Japan Arrests First Console Modder


Japan’s controversial new law criminalising mod chips and DVD ripping has been applied for the first time, resulting in the arrest of a man for modding several Nintendo Wiis.

According to Fukuoka police, in December the 41-year-old unemployed man modded the Wii consoles of 3 men for ¥1,000 each, so as to allow them to run pirated games. In addition, he is accused of copying 5 games to their new hard-drives for ¥5,000.

The incident came to light when he rather unwisely advertised his services on Yahoo! Auctions, offering to provide Wii mods for a modest fee just after the new laws came into effect. He admits all the charges.

Although copying games was already a crime, actually modifying the consoles themselves was legal until recently, and this is the first such prosecution.

Japan’s Unfair Competition Prevention Law was revised in December to make “circumventing technological access control measures” a crime, with the law specifically targeting both console chipping and DVD ripping and carrying a maximum sentence of 3 years and 3 million yen in fines.

Private use of modified consoles is apparently still allowed, but private ripping and format shifting of copy protected material is now a crime – although as with many Japanese “crimes,” one without any fixed penalties.

As with similar laws in other countries, the principle objections raised against the law are that it criminalises format shifting of media consumers have legitimately bought, and prevents open source development of hardware incorporating copy-protection.

The law was prompted by industry complaints about damage to their sales, although why it took the government so long to finally do their bidding is not clear, as such bans and their consequences are by now very old news in a number of other countries.

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