Messiah roasted

Sony wins its controversial court case against Channel Technology

According to one of our spies at Sony, the console giant's controversial court case against the makers of the Messiah mod chip is at an end. Channel Technology's Messiah was given a right royal roasting by Judge Jacob Dean yesterday, before he went on to make some interesting (and potentially devastating) comments. The Judge commented that under the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988 the upgrade was not 'specifically' designed to circumvent the console's copy-protection mechanism, but also dealt with defeating the region control aspect of the same protection, and thus allowed arguably legal functions such as the use of imported games. After a gargantuan effort however, Sony's representing barrister Adrian Speck fought the flow and eventually forced the following ruling. According to Judge Jacob, the Messiah defeated the copy-protection mechanism, and this part of the design specifically (his emphasis) dealt with the use of backup material as a function. Acknowledging that indeed it may be useful to have a backup as permitted under the aforementioned Act, and there could possibly be cases of 'where necessary', the Judge pointed out that the practice of 'swapping' backup disks between people would be uncontrollable, and would do enormous damage to Sony, depriving them of £25-45 on average. Piracy therefore becomes the main factor for consideration above all other, and on this basis alone the Judge awarded Sony the Summary Judgement. Further comments stated that Sony licensed games for the territory that they were issued in, and the licensing did not allow for exportation and sales in foreign countries. Therefore whether intended for private domestic use or not, they were not allowed by Sony to be played outside of the licensed territory. This is important, the Judge stated, because the technical reason for that decision is based upon the fact that a game run without permission makes a copy of copyright material in memory, and this copy is 'infringing' because it is an unauthorized copy. This statement is both shocking and controversial, because it effectively says that purchasing games abroad or importing them is illegal. The region-dodging Messiah chip also allowed for multiregion DVD playback, and this ruling could have implications for the DVD market. The Sony Vs. Channel Technology case could be even more damning in the future, because it sets a worrying precedent. The other defendant in the case was Neo Technologies (first and second), but they submitted to Summary Judgement and as such they were not an issue to be dealt with by the court. The outcome of the Summary Judgement against Channel Technology was an order of various limitations of which an affidavit must be made, and also Sony's legal costs (£45,000 after discount) and damages (£15,000 on the basis of supplied upgrades). We find the latter ruling somewhat harsh, because as far as we know Channel never actually sold any, although Neo patently did. This judgement does mean that in future companies will have to think more carefully about whether or not to make modifications to equipment that plays licensed regional and copy-protected material in digital form and produces a copy in memory. The repercussions on the mod chip industry will certainly be interesting to watch, but the ruling does mean that in future, we may have even more trouble getting hold of region-free consoles. Bah. Related Feature - Messiah to the rescue

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Tom Bramwell

Tom Bramwell

Contributor  |  tombramwell

Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.

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