No Freedom To Tinker: Arrested For Modding Legally Purchased Game Consoles
from the no-innovation-allowed dept
Instead, we get stories about students getting arrested for "jailbreaking" a video game console. It's interesting to see the use of the word "jailbreaking" here, as that's more commonly been applied to iPhones -- where it's common. Usually, this action has been referred to as "modding" or "modchipping" when it came to consoles. But the basic fact is that the actions are effectively the same -- and both should be perfectly legal. Modifying legally purchased hardware should never be against the law. It's possible that you could then use that modified hardware to break the law -- and no one's saying that's okay. But the act itself of modifying the devices should never be against the law -- especially where it could lead to a ten-year prison sentence, as in this case.
This particular case involves a student who would modify game consoles to let people make use of backup copies of their own games on the consoles. Making a backup copy, by itself, has been well established as being perfectly legal. The problem here (once again) is the DMCA's anti-circumvention clause, which makes it illegal to circumvent any kind of DRM, even if it's for a totally legal purpose. It's difficult to see how that's constitutional. Making it illegal to do something that's perfectly legal, just because someone puts any kind of DRM in the middle doesn't make any sense at all. It's a ridiculous scenario that this kid is now facing 10 years in jail for making video game consoles more useful, allowing people to use perfectly legal backup copies of their games. But, such is the state of the DMCA and copyright laws these days.