back to article US cracks down on mod-chippers

A US government agency has launched a big investigation into gaming console piracy. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has executed 32 federal warrants across the country, searching businesses and homes for clues surrounding the potential sale and distribution of illegal modification chips and disc copyright …


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  1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Which part of "illegal modification chips" gave it away?

    as above

  3. Steve

    Have you been living under a rock

    The US administration is under the control of oil and media conglomerates.

    It's illegal to even think about chipping your console under DMCA legislation, hell it's probably illegal to complete a crossword as you are attempting to break the encryption.

  4. I.M.Fantom

    Homeland Security at it's best.

    Americana Homeland security at it's best. Next thing is to claim chip-mods support terrorists and America must invade yet another country.

  5. Stuart

    'Fraid so...

    The digital millenium copyright act in the US makes it an offence to make or possess a device which can render inoperative copy protection mechanisms.

  6. Stu

    This is screwy

    I'm wondering exactly how mod-chips and counterfeiting is affecting the *government* to the sum of $250bn, surely it should be the burden of the games industry and them only, not the US govt.

    That is unless the US govt is subsidising Electronic Arts and the like with tax payers money for piracy losses.

    Surely the profits that the games industry is making should be top-sliced to combat piracy issues, it most certainly shouldn't come out of US taxpayers pockets. Lets not forget that recently the games industry surpassed the movie industry in profit.

    The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

    Excuse me for thinking that tax is actually for the betterment and improvement of roads, streets, parks, hospitals, fire stations, space exploration, research, education, etc.

    What the hell have the games industry done for the betterment of mankind? They do nothing but churn out the same old sh*t year after year, albeit with marginally better graphics and progressively worse gameplay, and encourage kids to stay indoors and shoot evil aliens in Manchester cathedral. ;-)

    They dont deserve a penny of our tax money.


    Wouldn't surprise me if our UK government were doing something similar with other industries.

  7. julian

    Re: Chips are illegal?

    Greg, your post is certainly amusing. Though I am not sure it is the use of the chips that is illegal if you buy them unaware that they are fake (though it may still be). But the production and sale almost certainly imfringes trademark, copyright and various other IP protection (I would hate to say patents in case that stirs up the whole should we patent shouldn't we?)

    A bit like I bought this legal Gucci zip why can't I do with it what I like and buy a fake handbag to add to it? It's a lot cheaper.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could be wrong but...


    I could be wrong but I think the EULA you agree to by using the hardware forbids the modification of said hardware.

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Giles Jones Gold badge


    In Australia they made them legal as they bypass region coding and stop anti-competitive pricing of games.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not the hardware

    I think the problem is not the posession of the chip, or the installation of a chip into the console, both of which you would be allowed to do.

    I think (rightly or wrongly) that the problem comes when you have a chip which allows you to subvert the console's copy protection, being openly marketed as a "backup device", or whatever. Does anyone really belive that these are used for backup?

    Now, what I personally think is that if console manufacturers want a copy-protected console, they should replace the media that you have purchased if it stops working, within sensible limits. Obviously you'd have to return the media, not too usefull if your house burns down, but then I guess your home and contents insurance would kick in.

    What is interesting is - should you be able to run your own OS on a console where the hardware is being loss lead on the purchase of games. Currently it would seem that Sony say yes, MS say no and I don't think that Nintendo have stated either way.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Piracy costs

    "Counterfeiting and piracy costs the US up to $250bn each year"

    This is a stupid figure, because one cannot sum up the "value" of all pirated or counterfeited goods and say that this is a "cost" or even "lost revenue". If someone has a dozen pirated games, he surely wouldn't buy the same dozen if piracy was not possible, because he usually has a limited income. People who buy a chinese "Rolex" for 10$ won't ever spend 10k for a genuine one even if one erradicates counterfeiting. Entertainment/Leisure industry should understand that people usually have a limited budget (I guess they do?) : if people put more money in xbox games they will put less in CDs or DVDs or cinema or whatever.

    I'm not saying piracy or counterfeiting is good. But such figures are just political garbage. If that was true, can someone explain where the $250bn come from ($80k/US citizen/year!) and go (China?).

  13. RW

    Tell us another lie!

    "Counterfeiting and piracy costs the US up to $250bn each year"

    Sez who?

    Sounds like another self-serving figure hallucinated by media & software companies. Or, as a person less civilized than me might say, pulled out of their asses.

    The typical offering of digital stuff is rarely worth the price asked. If there were no piracy, there would be very little increase in revenue for that reason alone, never mind that 3rd world pirates simply can't afford the asking prices.

    If anything, attempts to control piracy backfire. Example: several years ago EMI re-mastered some important piano recordings by Alicia de Larrocha. Spanish release only. Given reviews that said these were the first releases of these recordings with decent sound quality, I was going to mortgage part of my anatomy to buy them from Spain as replacements for earlier not-so-good CD issues. Until, that is, I found out they were copy-protected. At which point I walked away from the whole thing and decided to stick with what I already have. They may not sound as good, but they're on Red Book CD's and will play on nearly anything, unlike "protected" media. I'm quite certain I'm not alone in rejecting DRM munged media.

    And Microsoft's insane DRM misfeatures in Windows Vista have led me to acquiring a Linux machine that will do what I tell it to, not what some Hollywood cocaine addict dictates.

    $250bn? Yeah, sure, tell us another one!

  14. Charles

    Check your math

    I agree with your point, but check your math...

    $250 billion comes to about $800 per US citizen, not $80k.

  15. A. Merkin

    I pledge allegiance to the Copyright Holders of the Unites States of America...

    Hey ICE; I heard Bin Liner's modded his PSP - GO GET HIM!!!

    Seriously, the only way to avoid piracy is to increase game prices to compensate for losses due to piracy because of high prices.


    Decrypted Crossword = DMCA violation... hee hee hee...

  16. Dazzer

    To Fraser

    If you check the small print in the back of games manual, you should fine that damaged media will be replaced by the publisher. My cousin snapped his Sims CD in half and got a replacement from EA for £7. It's a good idea I think.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Now, now... when you buy a copy of the paper, you aquire a license to decrypt the crossword, so you're fine! On the other hand, it would be be "funny" (*laugh laugh cry* funny) if you were stealing papers and instead of hitting you with petty theft, they went after you for the crossword puzzle DMCA violation. :)

  18. Chris

    What about foreign games?

    Y'know, there are some great games that just don't make it to the US. Mod chips are how you can play them after you've BOUGHT them.

  19. Alan Donaly

    what a waste of money

    Meanwhile drugs keep on coming in through our borders

    ICE and everything else black tar heroin anyone this is just

    another case of someone being in pay to the media conglomerates

    and on the government payroll who gives a rats ass about mod chips

    for console games what a crock.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We are sorry to heighten your inconvenience...

    > Y'know, there are some great games that just don't make it to the US. Mod

    > chips are how you can play them after you've BOUGHT them.

    And the the inference is that you are not allowed to play them even if you have bought them. Which is generally the case. Actually, importing them is probably already a no-no. Grey/Parallel markets etc. HURT YOUR FRIENDLY CORPORATION. No, I don't like it either. Free markets? What's that?

    >> "Counterfeiting and piracy costs the US up to $250bn each year"

    That's hurtful as one could really rape the f*ck out of a few countries with that kind of money. About 4 Iraqs in initial 2003 estimates, actually.

  21. Andy Bright

    Modding isn't illegal, circumventing is..

    Breaking a EULA isn't illegal either - as long as you're not breaking copy protection mechanisms while you're about it. Software companies would like you to think breaking a EULA is illegal - however in all likelihood many of the terms and condition are not enforceable in any court, they may even be illegal themselves, breaking trade agreements and fair trading standards.

    But protectionism is alive and well - because the media industry have paid Congress to make it so. So importing products that require mod chips may very well be viewed as some sort of media piracy - who knows?

    The use of mod chips (even if they only switched off region coding) is illegal - because region coding is regarded as a copy protection mechanism. The fact it allows the media industry to break international trade agreements through protectionism is neither here nor there - the US government has been properly paid to look the other way on that and many similar issues. Just ask the Antiguans, and they'll tell you more than you probably want to know.

    So mostly just chipping your XBox could be enough to warrant a day in court - and in theory a very expensive one at that. The likelihood though is that only the distributors and makers of such equipment will be bothered by law enforcement. Doesn't stop Microsoft or Sony from suing you, but the idea the FBI will be beating down your door because you're playing a grey import is not something to worry about. On the other hand, if you're playing said grey import after taking a break from installing mod chips into a 1000 PS2s, well then you probably do have something to worry about, as this story apparently highlights.

  22. Adrian Esdaile

    In the land of Kangaroo Courts...

    "In Australia they made them legal as they bypass region coding and stop anti-competitive pricing of games."

    Yes, and Sony went back to court with a bigger bag of money, and the backing of Little Johnnie Howard's "Free Trade" agreement with the USA (which enforces such things as DMCA and FDA rulings on Australia) and got them made illegal again. That fecking "Free Trade" agreement overrides our consumer protection laws, unfortunately.

    No great problem, if our Feds can't even properly frame a "terrorist" without screwing things up, I don't think mod chippers have got much to worry about.

    And as for "an offence to *make* or possess a device which can render inoperative copy protection mechanisms." does this mean Torx screwdrivers, soldering irons, unused PIC chips, kynar wire, books about digital circuitry, access to the Internet, etc. are all now illegal?

  23. qDr

    Genuine is shit

    You guyz, you guyz, lemme tell ya something: For the past 12 month I've played only 2-3 games that were not a "complete crap". Only one of those games "S.T.A.L.K.E.R." was so "bad", that it actually forced me to see, that people were working, creating and so on, and that this game worth showing gratitude by buying a legal copy. One more time - only 2-3 games per a year worth buying a legal copy, other 99.9% of the crap doesn't deserve it. So, if gamemaking (!sic) companies keep making shitty games, then why the fuck should we appriciate it, huh? Same goes for Windows Vista. When I was back in CHina, I bought a copy of Vista for 3 yuan (approx. 0,5 bucks). And you know what, it doesn't really matter if i bought this pirated version, or genuine for 600$, VISTA SUCKS IN EITHER WAY! Sucks hard! So, if microsoft released a *BUGGY* os, that's completely uncomfortable to work with, having all sorts of *compatability* issues, why the fuck do they demand 600$ for it?

    THe bottom line is: Leave pirates alone for fucks sake, if it weren't for pirates, we would still have taperecorders as the latest invention back here in Kz.

  24. Trevor Watt

    How much does it cost the economy?

    Do the people who come up with these figures think that people othewise don't spend the money back into the economy if they have it?

    Generally though, people with the money to be able to easily afford the latest games buy the real thing. So does the missing money even exist in lost sales? I doubt it.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An offense to make or possess

    "And as for "an offence to *make* or possess a device which can render inoperative copy protection mechanisms...."

    Forget screwdrivers; I possess a brain. Is that now illegal too?

  26. andy gibson

    Make the consoles more flexible...

    ... and people won't have to chip them. I have a chipped XBOX. I'm not a gamer (the only game I have is Crimson Skies and that's an original I bought from Ebay) but I do like it as a media centre under my TV where it contains my DivXed collection of Family Guy and Futurama (all converted from my original DVDs may I add).

  27. A. Merkin

    Consumer Lobbying

    Yeah, shouldn't Customs be investigating region-coding/fair trade violations and price-fixing instead of spending money on special police actions in support of corporations?

    What we need to do is be more like the lobbyists; give wads of cash to the government to make them serve *our* needs.

    Oh.. wait a minute... taxes... I think we *do* give wads of cash to our governments. Problem is, it's all being appropriated; leveraged by the lobbyists using comparative chump change.

    How many trillions in losses have *we* suffered collectively?

  28. Paul


    Let me get this right DHS - ICE can't secure the borders, ports but yet they have the time and manpower to go after modchips?? Someone better get their priorities straightened out!

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