“Sony [and other manufacturers] may have to change the way they produce their machines. It might mean their strategy on how they attempt to protect their works will need to be completely changed.”