The High Court of Australia ruled today that modifying Playstation gaming consoles to play overseas games (or copies of games) does not violate Australian copyright law.
The ruling may cap a four-year legal dispute between electronics and media giant Sony and Australian Eddy Stevens, who defeated the regional coding obstacles in Australian-made PAL Playstation console games so they could play (often cheaper) overseas versions of games, or copies of games.
Sony claimed that because Stevens sold Playstations with modified chips which bypassed encrypted access codes designed to prevent piracy and isolate markets, he had violated Sony’s rights under copyright law. Unmodified Playstation consoles cannot play games sold other markets with different regional encodings (for instance, North America or Japan).
Sony lost its initial case to Stevens, and appealed the case to Australia’s highest court in Sydney. In its sizable—and unanimous—ruling, the court wrote, "There is no copyright reason why the purchaser should not be entitled to copy the CD-ROM and modify the console in such a way as to enjoy his or her lawfully acquired property without inhibition." Further, the Australian court took a dim view of Sony’s regional encoding, stating "Sony sought to impose restrictions on the ordinary rights of owners, respectively of the CD-ROMS and consoles, beyond those relevant to any copyright infringement as such. In effect, and apparently intentionally, those restrictions reduce global market competition."
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