Sony v Ball [2004] – Case Example of DRM Provisions

Sony v Ball (PS2 DRM)
(Photo credits: yum9me)

The case of Sony v Ball [2004] involved a number of defendants involved with the design, manufacture, sale, and installation of an mod chip called Messiah2 – which was used to circumvent to the DRM attached to PS2 disks to allow playing games from other regions, game backups, 3rd party games made by unlicensed developers, and pirated games.

The court held this to be no offense under Section 296(1)(a) of the CDPA(2) could be established at the summary stage of the proceedings. This section grants the owner the right to issue copies to the public the same rights against a person who deals with anti-circumvention devices knowing that it will be used to make infringing copies. The court said that the defendant knew that it MIGHT be used to infringe copyright, but he did not know that for a fact, and without further inspection into specific cases in which pirated games were loaded into the system, the offense cannot be be established.

However, an offense was established under Section 296(2)(b) for publishing information relating to enable or assist persons to circumvent the copy-protection system. The defendant in this case published information relating to the installation of the chips on internet websites.

The defendant argued that for the offense to be established, the anti-circumvention must be the “sole intended purpose” and that is not the case because the chip could be used to play backups and imported games. The court said that both of these actions must be legitimate uses for the defence to succeed and that was not the case as Sony did not authorize any of these. For imported games, the license was clearly for a specific region, and for the backup defence, the court said that the defence is only for ‘necessary’ backup and it is not ‘necessary’ to backup CDs as they are robust and cannot be wiped clean – unlike programs distributed on floppy disks or other unreliable formats.

The court also held that an offense was made under Section 296ZA for actually anti-circumventing DRM which the defendant has done when he installed the chip for customers.  Another offense was made under 296ZD for dealing in the course of a business with circumvention devices or services. The court said that 296ZD is a tort of strict liability and knowledge was irrelevant.

(Note: Actions under 296 are only for circumventing the DRM relating to computer programs, while 296ZA-ZE relate to all other works. Videos games computer programs and other works, so both categories of offenses apply).

Link to case.

One thought on “Sony v Ball [2004] – Case Example of DRM Provisions”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *