Australian High Court rules in favour of modders

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The High Court of Australia has ruled that Australian consumers and overseas travellers can buy cheaper computer games and hardware offshore and modify them locally.

The High Court of Australia has ruled that Australian consumers and overseas travellers can buy cheaper computer games and hardware offshore and modify them locally.

Gadens Lawyers, who represented appellant Eddy Stevens in the High Court suit, released a statement today following the ruling, calling the win a "landmark copyright case" championing the rights of consumers.

Stevens ran a business that modified and repaired PlayStation games console equipment. Mod chips let gamers ignore vendors' regional coding systems to buy cheaper games designed for markets outside of Australia.

Stevens had been fighting PlayStation maker Sony in the High Court of Australia for four years to establish the right of consumers and businesses such as his to do so, Gadens said.

"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 -- Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft - and consumers," the law firm said.

The High Court also ruled that playing a game on a consumer machine does not constitute making an illegal copy of that game, Gadens said.

Michaell Bradley, managing partner at Gadens and counsel for Stevens, said the win was excellent news for Australian consumers.

"The judiciary and the consumer watchdog categorically upheld the rights of the little guy against the might of a multinational," Bradley said.

Gadens added in its statement that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had stepped in as a friend of the court at Federal Court level to argue that regional coding was detrimental to consumer choice.

Nathan Mattock, senior associate for Gadens and part of Stevens' legal team on the High Court case, said the legal issues involved in the case had been complex.

"The court has had to interpret copyright law within the ever-changing technical environment in which we live. Fortunately for the consumer, the court has prevented a multinational corporation from further eroding consumer rights," Mattock said.

Gadens litigation team had handled several other landmark copyright and technology cases, including a Federal Court case for the Australian Video Retailers Association (AVRA) against Warner Home Video.

"Also a test case, it was comparable to Stevens versus Sony because it dealt with the issue of copying and explored the nature of the technology used for playing DVDs. Gadens Lawyers’ client was successful against Warner," the law firm said.
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