Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
freedom to tinker, mod chips, uk, xbox


UK Again Says That Mod Chipping Isn't Legal

from the you-bought-it,-but-you-don't-own-it dept

The war against actually being able to own the products you (thought you) bought continues. An appeal by a guy convicted for installing mod chips in video game consoles in the UK has been rejected. Even though the guy himself might not have been violating copyright law, apparently the fact that such mod chips could be used by others to potentially violate copyright law is enough to get him convicted. So, basically, modifying the hardware that you legally purchased? Not legal.

And... in somewhat related news, a bunch of folks have sent in the story of Microsoft cutting off what may be hundreds of thousands of players from Xbox Live for using modded consoles. Microsoft, obviously, is trying to stop players from cheating (one use of a modded console), which is understandable, and certainly within Microsoft's right. Still, the action does come across as a bit heavy handed. There are perfectly good reasons to mod a gaming console, such as to play unofficial games -- and as much as I understand the desire to stop people from cheating or playing pirated games, it still seems like you should be able to modify hardware that you legally purchased.

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  1. icon
    Griff (profile), 12 Nov 2009 @ 1:54am

    Do I own my xBox ?

    In the early days the xBox was a loss leader for the games and there was a big fuss when some people figured out how to hack it and make an extremely good value linux box out of the hardware.

    Just like the Virgin phone handsets in the earlier TD post, there seems to me to be a problem with the overall contract in this case.

    Conmpanies should come clean and say "you don't own this hardware - you have it on permenant loan and you own a right to use it in a certain way" (a bit like most commercial software if you read the small print).

    Then they can legally control what you can and can't do with it. In this case, by all means run a loss leader and force people to play by your rules to get back the revenue.

    But of course they'd lose sales. Someone who pays £200+ for a piece of electronics expects to own it. On the other hand if they want to sell you hardware they should let you own it completely.

    I guess what I'm saying is that anyone who offers customers a loss leader on hardware should do so "at their own risk".

    It does appear, however, that the law is not what is in play here but what they can actually stop you doing. So even if it is illegal to play on a modded box in your own home offline there is no way they can stop you. But on the Live service they can. And they can choose to disconnect or block people as they see fit.

    In all issues of copyright (compare MS Office and an MP3 ripped from a CD) the realistic extent of the law is defined entirely by what is actually technically possible to enforce, not by morality or even necessarily common sense.

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