Using a publicly available software tool, GamePolitics has learned that the ESA, the trade organization which represents U.S. video game publishers, altered the Wikipedia entry pertaining to mod chips in August, 2006 and again in April, 2007. An entry detailing a popular abandonware website was also edited by the ESA in August, 2006.
Earlier this month, as reported by GamePolitics, federal Homeland Security agents, supported by the ESA, raided 32 locations in 16 U.S. cities over alleged copyright violations. The federal agents were seeking mod chips under provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).
The raids generated controversy on several grounds. While mod chips may be used to play pirated game software, they serve legitimate purposes as well, including the creation of so-called homebrew games.
In addition, GamePolitics and some other media outlets were critical of the use of Homeland Security agents in what was essentially an enforcement of big business claims against U.S. citizens.
The ESA’s Wikipedia edits precede the federal raids by nearly a year, but show the organization’s effort to spin the mod chip issue:
In one paragraph, someone at ESA deleted a nuanced discussion of mod chip legality, replacing it with a flat assertion that mod chips are illegal.
Less than a minute later, a lengthy section on the positive uses of mod chips was deleted, as was a notation that the US Supreme Court has not yet dealt with the DMCA.
Finally, a sentence stating that mod chips are legal in Australia was removed.
Along with mod chips, gamer enjoyment of abandonware seems to be a no-no at ESA HQ as well. Someone there added a snarky comment to a Wikipedia entry on abandonware site Home of the Underdogs. "HOTU’s illustrious career" was edited by ESA to read "HOTU’s illegal career."
Not surprising, perhaps, when you read abandoware comments made to Wired by Ric Hirsch, senior VP for IP enforcement at the ESA:
Copyrights are not considered abandoned just because they are no longer commercially exploited or widely available. The copyrights in older games remain valid and enforceable regardless of whether they are found on store shelves or not, and copying or distributing those games is a copyright infringement.
VOTE: Wired is running a poll on the top Wikipedia spin jobs. You can vote on what the ESA has been doing…
UPDATE: GP reader Sleepy advises us that GameSpot gave the ESA edits a mention in a blog posting on August 16th.