A UK court dismissed the appeal of a convicted console modder who installed chips that enabled Xbox, PlayStation, PS2 and GameCube consoles to play pirated video games.
A Monday filing said that Christopher Paul Gilham sold modded consoles
from his Worcester apartment between October 2003 through January 2006. In its dismissal the court ruled that playing a counterfeit game on a console with a modchip results in copyright infringement.
"The various drawings that result in the images shown on the television screen or monitor are themselves artistic works protected by copyright," the UK court said in its ruling
. "The images shown on the screen are copies, and substantial copies, of those works."
The filing said that the images of copyrighted characters appearing on a screen are part of the copyright -- so if that image is displayed by means of modding, copyright infringement has occurred. "If the game is the well-known Tomb Raider
, for example, the screen displays Lara Croft, a recognisable character who has been created by the labour and skill of the original artist," the ruling added.
The filing also disputed the notion that since data from a pirated game only exists ephemerally on a console's RAM, it's not infringement. "I do not accept this argument," the judge wrote, saying that the RAM still contained at one point a copy of a copyrighted work.
Michael Rawlinson, director general of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association, said, “We welcome the Court of Appeal’s dismissal
of Mr Gilham's case. Protecting intellectual property theft is an important issue for the country’s video games industry. This judgment strengthens copyright law and will be a significant step in helping us protect the industry."
ELSPA said that "many" consider the ruling pivotal in the fight against piracy in the UK. John Dell with the Worcestershire Trading Standards Office said, "This judgment clarifies the law relating to the supply of modchips and circumvention devices. It now paves the way for a number of future prosecutions by other Trading Standards Authorities who have been awaiting this result."
The trade association said that video game piracy and related illegal activities cost the games industry "in excess" of £750 million a year. Gilham's original case went before a judge in September last year.