Posted on Wednesday, June 18 2008 @ 05:44:25 Eastern
Today, in gaming news, it was ruled that the owner of site MrModChips, should not be incarcerated for the selling of those technological marvels they call 'chips'. The site also sells pre-modded consoles. Basically, for those of you that don't know, 'modding' a console involves installing a small chip into your console in order to circumvent security measures, in order to perform certain activies (which are perfectly legal) such as to create back ups, or play imported games. However, the issue of modding comes from the fact that a modded console can be used to play games that are purchased, for instance, downloaded and burned onto a dvd. Of course, it's just a few bad eggs that do this. A couple of years ago in Australia, a similar case occured, and the defendant was found not guilty because the chips could quite easily be used for legal activties, and not copyright infringement.
But this raises an interesting point--and one that can be seen further in Peer2Peer downloading. The action itself is not illegal, but can lead to illegal actions, most notably copyright infringement. Because of this, it's incredibly difficult to enforce copyright laws where the actual means of infringing them is legal. People who mod consoles in order to play illegally copied games cannot be, because of the nature of the chip, and the way it works, easily differentiated from those who use the chip for backups. So how can copyright infringement be avoided? The big companies certainly want it to be.
One way, it strikes me, would be to get rid of the need for backups and imported games (or at least region coded games). If this happened, then mod chips could be completely illegalised, as the only activity they could be used in would be illegal activity. There are a couple of difficulties with this though. Of course, the removal of a distinction between PAL, NTSC and NTSC-J is one solution to the imports idea. They're not needed in today's world, but, of course, this would cost money, and if there's one thing that big companies hate more than losing money, is actually having to use it. However, discs will always be fragile, until they're redesigned, and so backups will be made. Of course, a more robust solution might be possible, but guess what that needs? Any ideas? It needs R&D. R&D requires researchers. And they require... yup, you guessed it: money. Again, big companies would much rather just convict everyone that moves, instead of spend money on the problem.
Now, there are those of you out there who are saying that 'copyright laws are just another impeachment on our freedom', and that we should just be able to copy games and play them as we please (and that's why we have Linux). But I'm very much a capitalist, I think that if you justify not paying for something because copyright laws are against your religion or whatever the hell you're saying, then you should listen to that four letter word of what is coming out of your mouth. Copyright is necessary to protect the profit motive of modern society, people put hours into designing top notch games because they get paid for it. If you don't pay for your games then those designers don't get paid, and then you extend it, to a point where no one gets paid. Sure, some of it goes to big fat cats, but essentially, no matter how much money the company makes, they're still going to take the same cut, so essentially, it's just the little guy that's losing out. I'm not having a go, I'm just saying, if you're going to do it, don't try and justify it to yourself, just accept what you're doing is wrong, and then, if you still must, get on with it.
Anyyyyway, for the moment, we have to accept that console modding is a good thing essentially, and that it can be used for very useful purposes. Like P2P, which can be used to share files that one person has created, with other people, modding is not a morally wrong activity, but it can lead to illegal actions. I may be a capitalist, but I'm also a moralist, I think that we have a choice to choose our own decisions, so whilst copyright infringement is wrong, I don't think that people can be discriminated against if they use something which leads to copyright infringement in some cases. That is why today's ruling for MrModChips was a good day for gaming, and a good day for civil liberty.