Sony is cracking down on PlayStation mod-chip makers, forcing them to halt the distribution of their products or face the wrath of its corporate legal might.
Two UK-based companies, Channel Technology and Playstationmods.com, have halted sales of their products with immediate effect. A third company, Italian-based Origa, has reportedly been contacted as well to stop selling its product.
Mod-chips are a popular addition to gaming consoles and other devices that remove the restrictions placed on them by their original manufacturers. Players are normally restricted to playing games or watching DVDs zoned for their particular region, but installing a mod-chip can free users to use titles from any zone (learn more about this here and here).
However, the chips can also be used to play copied and pirated titles on the console, which is where Sony starts to get annoyed; software titles are where it makes its money on the consoles. It's turned a blind eye to the mod-chip market over the past six years, but suddenly decided to crack down this month.
David Reese, senior VP for Sony Consumer Entertainment Europe (SCEE), said in a statement: "SCEE is currently actively pursuing prosecutions against various mod-chip distributors. This is proceeding across Europe."
But is it illegal?
An Internet-based mod-chip reseller, who wished to remain anonymous, says the biggest problem he has with the crackdown is that mod-chips themselves are not actually illegal - it's the pirated titles that are, which is not a business that mod-chip makers get involved with.
However, he will close his operation like the others because none of them have the resources to take on Sony in the courtroom.
Playstationmods.com, distributor of the NEO4 mod-chip, has closed its site completely, putting up the following message: "Due to recent legal proceedings by Sony towards our sale of the NEO4 chip we have decided to close down all our mod-chip operations indefinitely ... This is the first time we've been asked to stop supplying mod-chips by Sony and we will comply without reservation and without prejudice."
Channel Technology, the company behind the Messiah mod-chip, still has a viewable site, with a more personal message posted: "Anyone out there lend me a fiver? I placed a bet at the bookies that the Messiah would come in 2001, I LOST!" A promotion site for the Messiah chip, Messiah-world.com, still has links to international resellers, but its forum board has been closed.
The action seems to be limited to Europe, for now; a US reseller contacted had received no legal message from Sony and says he will continue to sell the chips as before.
Repeated attempts to contact the mod-chip distributors have been unsuccessful. ®