The Court of Appeal has clarified video game copyright protection following a landmark case and increased pressure from the gaming industry.
Christopher Paul Gilham was convicted of selling illegal computer modification chips, which allowed Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo users to play unlicensed computer games, at Hereford Crown Court in September.
Mr Gilham launched an appeal this week after claiming his chips allow only a small portion of copyrighted material to be transferred on to a computer’s memory and, as such, do not constitute a ‘substantial part’.
But judges disregarded Mr Gilham’s claims, ruling that the modified chips, while not allowing access to an entire game’s copyright material, give access to the constituent parts such as character drawings and ideas, all of which require payment to the creator.
“In the present case, if the only copyright work that is copied is the game as a whole, the “little and often” would be material,” said Lord Justice Stanley Burnton.
“It is not necessary in future to show that a substantial copy of the game is made in Random Access Memory (RAM); all that needs to be shown is that some copyright work contained within the video game is substantially copied e.g. the image of a game character.”
It is estimated that illegal copying and other activities cost the video games industry in excess of £750m a year, and Michael Rawlinson, Director General of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), welcomed the ruling.
“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,” he said.
The news comes as leading manufacturer, Microsoft, announced it will be banning all Xbox users who use modification chips from important console services for life.
Over one million people have been barred from the company’s internet gaming network with no route to appeal due to breaching Microsoft’s terms and conditions.
The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) makes it an offence to sell or distribute any device, product or component which is primarily designed, produced, or adapted for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the “circumvention of effective technological measures”.