Substantial part of a video game

The UK Court of Criminal Appeal has dismissed an appeal against a criminal conviction for selling modchips to enable Sony Playstations, Nintendo and Microsoft to play counterfeit games.

The 1709 [delete mouthfull of title] blog has a detailed report.

Those of us living in the autochthonous realm hidden away in the summer sun may find some interest in the reasons why the playing of the (counterfeit) games would result in a reproduction of a substantial part of the copyright – a point doubted or left open in Stevens v Sony [2005] HCA 58 at [80] – [99].

However, a considerable degree of caution will be required:

First, (what I guess constitutes a plurality of) the High Court has already ruled that a single image (or “frame”) from a film is not (or is not necessarily) a substantial part – at least of a television broadcast (Network Ten v Nine Network):

Secondly, as Stevens v Sony shows, Australia has very definitely embarked on its own course in relation to technological protection measures and this whole area of “meta” copyright.

Thirdly, at least 3 of the judges in the IceTV case resoundingly declared that it is not appropriate to test substantiality by reference to the taking of  the skill and effort of the author. Well, that is what they said; whether or not it is what they did is another matter. The 3 judges in the other judgment, of course, appear very much to have applied that misappropriation of the skill and effort (in expression) approach.

Those of you who are political philosophers or constitutional scholars may also look with some bemusement, or perhaps appreciation, on the Court of Criminal Appeal’s thundering against the idea of leaving to that engine of democracy, otherwise known as the jury, such recondite questions as copyright infringement, when perfectly well-trained Chancery judges were ready and waiting to serve. Of course, those of us who practise in the civil jurisdiction where IP cases are usually heard might well be horrified by the prospect of trying to present such a case to 12 men and women good and true!

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