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Sony loses Aussie PlayStation mod chip case

Not a g'day for regional coding

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Australia’s High Court has ruled that modifying PlayStations to bypass Sony's regional coding mechanism does not violate the country’s copyright laws.

Sony sued a Sydney-based supplier of mod chips four years ago, claiming the chips violate its copyright. It initially lost, then won the case on appeal. However, the chip supplier appealed that decision and the case went to the High Court. Sony has fought hard in a number of countries to clamp down on mod chips, which can be used, amongst other things, to bypass the regional coding system which underpins the company’s differential pricing in different markets.

The judges, according to the Associated Press, decided that while pirating a game is one thing, playing an otherwise legit game using a mod chip is another, opening the way for Aussies to buy in games from cheaper markets to play on their Sony Australia machines. They also found that Sony’s regional coding did not qualify as a technological protection measure, and also said that regional coding restricted competition and consumer rights.

AP quoted a defence lawyer predicting the move would force Sony to harmonize worldwide game prices. It didn’t quote Sony, as the electronics giant had nothing to say at the time.

While the decision will cheer up gamers down under, it’s less clear what effect it will have in other countries. Console vendors have had more success persuading judges in other markets that mod chips are a very bad thing. While Sony may abandon regional pricing, it may also make a more concerted effort to bury regional coding in its console’s copyright protection mechanism. And judges seem to take a much dimmer view of any tampering with copyright protection.®

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