Sony vs Connectix

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Sony vs Connectix


Reverse engineering has become a controversial topic in the software industry. In 1999, Sony filed a suit against Connectix alleging copyright infringement concerning a Macintosh emulator of the Sony Playstation known as the Virtual Game Station. This emulator allows Macintosh users to play Playstation games without a Sony Playstation. A federal judge ruled in favor of Sony, and issued an order that Connectix halt its sales of the emulator. The next year Connectix appealed the ruling, and the Federal Court of Appeals reversed the original ruling. Video game business in the United States alone is a billion dollar industry and legal decisions such as this one have huge ramifications not just for the game industry, but for the entire software industry as well. In order to determine the right decision, one has to examine different ethical perspectives ranging from determining what action results in the most happiness of the stakeholders involved to what inherent rights each individual stakeholder is entitled to.


Sony is the creator of the Sony Playstation. Video game console manufacturers generally use the console as a loss leader and hope to profit on their gaming platforms by selling licenses to produce games to software manufacturing companies. Thus, Sony created a barrier of entry in console manufacturing because other hardware manufacturers would have to be willing to lose money per hardware unit sold in order to compete with Sony. Also, such a manufacturer wouldn’t receive the software game revenues that Sony receives, which gave Sony what seemed to be a monopoly on the Playstation platform. The Sony Playstation consists of hardware components and software components. The software component is the Sony BIOS, which is resides in read-only memory. Sony holds a copyright on the BIOS.1

The Connectix Virtual Game Station emulates the functionality of the Sony Playstation. A consumer could purchase a Playstation game, load it into his Macintosh CD-drive, and play the game using the Virtual Game Station. Connectix created the emulator by purchasing a Playstation, copying the contents of the BIOS into the memory of a Macintosh, and observing the input into the BIOS and the output of the hardware.

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