U.S. Embassy Helps ESA Push Anti-Mod Chip Agenda to Canadian Audience

As GamePolitics has reported in the past, the Entertainment Software Association, which represents the interests of U.S. video game publishers, is keenly interested in seeing Canada adopt legislation similar to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. The DMCA however, is controversial even here in the United States. Many Canadians are opposed to seeing a similar law adopted north of the border.

We note that the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa gave ESA VP Stevan Mitchell (left) air time on a recent podcast to explain the ESA’s position on a couple of issues, including a condemnation of mod chips. These devices, which are currently legal in Canada as well as Australia and the U.K., are a long-standing target of the ESA.

INTERVIEWER: Hello. This is Ryan Stoner, an economic officer with the U.S. Embassy here in Ottawa. I am here today with Stevan Mitchell, Vice President of Intellectual Property Policy of the Entertainment Software Association, and Jason Kee, Director of Policy and Legal Affairs of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada. We are here together today to talk for a few minutes about the North American video game industry…


Stevan, can you tell me are there any particular aspects of U.S. intellectual property law that have been helpful in growing the entertainment software industry in the United States?

MR. MITCHELL: There are, Ryan, thank you… U.S. law contains strong prohibitions on the manufacture, sale, and trafficking in circumvention devices which, for our industry, are mostly known as MOD chips. These are devices that are installed in video game consoles to bypass the protections that our publishers and the hardware manufacturers build in that prevent the play of a pirated game. If you just simply download a game and burn it to a CD or DVD and insert it into one of your modern game consoles, it will not play. But, with these MOD chips installed, unfortunately, it does enable the play of pirated games, which makes them tremendously popular and they can sell for as much as $80-$100 U.S.


For that reason, they really do fuel the demand for pirated product and they are integral to piracy and, for that reason, they should be separately prohibited as well because oftentimes people who are involved in the manufacturer of these devices might not actually be involved in the making of the sale of pirated copies.


In the U.S., we do have civil prohibitions against the creation, trafficking of those devices, incredible provisions which have been used quite effectively in taking down large manufacturing and distribution operations…

INTERVIEWER: Well, thank you both very much for joining us today. I really enjoyed this conversation.

GP: While one supposes that it is part of the mission of the Embassy to help push U.S. trade policy goals, we would have liked to have seen the Embassy podcast include at least a passing mention of the opposing view. Maybe then it wouldn’t have sounded so much like propaganda…

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  1. CyberSkull says:

    Consumers should be allowed to do anything they want with the devices they own, especially things the manufacturers didn’t consider or don’t approve of. This is how we innovate.

  2. hellfire7885 says:

    That tears it, the ESA is nothign but the RIAA of a different meium now.

    What’s next. Will flopp, zip, flash drice, disc burners and SD cards be made illegal, just because there MIGHT be a slim chance soemoen wil lget music or a game for free?

  3. PHOENIXZERO says:

    True, but Bill Clinton is the one who signed it into law, so that alone shifts more of the blame onto the Democrat side.

  4. Straximus says:

    The DMCA was passed in 1998 by the 105th Congress, both houses of which held Republican majorities.  It’s also notable that in the Senate, it was passed by unanimous consent.  You can’t pawn responsibility for the DMCA onto one party.  Both supported it every step of the way, and both liberal and conservative politicians are equally responsible.


    Also, don’t confuse the US political versions of Conservative/Liberal with those that exist elsewhere.  They are very different.


  5. Iroquois_Pliskin says:

    Thing of it is this…..you can still get modchips in canada….for those of us close to the canadian boarder, all you need to do, is have a buddy in canada buy it, go pick it up, stash it in your car, and bring it home…..

    Mod chips have a LOT of perfectly legal uses….case in point…i’m building a custom moded xbox.

    If i had a modchip, it would be a LOT easier to replace the failing HDD…but they don’t want you to be able to replace the HDD, they want you to have to lose everything, and just buy another console, OR pay their tech support people stupid amounts of money to do something in over a week, that you could do yourself in about a half hour for free if you had a chip.

  6. Brokenscope says:

    Because the government is in the business of patent and copyright law. Its their job to create a "safe" environment for businesses to do business.

    Not that I agree with how they are making things "safe".

  7. kagirinai says:

    Agreed. And frankly, I want the US to stay out of Canadian laws, *period*. We have lower crime rates, WE don’t need the advice, thanks. I don’t know if this is industry powered pundantry, or if the US government REALLY thinks it needs to be the big older sibling to the rest of the western nations, but it’s offensive either way.

  8. DeepThorn says:

    Why in the hell does the US care in the first place?   I sure as hell don’t, it government and corporations need to stay apart just as bad as religion and politics.  They should not mix at all other than tiny things that help you make better judgements between each of them.

    If they want to get into a legal situation with Canada, that is for the courts to deal with between the government of Canada and the companies, not the US government.  We got in this crap fest are in because of our government being too friendly with companies.  Let the companies that make bad choices die, and other companies buy it’s parts, while the parts left over rot and die.   It isn’t my fault some idiot baught more house than he could ever afford because he bought one for 10 times his yearly income, when you are suppose to go twice your yearly income, or in rare cases 3 times if you know you have a stable job and will be getting a promotion soon, but that is still advised against by many personal finance management people still.

  9. Trencher says:

    LMAO…. you have more strict laws? Now thats a laugh.. You realize we have a Handgun ban in Canada? Maybe you should look at changing your gun laws and get EVEN MORE strict then your current laws are.



  10. kagirinai says:

    Dick waving? No.

    If laws are not in place to reduce crime (philsophics about the nature of crime aside), then what are they there for?

    My point was, IF we have less crime, then OUR laws are more successful. It’s a sweeping statement, sure, and other variables should be considered, such as culture and the like. But I some how don’t think that American laws will help or improve Canada — certainly no better than we can do on our own. If I wanted to ‘dick wave’, I’d start talking about gun laws/deaths, military screw ups, overbaring religious insanity, or a total decline in american rights in the last decade.

    I suppose if you REALLY want, I could research Canadian crime rates and make a comparison — I could even get data about projected piracy rates; but this is a forum where generally people aren’t expected to throw up citations for brief points. ‘Dick wave’ nothing. And it still doesn’t change the fact that I want none of your laws in my country, if for nothing more than sheer fear of horrendous guncrime and financial inequity.

  11. Alex says:

    We are none of those things. We never were, we never will be.

    We were never racist?

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

  12. Dark Sovereign says:

    We are none of those things. We never were, we never will be.

    How is having a large, all-volunteer military the same thing as bragging about something as retarded as lower crime rates? Most of the crime in the U.S. is centered in small areas, but our military actually serves a fuction.

  13. Cheese Nips says:

    Maybe because we ARE barbaric, xenophobic and racist?

    Just because canada does there shair of dick waving with their crime rates, doesn’t mean that we don’t with our military.

  14. Dark Sovereign says:

    As are the Canadians and Europeans harping on us for being barbaric, xenophobic, racists.

    "We have lower crime rates." That doesn’t mean anything. It’s just attempted dick waving from North of our border.

  15. Chuma says:

    I have.  I use it to play the US versions of Squaresoft titles that were never released in Europe (proof of ownership of actual titles not pirated ones available upon request).  Katamari Damacy (the original) still eludes me, though I have a Datal disc to play Animal Crossing on my GC.

    I’ll make a deal with those who are going after people with mod chips.  If they get the big 3 console makers to stop violating International Trade Agreements by region locking their consoles and banning imports of games (either literally or by leaning on companies and threatening not to supply them) and I will back their crusade against piracy.  Given that the Games industry has created the legitimate use of Mod chips themselves, I’m happy for them to undo this mess and then the ONLY reason for owning one is to play copied games.

  16. E. Zachary Knight says:

    I have never used a mod chip before. But I might at some point. I am a coder by heart and would like to test my stuff on home consoles and handhelds. I would also like to back up my legally aquired games and play those back ups.

    I would never consider piracy.

    But of course, for homebrewers out there, there is always the PC and the GPX.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
    MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
    Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  17. Alex says:

    Yeah, agreed on the anonymous posting thing. I was reading the comments for the article on that international treaty and I was getting sick of having to sift through a huge crapfest to get to comments on the article itself.

    Also, yay, I got my sig to not be spaced weirdly!

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

  18. SimonBob says:

    Want to keep a DCMA-style act out of Canada?  It’s easy: don’t vote Conservative.  The tories are the only ones interested in pushing anti-consumer laws through the legislature (along with cutting funding to the arts, pushing women’s rights back thirty years, eliminating house arrest and instigating a prison-industrial complex…)  Not that I’m saying who we should vote for, but the Liberals, the NDP, even the Bloc Quebecois or the Greens would be far better than giving Harper’s cronies another mandate.

    That said, I didn’t even know the US embassy had a podcast, much as I was unaware that anyone actually watched the Business News Network on the previous story.

    The Mammon Industry

  19. DarkTetsuya says:

    Yeah it was… and not a moment too soon, between the /b/tards and that other guy whats-his-name… yeah don’t think I’ll be missing that feature.

    As for the modchip thing, I wish I were technically minded enough to mess with my PS2, there’s some great JP games I’ve always wanted to play, but never could cause I don’t have a JPS2.

    — "Jack and listen are two words that don’t go together…just like Jack and sanity, Jack and truth, Jack and proof, Jack and win…" — sortableturnip | http://www.orangeloungeradio.com/

  20. Alex says:

    I just don’t get it.

    DVD burners should be illegal! They copy stuff! That supports piracy! They have legitimate uses, but WHO CARES? ZOMGPIRACYEVILSTOPITNOW!

    That’s the kind of logic I hear when I hear about this stuff… =\

    I don’t use mod chips, but I can certainly see myself using them in the future to, say, play imported games. I’ve been more interested in that sort of thing lately.

    Also, was anonymous posting disabled or is it just me?

  21. Geoff says:

    What the…accounts?  Passwords?  I approve!  🙂

    The ESA, being an American organization, shouldn’t be trying to push it’s agenda on Canada.  It’s involvement makes sense though.  An American that wants a Mod chip could just take a trip over the border, buy it there, then return to the US with it.  While their reasoning makes sense I don’t agree with it at all.  And the fact that "my" government (at least in theory…I don’t make enough money to matter) is helping them just makes me a sad panda. 🙁


    "Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cook-book! Little Red Cook-book!"

  22. sortableturnip says:

    If used properly, they can be quite a boon.  Mod chips can help coders create homebrew applications.  I got one for my daughter’s DS, just because I know she has a tendency to lose games.  I imaged all her current games onto one cartridge.  No more lost games…unless she loses that cartridge…

  23. Dark Sovereign says:

    See, now here’s something where the ESA has it seriously wrong. Mod chips are legitimate, even if the activity they support is not.

  24. Jonathan says:

    I hope Canada never gets a DMCA like law. Also I agree, it sounded a lot like propaganda with the absence of an opposing view.

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