Australia rules region coding not copyright protected

Australia’s Federal Court has ruled that content companies trying to apply region coding to prevent games, music or videos produced in one region from being played on a console manufactured for a different region, have no protection under Australian copyright law.

Sony Computer Entertainment Australia Pty. Ltd. had filed a lawsuit against a computer technician in Sydney who was selling Playstation game consoles fitted with a modification chip that enabled gamers to use software not coded for use in the region. Sony said that interfered with its ability to control how its intellectual property is distributed and thus breached copyright laws.

On Friday, the Federal Court in Melbourne ruled against the Japanese consumer electronics company, saying its claims went beyond the provisions of Australia’s Copyright Act, and that therefore the chip device was legal.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) helped with the defence against Sony’s lawsuit, saying ACCC has long believed that region coding is detrimental to consumer welfare as it severely limits consumer choice and, sometimes, access to competitively priced goods.

Sony’s argument was that regional coding is added to prevent piracy, but the Federal Court accepted the ACCC submission that the copyright protection measures go beyond having such a single purpose and do not therefore fall under the Copyright Act.

The court said that the region coding does not serve the purpose of preventing or inhibiting the copying of games, and was therefore not suitable for protection under Australian copyright laws.

“Australian consumers can now enjoy games legitimately bought overseas, as well as authorized backup copies, by legally having their games consoles chipped,” ACCC chairman Allan Fels said in a statement.

Sony is expected to appeal the decision, local media said.