A federal judge in Australia ruled Friday that mod chips sold for the original PlayStation do not infringe on Sony copyright protections under Australian laws, which are similar to the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The decision comes a week after a Canadian man wasto probation and fined $17,000 for selling mod chips and pirated games for Sony's PlayStation 2.
Mod chips are add-ons that typically have to be soldered to a game console's main circuit board. Properly installed, they defeat copy protection measures built into the consoles, allowing users to play games originally sent to different geographic markets, backup copies and bootleg discs. Hackers have alsoon mod chips for Microsoft's Xbox as a way to run homemade software on the console.
In the Australian case, Sony accused Eddy Stevens of Sydney of violating Sony copyrights by selling and installing mod chips for the original PlayStation.
Federal Court of Australia Judge Ronald Sackville found that the chips do not violate Australian laws forbidding circumvention of "technological protection measures." Sackville said the technology mod chips disable doesn't constitute a "technology protection measure" under the law because it also prevents legal activity, including the playback of imported games and personal backup copies of games.
"There is nothing in the evidence to suggest that the major purpose or objective of the protective device, from the applicants' perspective, was to ensure that the PlayStation consoles could only play PlayStation games lawfully acquired in Australia or Europe," Sackville wrote in his ruling.
Sackville also found that the PlayStation doesn't employ legitimate copyright protection measures because while the technology prevents playing copied games, it doesn't prevent illegal copying.
"There seems to be nothing in the legislative history to support the view that a technological measure is to receive legal protection from circumvention devices if the only way in which the measure prevents or inhibits the infringement of copyright is by discouraging infringements of copyright which predate the attempt to gain access to the work or to copy it," he wrote.
The judge did agree with Sony's claim that Stevens infringed on the company's trademark by selling bootleg PlayStation games. Sentencing on that charge will happen later.