Modified Sony PlayStations allowed in Italy

By EDRi · January 15, 2004

In an important victory for Italian consumer rights, an Italian court has rejected the seizure of Sony PlayStation game consoles that use modified chips to permit unauthorised uses of the game systems. The case is one of the first to be brought in Italy under the new European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD).

In December 2003, the Public Prosecutor of Bolzano issued a search and seizure warrant against companies that purchased modified consoles from another company previously investigated by the Public Prosecutor of Bassano del Grappa. On 13 December this warrant lead to the seizing of a PlayStation and some modified chips from a company in Rimini.

This company took the case to the (civil) court to decide whether the producer of a device or computer, such as the Sony PlayStation Console, “to which extent a machine seller can forbid the modifications allowing a use different than the ones he likes.” According to this court’s decision under Italian civil law, the answer is no.

The case was brought under article 171-ter of the Italian copyright law, which implements the EUCD in Italy and was passed in April of 2003.

“The Bolzano Court ruled that the new law does not apply because the modified chips are not primarily intended to circumvent copyright protection measures,” explained University of Milano Law Professor Giovanni Ziccardi. “The court held that the aim of the modified chips is not to create infringing copies, but rather to fight Sony’s monopolistic business practices and to allow consumers to exercise a fuller range of their rights such as reading imported discs, back-up copies of games, and other lawful but unauthorised discs,” said Ziccardi, IP Justice Board Member in Italy.

Verdict Bolzano Court in English (31.12.2003)

Press release by IP Justice – USA (12.01.2004)