Category — Region Coding Cases
Text of Copyright Amendment Bill 2006
In stark contrast to American and British modding decisions and copyright law, Australia is set to amend its copyright laws to make it legal for consumers to purchase/use mod chips that circumvent anti-piracy technology (TPMs and DRM) built into game consoles when used to overcome region-coding measures that restrict the use of DVDs and games titles purchased legally in other regions. Most of the Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 passed through both houses of Parliament, will become law by January 1, 2007.
Dale’s Comment: This doesn’t really change the law in Australia because, as you can see from the related posts below, Australian courts had held that such modding did not breach Australian copyright and anti-circumvention laws. As far as I can tell, these amendments merely codify the existing case-law. These amendments may be important though because it was thought that Australia’s recent free-trade agreement with the United States may have resulted in copyright reform to explicitly overrule existing mod-chip case-law.
If a recent post I mentioned that some clever users found a way around Microsoft’s XBox 360 region-specific Market Place movie and video demo download restrictions. The trick was to take advantage of Microsoft’s free XBox Live Accounts. A user in one jurisdiction could create multiple silver-level (a.k.a. free) accounts by simply stating in the online sign up process that they live in a another download-frinedly jurisdiction. Paid movie downloads, trailers, game demos etc. would then be available available through the alternative silver-level account in jurisdictions that Microsoft did not intend.
After only weeks of being out in the wild, Microsoft has patched this work-around. Now only users that have credit cards with billing addresses that match the purported region can download content for that region. Happily Microsoft is not banning these extra accounts, they are simply restricting their access to region-coded content.
As a lawyer, this is understandable. As a user, this is sad. Having previously lived in the U.S.and having access to virtually anything the Internet can deliver, it is a very rude awaking to move back to a 2nd tier jurisdiction like Canada where so many Internet-based services are either not available, delayed, provided at higher price points or provided with less functionality. Microsoft’s new movie download service is a perfect example of this regrettable phenomena.
Presumably a Canadian with an American credit card and billing address could still circumvent the system for instance. Humm… as a holder of several U.S.-based credit cards, I wonder which of my U.S. buddies would allow me to use their address for credit card statement receipts?
If you follow Major Nelson’s (Larry Herb’s) day-to-day missives about what is available for download through the Xbox 360 Marketplace, you’ll note that many arcade games, game demos, trailers and other downloadable content is only available in certain regions of the world. This has lead to much consternation among Microsoft’s international customers. But the issue was brought to a head recently when, for the first time, North American XBox Owners were initially restricted from downloading a Rainbow Six: Las Vegas demo that was available for download by European users. This doesn’t happen very often to U.S. customers.
As a result, some clever users found a way around Microsoft’s XBox 360 region-specific MarketPlace download restrictions. You can read about them in the linked articles below.
Dale’s Comment: Just as Sony had legitimate legal reasons for opposing Lik-Sang’s import of PSP systems into the UK, no doubt Microsoft has legitimate legal reasons for restricting access to content on a country by country basis. For example, game publishers/developers that provide downloadable content to Microsoft probably have granted exclusive distribution/marketing and other rights to that content in the prohibited regions to others. My hope/expectation is that over time licensing and distribution deals will be structured to recognize the increasingly globalized nature of the market so as to anticipate and, indeed, facilitate global distribution/downloads without this kind of constraint.
Categories: Region Coding Cases
Categories: Region Coding Cases
Sony likely to change its PS3 region coding practice after loosing Australian modding decision.
Dale’s Comment: While Sony may be able to limit or remove region coding technology for PS3-based video games, they will not have the legal right to remove region-coding from regular DVD and Blu-ray DVD movies that will also be playable in the PS3.
Text of Stevens v. Sony Decision
In Stevens v. Sony, the Australian High Court ruled that modding Playstation consoles to circumvent region coding restrictions does not breach Australian copyright laws.
- Australia Copyright Reform to Explicitly Permit Region-Code Mod Chips (December 6, 2006)
- Region Coding for PS3 Unlikely (November 8, 2005)
- Australian High Court Rules Playstation Region Code Mod Chips Legal (October 6, 2005)
- Sony Plans New Legal Challenge to Mod Chips in Australia (March 16, 2005)
- Australian Court Rules Console Modding Legal (July 29, 2002)
Changes to copyright laws in Australia to implement its free trade agreement with the United States have opened the door for a fresh legal challenge to mod chips, according to Sony Computer Entertainment Australia, which has instructed its lawyers to prepare a new case against the devices.
The British High Court has ruled that using, possessing, selling or advertising modded PS2 consoles is illegal. Justice Laddie ruled that Ball had violated the European Union Copyright Directive, which came into UK law in 2003. The defendant had sold some 1,500 Messiah 2 chips allowing customers to defeat both the PS2′s region coding restrictions and the PS2′s built-in piracy protections.
An Australian Court Rules that modding consoles do not infringe copyright because Sony was unable to show that copy protection measures had been built into their consoles. The Australian consumer watchdog organization ACCC has fought Sony over region coding in the past as being anti-consumer by denying them the right to play genuinely purchased games from cheaper overseas sources.
Channel Technology imported mod-chips from Russia that when installed in PS2′s to play games from all regions. Importantly, the chip also allows users to play pirated games. The U.K. High Court found Channel Technology in violation of a provision in the UK. Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 that prohibits knowingly making, importing or selling any device specifically designed or adapted to circumvent copy-protection. Judge Jacob awarded Sony damages of £15,000 and costs of £45,000. Channel Technology has since closed.