Computerchip sales put trader in court
A market trader from Bolton appeared in court yesterday for selling microchips designed to allow counterfeit games to be played on consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation 2.
Stephen Fitzgerald, aged 42, of Torridon Road, Bolton, pleaded guilty to nine charges brought under the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations.
It is the first case of its kind in the UK.
Fitzgerald was charged after Cumbrian Trading Standards officials found him selling the illegal microchips from his Mods-And-Sods stall at a computer fair at the Swallow Hilltop hotel in Carlisle in March 2004.
The chips allowed users of games consoles to circumvent in-built technology intended to prevent them playing counterfeit games.
Carlisle Crown Court heard the chips had been legal until October, 2003, so until then he had not been committing any offence by selling them.
It was only afterwards, when he continued to sell them, unaware of the new legislation, that he broke the law.
Even then, officials were initially unsure whether he was doing anything illegal.
"Trading Standards were wrestling with new legislation and were not entirely certain what it involved," defence counsel Adrian Farrow said.
He said that as soon as Fitzgerald knew he was breaking the law, he stopped selling the devices.
Fitzgerald pleaded guilty to two offences - one committed in Carlisle in March 2004 and one in Wigan four months later - of advertising a service designed to circumvent technological measures.
He also admitted six offences of offering for sale devices designed to circumvent technology and one of advertising his services on a website.
He was ordered to do 120 hours' unpaid community work, made to pay £2,500 towards court costs and ordered to pay another £2,710, - the amount he had benefited from his illegal activities.