Sony's mod chip battle heats up

Sony has accused the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission of being 'misleading' about PlayStation2 mod chips
Written by Andrew Colley, Contributor

Sony Corporation Entertainment has accused the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission of using rhetoric and misleading information in a courtroom dispute between the two over the use of modification chips in PlayStation2 consoles.

The ACCC made the statements in conjunction with an announcement that it has been granted permission to be heard in a copyright case brought before the Federal court by Sony Corporation Entertainment (SCE), last Friday.

Sony, which claims its only concern about the use of the chips is that they allow pirated games to be played on the consoles, has responded angrily.

Earlier this week SCE managing director Michael Ephraim described ACCC chairman Professor Alan Fels' comments as misinformed, inaccurate, and slanderous.

"He's accused us off ripping off the public while we're being ripped off by criminals," Ephraim said.

Sony has asked the court to recognise that modification chips installed in Sony Playstation consoles breach portions of the Copyright Act that outlaw the manufacture and supply of devices that override copy control measures.

The modification chips allow the game console to read discs created by machines that comply with foreign TV standards such as NTSC and SECAM. Professor Fels contends that the range of games offered by overseas markets is cheaper and more diverse, and that outlawing the chips would deny Australian PlayStation owners the ability to access them.

Claiming to 'set the record straight' yesterday, SCE issued a statement refuting the ACCC's information. Sony said that ACCC's data on game availability and prices across international TV regions is false and applies to non-PlayStation games.

"Ninety-five percent of PlayStation games of any consequence for the Australian market are available in PAL," said Ephraim, adding that Australian consumers pay the same price for games as overseas consumers.

SCE also points out that the ACCC has accused Sony of creating artificial trade barriers by preventing Australian consumers from accessing other DVD region zones. However, Sony says the location-specific features of the PS2 product are "dictated by the television system adopted by each country."

The debate is starting to puzzle some observers of the gaming industry. Supporting the ACCC position, professional gaming researchers told ZDNet Australia that the TV standard code embedded in game media is unnecessary and allows SCE to gate the movement of games internationally.

According to them, the television system is relevant to PlayStation signal output only. The embedded code on the discs -- which the chip circumvents -- only serves to prevent PAL PlayStations reading the discs.

The ACCC is yet to respond to SCE but said that it's confident with the evidence it has obtained.

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