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US conducts nationwide raid on mod chip shops

US conducts nationwide raid on mod chip shops

Mods like this Sega Saturn mod-chip allow consoles to play pirated games and violate the Digital Millenium act of 1998.

In the US, federal customs agents have raided more than 30 businesses and homes across 16 states in search of illegal console mod-chips, according to reports.

ICE, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, has refused to reveal the names of those who have been targeted in the nationwide raid but has confirmed that the raid involved more than 32 search warrants and that these warrants targeted those who are "allegedly responsible for importing, installing, selling and distributing foreign-made devices smuggled into the US."

The raid was not targeted at a specific console device or mod-chip and has involved the Wii, PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360.

The mod chips used in consoles are classified as illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 and it is estimated that the piracy business costs the games industry around $3 billion a year, without counting internet piracy.

Nintendo are especially active against console piracy and the Nintendo of America anti-piracy unit has helped law enforcement seize more than 61,000 modded Wiis since April, despite only being a five-person team.

The recent raids were the result of a year-long investigation which saw the co-operation of the US Attorney's Office, ICE and several companies and private trade groups who are attempting to combat piracy.

"Illicit devices like the ones targeted today are created with one purpose in mind, subverting copyright protections. These crimes cost legitimate businesses billions of dollars annually and facilitate multiple other layers of criminality, such as smuggling, software piracy and money laundering." Said Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for ICE, in an official statement.

Microsoft has publicly applauded the raid, though they refuse to disclose the losses caused by piracy of Microsoft products. Our guess? Microsoft is losing more than anyone else.

Use mod-chips? Angry about copyright law? Tell us about it in the forums.

29 Comments

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capnPedro 2nd August 2007, 12:48 Quote
I can't believe somebody went and decided that mod chips should be illegal. What if I make a board that allows a drive to play any region of DVD, is that illegal? Even though I can buy a £20 DVD player in shops that will do the exact same thing. How about a chip that lets me power off m Xbox by infrared? That's the mod chip. Is that too illegal?

You aren't renting the console, you own it. You should be able to solder whatever you want in it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating the playing of pirated games, but it should be the games that are illegal, not the chips.

Disclaimer: I don't use consoles or mod them.
d3fiant 2nd August 2007, 12:50 Quote
I spose thats the risk we take, I know some people will take the 'homebrew argument' but 99% of modchips are bought for 1 reason only and thats to play pirated material and while I totally agree that games are totally overpriced I feel that this tit-for-tat battle is going to be ongoing for the forseeable future
crazybob 2nd August 2007, 13:38 Quote
I support their right to hunt for software piracy, but not if they're just going to attack modchips. Sure, there are more common illegal uses for a modchip than legal ones, but I bought the hardware and have every right to do with it as I please. If I choose to install a new operating system so I can watch movies, that should be fine even if it requires me to modify the console.

A very similar example is modifying your car to increase performance. Even though many of the potential uses for the extra power are illegal (speeding, reckless driving, street racing, etc.) there are still legal uses for the power (bragging rights, trackdays, etc.) and as such the modifications themselves are legal as long as they are used appropriately.
Lord_A 2nd August 2007, 13:45 Quote
Don't agree with this at all.
I've got a chip in my XBOX (1 not 360) & use it just for XMBC - I don't have any pirated games on it.
LVMike 2nd August 2007, 13:47 Quote
The raids probably took place under section 103 of the DMCA which added section 1201 to Title 17 of U.S. Code. From the Copyright .gov PDF on DMCA

Section 1201 proscribes devices or services that fall within any one of the
following three categories:
1. they are primarily designed or produced to circumvent;
2. they have only limited commercially significant purpose or use other
than to circumvent; or
3. they are marketed for use in circumventing.

It goes on further to ban the import of or sale of devices or services which are designed to circumvent copyright, or other IP protections.

You could still mod your console, so long as your intent was not copyright circumvention. If copy right circumvention was a "unintended consequence" of your modification you would be ok-ish. So long as you didn't advertise that that was a feature or intended use of your modification. So home brewers are still ok, as are people who mod with out trying to circumvent copyright.
whisperwolf 2nd August 2007, 13:56 Quote
So if your a large company throwing a hissy fit over how much you lose to piracy (using the formula of 1 pirated disk is 1 lost sale) you get enough man power to research,coordinate and carry out 30 raids across 16 states, but if your an avergare joe and your home gets broken into you might get a policeman round at somepoint with a piece of paper for your insurance company. want justice then you'll have to be able to pay for it
Firehed 2nd August 2007, 14:17 Quote
Bleh. I'm planning to eventually chip my Xbox so I can run XBMC on it. The system's so old at this point that it's much easier to just go buy the games for $3 used than to pirate them, and even new games are often cheap enough to not make it worth the effort. Of course with used games, MS isn't seeing any of the money, but it at least goes to prove Economics 101 to be true.
riggs 2nd August 2007, 14:20 Quote
I own a chipped Xbox (running XBMC) and a soft-modded DS. I admit, I download the occasional game, but it's more of a 'try before I buy' situation. I'm more interested in the homebrew/emulation side of things tbh (which is another grey area in itself).
mmorgue 2nd August 2007, 14:36 Quote
Would love to see the stats of the cost of this operation(s) vs the monetary gain/saved by these raids.
wolff000 2nd August 2007, 14:48 Quote
We no longer have any freedom. They tap our phones, they sniff packets and raid our homes and business whenever they like with no warrants. This is just another shining example of how the US is no longer for the people by the people. Our government preaches about freedom in other countries while they take it from us. I have several modded consoles and own 0 "pirated games". I modded my consoles to play with homebrew and linux yet I am still a criminal simply because I own a mod chip. They claim they are smuggled in which is a lie. Smuggling means you are hiding what is coming through, my first mod chip cam from overseas and the outside box was clearly labeled. The only reason they are going after these people is because some senators got a great big campaign "donation". It's disgusting and one of the very reasons I am looking forward to moving out of this place.
proxess 2nd August 2007, 15:53 Quote
They should go back to using cartridges like in the NES, SNES, Megadrive, N64, Gameboy <3333333 ahh the good old days...
riggs 2nd August 2007, 16:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by proxess
They should go back to using cartridges like in the NES, SNES, Megadrive, N64, Gameboy <3333333 ahh the good old days...
I like your thinking (especially since carts have virtually no load times), but it wouldn't work as an anti-piracy method - how to you think I run homebrew on the DS (and the GBA)? I suppose it would reduce figures, purely because it's more difficult getting games on a cart-based system...well, difficult for the average Joe.

What with falling prices and increasing size of RAM/ROM based memory, maybe we will eventually see consoles fall back on solid state media. Actually, scratch that, by the time it could (theoretically) happen, we'll probably have machines that stream game content direct from game servers. Even then, there'll be someone, somewhere, reverse engineering the process and figuring out how to run 'backup' copies streamed from their home PC.

At the end of the day, piracy will always exist, no matter how tough the copy protection system is.
wafflesomd 2nd August 2007, 16:39 Quote
Could they be any more annoying?
DXR_13KE 2nd August 2007, 23:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by proxess
They should go back to using cartridges like in the NES, SNES, Megadrive, N64, Gameboy <3333333 ahh the good old days...

they were fast... but they were expensive compared to optical disks........ not that it translates to reduced price to us consumers....
Copiedright 3rd August 2007, 08:23 Quote
In Australia, Mod Chips are legal!
Makes me proud to be an Aussie!
completemadness 3rd August 2007, 14:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord_A
Don't agree with this at all.
I've got a chip in my XBOX (1 not 360) & use it just for XMBC - I don't have any pirated games on it.
exactly, i have a chipped PS2, but i only use that to run games off the HDD (As the laser if failing) i still have the games, i haven't pirated anything
Just because you could pirate, doesn't mean you will

hell, every PC on the planet is capable of pirating music, does that mean we should all have our PC's taken away ?
elbarto241 3rd August 2007, 16:48 Quote
very good point madness, its sad to see ICE bust down on the little man with his soldering iron in his garage instead of the HUGE piraters outthere making a fortune off of bootlegging ....
DougEdey 3rd August 2007, 16:56 Quote
I mod a lot of XBOXs hell, I've made entire Home Entertainment Networks based off them, silent machines, powerful, accurate, lots of decoders. What more do you want?

I don't use them for playing illegal copies of games, I do however, load owned games onto the consoles.
tech3312 10th August 2007, 15:33 Quote
why would they make a raid on mod chips? were all of us here on bit-tech are modders now it's "illegal to make mod chips?" they should ban all soldering gund and circuit boards if modding is illegal. and let me show another point why sould they ban download sites? once they knock one down another one is going to pop up and pop up again and the process is going to be the same. they alway's find stupid laws on technology to bind it to us like it's illegal to listen ipods on the streets man even if they approve that law i'll still listen music on the street
Amon 10th August 2007, 15:43 Quote
Totally illogical. We'll might as well ban synthetic engine oil because you're inescapably going to gain a few horsepower by using it, thus allegedly making you more capable of careless driving or street racing.

Cheers to your failed political leaders. I'm surprised at how Americans haven't migrated to places of far better adult living.
tech3312 10th August 2007, 15:56 Quote
GET OVER IT!!! THIS IS TECHNOLOGY AGE THERE"S BOUND TO BE SOME FLAWS AND U JUST HAVE TO TURN YOUR HEAD AWAY!! this just pisses me off product with some flaws ther's people that can fix it to make it better thist's modding or people like to call it HACKING!!!
crazybob 11th August 2007, 05:00 Quote
Tech3312, words honestly escaped me when I read that post. I had to sit here for a few minutes to figure out what I actually wanted to say.

First, I don't have to accept flaws. If a product is flawed, I can either return it to the merchant, or I can complain to the company that made it. If the flaw comes up after some use, I can fix it myself if that's within my abilities, or I can demand the company repairs it for me if the damage is reasonable and the warranty is still valid. Technology is no different from anything else, and you can't ask me to accept flaws. I'm certainly not going to turn my head away and ignore problems, because that shows the companies that I'll accept these flaws, and then they'll continue releasing flawed products.

However, that's completely irrelevant because the XBox isn't flawed. I just wrote the paragraph above because I really, really don't like you telling me that I have to ignore flaws for some arbitrary reason you've just come up with relating to the fact that it's technology. A pacemaker is technology and I'd be pretty pissed if there were flaws in that.

More importantly and more to the point, modding an XBox is not aimed at correcting flaws. It is aimed at increasing the capabilities of a device beyond what the manufacturer intended. If you think this is such a bad thing, I think you may have come to the wrong site, as Bit-Tech is all about modifying computers to do and be more than they were intended by the manufacturer. I own my console. I bought it with my own money. I, not the Microsoft Corporation, own it. If I want to add a chip that allows me to use it as a networked video player, I'm well within my rights as a consumer to do so. They wouldn't mind if I painted it, and this is fundamentally no different.

The trouble arises when the same chip allows me to pirate games. It's not a feature I use, but because it's available Microsoft is understandably concerned about the existence of the chips. However, my complaint here arises not because they're concerned about their software but because they are trying to make it illegal for me to customize my possessions for fear that I will use my customizations to do something illegal. They feel that my ability to break the law is by itself illegal. I feel that my ability to break the law is no different from many other situations - speeding is illegal, and yet it's perfectly legal to add a turbocharger to a car as long as it still passes emissions, even though the turbo makes it easier to speed. This is because there are legitimate uses for a turbocharger (accelerating to the speed limit more quickly, higher performance at private racetracks) and because they trust me to use my best judgement and not speed. Granted, if I'm the type of person to add a turbo, I'm probably the type of person to speed as well. That's not an issue, though. The turbo is still legal, and the police will be happy to give me speeding tickets whenever necessary.

The mod-chip is the turbo. It should be legal, even though it has illegal uses, and they should only complain when I delve into the illegal uses.
Gravemind123 11th August 2007, 06:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by crazybob

The mod-chip is the turbo. It should be legal, even though it has illegal uses, and they should only complain when I delve into the illegal uses.

Completely agree with you!
It's like Bit-Torrent and YouTube. They have legal uses, illegal ones too, but most certainly should be allowed!
Sparrowhawk 5th September 2007, 00:16 Quote
What gets me, is why this is a *customs* issue. Hypothetical: If I make a mod chip in my own home, out of my own parts, and solder it to my own console, but don't use to to play pirated games, only legitimite backups of my own games... what law is being broken, and why would customs, DHS, or anyone care?
righteous_slave 5th September 2007, 18:51 Quote
The DMCA was nothing but cowtowing down to big money companies instead of actually looking at the situation and seeing if there is actually a problem that needs solved. I agree completely with the "I bought the blasted thing, if I wish to mod it, solder it, blow it up, that's my choice" mentallity. Go after the people pirating games and buying pirated games instead of the mod chip folks. They are trying to kill the spirit of tinkering, of innovation, and of self education.
insanelystupid 6th March 2010, 14:40 Quote
The us government should stop treating its citizens like robots by controlling what they can do with there own lives they should know that piracy is using any product or services that you didn't pay for and modchips may give the ability to run game backups it doesn't mean its illegal. I can backup my games and play it on my console and I'm not doing something illegal I bought the game and that's not piracy. I can do anything to my console because I bought it. They should know what a backup is and a pirate copy.
thehippoz 6th March 2010, 16:45 Quote
get those saddle poppers! :D
Elton 7th March 2010, 06:06 Quote
Well seeing as the backlash will be particularily humorous, I wonder what's going to happen..
MaverickWill 7th March 2010, 06:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by insanelystupid
The us government should stop treating its citizens like robots by controlling what they can do with there own lives they should know that piracy is using any product or services that you didn't pay for and modchips may give the ability to run game backups it doesn't mean its illegal. I can backup my games and play it on my console and I'm not doing something illegal I bought the game and that's not piracy. I can do anything to my console because I bought it. They should know what a backup is and a pirate copy.

http://www2.apebox.org/wordpress/wp-content/gallery/00-single/htrb.jpg
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