The Australian High Court has ruled that it is legal to install and use “mod chips” in game consoles, in order to play games sold outside Australia, in a relatively significant decision that has been decided following a long, drawn-out court battle.
The court case was fought by Sydney businessman Eddy Stevens, who in 2001 sold non-Australian copies of PlayStation games Croc 2, MediEvil, Moto Racer: World Tour and Porsche Challenge, as well as installing the mod chips needed to play them. During the four year long court battle, Stevens faced claims from Sony that mod chips breached the company’s copyrights and circumvented technology within the PlayStation console to prevent the use of “unauthorized games”.
The High Court found playing a computer program on a PlayStation did not involve reproducing it, so copyright law was not breached. A lawyer for Mr Stevens, quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, stated: "All six judges of the High Court held that widely-used 'mod-chips' were legal, with far-reaching implications for the manufacturers of computer games and consumers."
All three console manufacturers have fought legal battles against mod chip users over the years, with Microsoft clamping down on use of the technology last November, citing breaches of the DMCA in North America, and Sony fighting and losing legal battles in both Spain and in Italy. The use of mod chips is particularly prevalent in PAL territories, such as Europe and Australasia, where a significant reason for using mod chips is to import and play games not currently available in those countries.