Video Game Law Blog

July 26, 2002

(This is an archived case summary)

Sony manufactured and sold PlayStation games on CD-ROMs for which it owned the copyright. To protect its copyright, Sony imbedded an "access code" on each CD-ROM that worked in concert with a "boot ROM chip" in each PlayStation console. The boot ROM chip would only allow CD-ROMs with valid access codes to run on the PlayStation console, and the access code on each CD-ROM could not be copied by conventional copying devices.

Mr. Stevens created a "mod chip" that would allow pirated PlayStation CD-ROMs without valid access codes to be played on a modified PlayStation console. Sony sued Stevens under s. 116A of the Australian Copyright Act, which provides a right of action against persons supplying devices to circumvent technological protection measures designed to protect or inhibit copyright infringement.

The trial judge found that Sony's protection measures did not constitute a "technological protection measure" under the Act, as it did not prevent or inhibit subsequent copyright infringement of the CD-ROMs. Rather, it merely discouraged copyright infringement by making pirated CD-ROMS unusable on PlayStation consoles.

The majority of the Court of Appeal disagreed with such a narrow construction and held that preventing infringement by rendering the sale or copy of the CD-ROMs "impracticable or impossible by anticipatory action" was sufficient to constitute a "technological protection measure" under the Act.

Citation is
Kabushiki Kaisha Sony Computer Entertainmentv.Stevens,
2003 FCA 157; 57 I.P.R. 161 (Fed. Court of Australia)

Summary by Chris Metcalfe