It’s absurd to ban modchips
by Jeremy

Nintendo, which has been encouraging people to “rat out” retailers of modded cartridges, has successfully sued a company that sells them – in Australia.

Nintendo has won its second legal victory of the month in Australia, with a seller of R4 flash cartridges in the country ordered to pay the Japanese company over AUD$500,000 in fines.

Local tech distributors RSJ. IT Solutions, which had been selling the cartridges – which allow for the use of both legally-acquired homebrew and illegally-acquired pirated games on a Nintendo DS – must cease the sale of all carts immediately, and relinquish all remaining stock and all promotional material associated with them.

In addition to the corporate fine, two men named individually in the case, Patrick & James Li, must also pay AUD$100,000 in penalties.

The decision is both absurd and wrong, and akin to fining importers of VHS recorders because they can play pirated movies.

The R4 cartridge, and other mod-chips, have a completely legitimate purpose – the running of homebrew software. Nintendo might want to control all use of the consoles its customers buy – but there’s no reason why our government, and our legal system, should help it do that. Prosecute people transferring pirated software, by all means – but not those whose real crime against Nintendo is creating a wider use for its machines.

Kotaku notes a supposed difference between this case and the 2005 mod chip case where they were declared to be legal:

It’s important to note that, while in 2005 an Australian judge decreed that the use of mod chips in home consoles was legal, he did so on the grounds that the chips themselves were unable to copy or pirate games. The R4 differs from this in that, by being compatible with a PC, it allows users to download pirated games off the internet and easily copy them directly onto the cartridge.

That is not a meaningful distinction. The other chips enabled pirated games to be copied to a console, exactly the same as the R4 – and in both cases, the point is that they, like the internet, like VHS recorders, like CD-writers, like DVD burners, like bittorrent, like the POSTAL SERVICE… have a LAWFUL USE. They can be used for piracy, but they have legitimate purposes as well. This week’s decision is inconsistent with the earlier one – which actually made sense.

I hope the Lis appeal.

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2 Responses to “It’s absurd to ban modchips”

  1. MrDim says:

    $39AUD from Hong Kong, 2gb microSD card and postage included. The boy loves it. Otherwise, $99AUD for a crappy little game with crappy little graphics from some chain store in an Australian shopping centre.

  2. Jeremy says:

    Well, we don’t endorse piracy – but there are lots of entirely legitimate things your boy can do with that modchip that don’t involve copyright infringement. Google NDS homebrew – there’s heaps of stuff. Try Colors, Nitrotracker, ScummVM (old-school legal adventure games), ComicBookDS, PocketPhysics and ebook readers, for starters.

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