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Australian court rules 'mod chips' legal

Australia's High Court ruled Thursday that modifying Sony PlayStation consoles does not violate local copyright laws.
A file photo of Sony's new PlayStation 3 console on display at a news conference, May, 2005.Kevork Djansezian / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Australia's High Court ruled unanimously Thursday that modifying Sony PlayStation consoles so that they can play cheaper overseas versions of the company's games does not violate Australian copyright laws.

The decision ends a four-year legal battle between entertainment and Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp. and Sydney-based business owner Eddy Stevens, who supplied and installed "mod chips" in PlayStation devices.

Sony divides the global gaming market into regions and programs its PlayStation consoles so that games sold in the United States or Asia cannot be played on consoles sold in Australia. The so-called mod chips bypass Sony's regional coding and allow users to run cheaper games made for markets outside Australia on their PlayStation machines.

The High Court ruled that while making a pirated copy of a game is illegal, playing a game using a mod chip is not.

A lawyer for Stevens, Nathan Mattock, said the ruling would allow Australian consumers to buy lower price versions of games overseas and play them on their Australian-bought PlayStation consoles, provided they have a mod chip installed.

"It's a victory for consumers, but also business people as well," he told The Associated Press.  "It will likely increase competition in the market and possibly reduce prices in the market for gaming."

Mattock said Thursday's ruling could force Sony to rethink its regional coding system and make game prices more uniform around the world.

A spokeswoman for Sony Australia, who declined to be named, said the company did not have any comment at this stage.