Media Backlash Hits Homeland Security Mod Chip Raids

In the wake of recent Homeland Security raids on mod chippers in 16 U.S. states, several journalists have taken the government to task.

In the Raleigh News-Observer, reporter Sam LaGrone writes:

Under the [DMCA]… bypassing copy protection controls are illegal… The raids were supported in a big way by Microsoft and Nintendo, which actively aided ICE in its investigation. Piracy, of course, was the issue behind the raids, but there are legitimate uses for mod chips that do not involve playing stolen software.

Amateur game makers can use them to play their own creations on their consoles; they also bypass the region codes that only allow certain consoles to play certain games. All told, it’s an odd move for ICE to hit modders so hard.

Wired’s Charlie Sorrel:


Ahh, DMCA, let us count the ways you suck. The latest abuse of copyright law has been directed at importers and sellers of console Mod Chips… The chips will also enable the use of pirated software, but that is by no means their only function…

ICE, in quoting the US Chamber of Commerce, shows us what this is really about: Money, and the industry stranglehold on US politics and lawmaking. The Chamber’s figures claim that between $200 billion and $250 billion is lost every year through piracy, figures which are probably reached by counting a pirate copy as a lost sale.

Playing upon the rather bizarre quality of the raids – Homeland Security forces chasing American citizens who happen to be garage purveyors of video game firmware – Salon’s Farhad Manjoo quipped:

If you’re selling "mod chips" out of your garage, this might be a good time to stop. Why don’t you switch to something less frowned-upon, like guns?

In the U.S., [mod chips] are pretty clearly copyright-protection "circumvention devices" under the [DMCA] …despite the fact that they allow many legitimate uses… It’s for this reason that mod chips enjoy friendlier legal treatment in Australia.


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