Media Backlash Hits Homeland Security Mod Chip Raids

August 13, 2007 -

In the wake of recent Homeland Security raids on mod chippers in 16 U.S. states, several journalists have taken the government to task.

In the Raleigh News-Observer, reporter Sam LaGrone writes:

Under the [DMCA]... bypassing copy protection controls are illegal... The raids were supported in a big way by Microsoft and Nintendo, which actively aided ICE in its investigation. Piracy, of course, was the issue behind the raids, but there are legitimate uses for mod chips that do not involve playing stolen software.

Amateur game makers can use them to play their own creations on their consoles; they also bypass the region codes that only allow certain consoles to play certain games. All told, it's an odd move for ICE to hit modders so hard.

Wired's Charlie Sorrel:


Ahh, DMCA, let us count the ways you suck. The latest abuse of copyright law has been directed at importers and sellers of console Mod Chips... The chips will also enable the use of pirated software, but that is by no means their only function...

ICE, in quoting the US Chamber of Commerce, shows us what this is really about: Money, and the industry stranglehold on US politics and lawmaking. The Chamber's figures claim that between $200 billion and $250 billion is lost every year through piracy, figures which are probably reached by counting a pirate copy as a lost sale.

Playing upon the rather bizarre quality of the raids - Homeland Security forces chasing American citizens who happen to be garage purveyors of video game firmware - Salon's Farhad Manjoo quipped:

If you're selling "mod chips" out of your garage, this might be a good time to stop. Why don't you switch to something less frowned-upon, like guns?

In the U.S., [mod chips] are pretty clearly copyright-protection "circumvention devices" under the [DMCA] ...despite the fact that they allow many legitimate uses... It's for this reason that mod chips enjoy friendlier legal treatment in Australia.



Personally I'm against piracy as well. That being said there can and should be a way for importers to play Japanese games on their systems. If they got rid of region encoding the need for mod chips would fall dramaticly. Of course that is the common sense approach so it will likely never happen.

First step is mod chips

Next step is logic pipe bombs.

You could destroy a city with a well placed logic pipe bomb

Homeland Security... um... yeah after your done arresting the geeks making a few bucks in their garages with mod chips do you think you can do something about the millions of illegal immigrants? Thanks.


From Wikipedia:

Advantages for producers:

- Allows items to be launched at different times in different places, without allowing people to obtain the item 'ahead of time' by purchasing from abroad.

- Allows price differentiation between markets (localisation), thus increasing the potential revenue from worldwide sales and/or making products affordable in markets not tolerating the prices of other regions.

- Allows the correct upstream copyright owner to receive royalties for each copy, where copyright terms or exclusive licensees differ between countries, notably as in the case of Peter Pan.

- When distribution contracts for each area are awarded to different companies, it allows a company to avoid "stepping on someone else's toes". See Market division.

"But back to my original point in my first post: If companies stopped with the region-encoding and homebrew lockout, i cannot see how anyone except pirates could lose out. Customers would be happy, and modchips would have nothing at all to back them up if there was no legitimate use for them, so the companies could easily go after them.

In short, the game companies are shooting themselves in the foot at the moment, as there is perfectly legitimate reasons for people to buy modchips."

That's what confuses me about the whole thing. Why aren't consoles/dvd/bluray players region free? Is it part of the protection that prevents pirated copies from being played easily? Is it cheaper to produce a unit for one specified region? What's the deal? I'd hate to think all of this is going on "just because".

"The kernel you are missing is that all of the above have innumerable legal uses, from transferring files to hosting an operating system. Modchips have 2, both of which violate copyright laws somewhere."

I'd have thought 'number of legal uses' is completely irrelevant, shouldn't matter if something only has one legal use or thousands, as long as there are significant legal uses available. And i do believe the amount of mod chips used for breaking region-encoding compared to piracy is significantly higher percentage than a lot of people realise.

As for it violating copyrights, it probably does, but i can't see any logical reason why it should do. But copyright law does seem way out of touch with reality in recent years.

But back to my original point in my first post: If companies stopped with the region-encoding and homebrew lockout, i cannot see how anyone except pirates could lose out. Customers would be happy, and modchips would have nothing at all to back them up if there was no legitimate use for them, so the companies could easily go after them.

In short, the game companies are shooting themselves in the foot at the moment, as there is perfectly legitimate reasons for people to buy modchips.

you took the words right out of my mouth,just because something can be used for illegal purposes doesn't always mean it will be.

only 2 uses for mod chips?I think you should step away from that comment and look them up on wikipedia as the uses for mod chips can be far more than you can possibly imagine.

Even if they stopped region encoding mod chips have other uses such as adding a OS,breaking the license home brew lock ,adding flash card functionality and many many more.

nice sarcasm there ^^

ps:still waiting for the ICE to raid me for my n64 toaster attachment....i mean its so evil it plays mario 64 AND toast's a blueberry muffin!evil I say evil!

It's a well-known fact that you can chip a .45 to allow you to use modified bullets.

All I want to do is play the first Katamari Damacy and FFX-2 International without having to drop major coin on duplicate consoles whose BIOSes have a bit of an accent.

Welcome to the Brave New World, of course Homeland Security and the NSA will never be used against citizens. That would be unconstitutional. Well its unconstitutional if you are poor

My thoughts exactly. My friend has a mod chip, he doesn't do anything illegal with it. He does try homemade maps and stuff like that, but nothing serious or bad.

It's interesting that guns are being vilified in a discussion about mod chips. Both are items that have legitimate, non-criminal use but many will often look at the criminal aspects of the devices, used by a small unscrupulous few, as an excuse to "make the world better".
The sad thing is that the "well, it CAN be used to do bad things" is inherent in almost everything around us. Why don't we get rid of cars? We can use those to transport criminals to a bank robbery! Why not shoes? We can increase the physical trauma to someone when we kick them!

Only when there is no real non-criminal use for a device can we sanely declare it "Illegal". We can use mod-chips to play games from other nations or our own home brews, and we can also use (or the implied use of) weapons to defend our homes. As a law abiding citizen, I have every right to own one or both if I so choose, and only if I actually commit a crime (be it selling libraries of bootleg games or injuring someone) should I be held responsible and be treated as a criminal.


By your logic, you could abstract out so far as HDDs, floppy disks, flash drives, cassette tapes, or any sort of storage medium could be put in and make my comment silly. The kernel you are missing is that all of the above have innumerable legal uses, from transferring files to hosting an operating system. Modchips have 2, both of which violate copyright laws somewhere.

Also, the comment about amendments had me thinking and I went and looked it up: Article I, sec. 8, paragraph 8 of the US constitution.
The government already had copyrights on lock before the bill of rights was written.


"While I don’t agree with the whole raid thing, DVD-Writers are mainly used for breaking copyright law. Sure there is the import/backup argument, but lets be serious. With the amount of healthy torrents out there holding isos for DVDs it is obvious what people are doing with them."

A little edit to your post there to point out why it's a silly statement. The exact same wording can be used to 'prove' that many items are only used for Piracy.

I myself know several people who have chipped consoles only to get around the region encoding on games.

Another reason i mentioned DVDs above: my parents have a DVD player that cannot be modded to make it region free, meaning i have to use my PC's DVD writer to make a region free copy for them to use if i want to take them something of the wrong region for them to watch.

The silly thing is. if the companies actually stopped with the ridiculous region encoding system (and also homebrew lockout), they'd actually have a far more valid point going after modders, as it'd make mods pretty much only used for piracy.


Maybe.., but from what I understand the systems that prevent pirated games and out of region games from playing are one in the same usually.



And if people were out shooting people, there are dozens of laws that will have teams of police coming after them.

While I don't agree with the whole raid thing, mod chips are mainly used for breaking copyright law. Sure there is the import/backup argument, but lets be serious. With the amount of healthy torrents out there holding isos for games it is obvious what people are doing with them.

I do think the law should differentiate. Couldn't a mod system be made that only let import games play? Or something similar

@JT Fanboi

Because they have little to do with his crusades. Now change your username before you get lynched by someone.

"It’s for this reason that mod chips enjoy friendlier legal treatment in Australia."

And Canada. Up here, the only mod sellers who get busted, are those that mod units, and then pack them full of pirated games...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Oh you just all want to make the illegal things and play them. Mr. Jt says so, so its true!

The import thing is just a cover up for your crimelord ways!

(why doesn't mr Jt post on these mod chip stories?)

Oh No! my cd burner allowed me to make illegal copy's of stuff, kind of like how bad the mod chip is!


Odd, I never knew society had jack shit to do with the creation of the DMCA. I thought that was our great and glorious benefactors in Washington. All of them great men who have nothing but our best interests at heart.

Could someone explain the reasons behind region specific consoles? What is their purpose? Are they meant to prevent piracy? Does it cost more or a less for a console to be produced without any region restrictions? How high is the demand for imported games?

Guns don't kill people, mod chips do.

From my understanding, most of those busted were smart potatoes modders at best.

Something that still isn't clear to me, mostly from the lack of details from ICE, is if the people targeted were mass importers and sellers or people who bought a single chip.


Actually, people do hunt with .45's.

A have ma second amundmint RIGHT to own a GUN, sirr! Ya boys and ya mod "chips" can just go rot in prisin!

When owning devices that are meant to kill people (don't say that you go HUNTING with a .45 handgun, I won't believe you) is less frowned upon then putting little chips in a computer device, we have a problem as a society.


I think it was sarcasm, in that selling guns will likely result in less raids.

I think the guy was attempting to be funny.

"If you’re selling “mod chips” out of your garage, this might be a good time to stop. Why don’t you switch to something less frowned-upon, like guns?"



Good to see some bigger names speaking out.

GL trying to sell guns though, a FFL is so hard to get and qualify for, especially if you live around anyone. Think the ICE is bad, enjoy the ATF

While I do not condone true software piracy in any way, I to this day fail to comprehend why being able to play import games, using backups of legitimately owned games, and potentially customizing and enhancing a system you paid hundreds of dollars for is all arbitrarily lumped in with it, just because it is easier. By that logic, we should reinstate alchohol prohibition (despite the colossal failure it was in the 20's and 30's) simply because there are morons who drive drunk.

I have a solution, but they (the game companies) will probably never accept it. First, have all systems be region free. As cool as that would be, this probably won't happen. I theorize it is because the system providers hands are tied by contracts (this seems particularly likely for thier refusal to allow the sale of past games not entered into particular regions on Virtual Console or whatever). The second is to sell authorized discs for creating backups that only work on the system they were created on and on the system the game was first played on (with Sony's recent patent of the disturbing technology that would effectively not allow games to be played on any system other than the one purchased on, I think they have the technology). You could still play your original copy on another system, but you couldn't back it up on it or play your backups on that system. Granted it isn't perfect (say, your system is destroyed in a fire, rendering your backups perminantly useless), but it is a step in the right direction in my mind. Not allowing either of those things to occur under the Ageis(sp?) of the DCMA essentially just hands the solution to the mod chip creators or other "pirates" (they still view Emulation as Piracy despite an exemption to the DCMA essentially saying that it was OK for games and such if it cannot be easily and readily bought, or something like that).

While I understand where the people who say this are coming from, I frankly cannot accept the "like it or not, it's the law" stance. With that attitude, the Jim Crow laws and other "Seperate but equal" BS in the post civil war 1800's would still be around today, because people would just bow and submit to it instead of standing up and saying that it isn't fair and shouldn't happen. I also maintain that 95% of people have either knowingly or unknowingly broken the law (if only as an acessory by seeing and not reporting an action that is technically illegal but don't believe causes harm, like shooting fireworks in some cities where the neighborhoods don't really care) at some point in thier lives, but I digress. Point is is that just because it is "the law" doesn't make it right, and I believe it is frankly stupid to totally submit and agree with such heavy handed action and use of government resources that could be directed in more productive areas just because it is techinically within the bounds of the current law.

Just a quick update. I only used the Jim Crow laws as an example because it was the first one I could think of. I don't intend to make any connections between Modding and Racial segregation where there are none. I was just saying there were unfair laws in the past, and that should nobody have challenged them and just sat back and submitted, they would probably be around today.
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Will we ever get Half-Life 3?:

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Papa MidnightOh, no problem! Just wanted to let you know that it's what we're discussing. By all means, join in!10/02/2014 - 11:36am
E. Zachary KnightNeeneko, No problem. In juicy conversations, key points of discussion get pushed off quickly.10/02/2014 - 11:36am
NeenekoA rather scary censorship. I have known too many people and small companies destroyed by such pressure, so this unnerves me at a pretty personal level.10/02/2014 - 11:36am
NeenekoMy bad, I always have trouble working out what is going on in shoutbox10/02/2014 - 11:34am
Papa MidnightTo a point stated earlier, it very much is a form of indirect censorship. Rather than engage in rhetoric and debate, one side has instead chosen to cut-off opposing viewpoints at the knees and silence them via destroying their means of income.10/02/2014 - 11:28am
Papa MidnightNeeneko: the topic of Intel's dropping of Gamasutra is indeed part of this very ongoing conversation.10/02/2014 - 11:26am
NeenekoThis can't be good... - 11:25am
Andrew EisenAnd there's also the consideration that the fact that a former IGN editor was one of the people who worked on the game's localization may be unknown (although in this specific case, probably not. Drakes been very visible at events IGN covers).10/02/2014 - 11:24am
Papa MidnightAlso, let's face it: people seem to believe that a conflict of interest can yield only positive coverage. Who is to say that Audrey Drake did not leave on bad terms with IGN (with several bridges burned in their wake)? That could yield negative coverage.10/02/2014 - 11:23am
Papa MidnightThat's a fair question, and it's where things get difficult. While Jose Otero may not have any cause to show favor, Jose's editor may, as may the senior editor (and anyone else involved in the process before it reaches publication).10/02/2014 - 11:21am
Andrew EisenWould such disclosure still be required if Fantasy Life were reviewed by Jose Otero, who wasn't hired by IGN until sometime after Drake left?10/02/2014 - 11:19am
Papa MidnightIn that case, a disclosure might be in order. The problem, of course, is applying it on a case-by-case basis; As EZK said, what's the cut-off?10/02/2014 - 11:19am
E. Zachary KnightAndrew, a disclosure would probably be in order as she likely still has a strong relationship with IGN staff. My follow up question would be "What is the statute of limitations on such a requirement?"10/02/2014 - 11:09am
E. Zachary KnightSleaker, my hyperbole was intended to illustrate the difference and similarity between direct censorship and indirect censorship.10/02/2014 - 11:07am
Andrew EisenOpen Question: Former IGN Nintendo editor Audrey Drake now works in the Nintendo Treehouse. Do you think it's important for IGN to disclose this fact in the review of Fantasy Life, a game she worked on? Should IGN recuse itself from reviewing the game?10/02/2014 - 11:07am
E. Zachary KnightSleaker, My thoughts on disclosure: - 11:02am
Sleaker@EZK - using hyperbole is a bit silly. I'm asking a serious question. Where's the line on disclosure as relates to journalistic involvement in the culture they report on?10/02/2014 - 10:59am
E. Zachary KnightSo a journalist reporting on general gaming news mentions a specific developer and their game involved in said news, and it is suddenly some nefarious conspiracy to hide a conflict of interest. I think someone is reaching for validation.10/02/2014 - 10:53am
Andrew EisenYes, imagine anyone insisting that two utterences of the phrase "Depression Quest creator Zoe Quinn" wasn't influenced by something happening in the future!10/02/2014 - 10:52am
Sleaker@Pap Midnight - So wouldn't it be any journalist writing about general gaming culture would need to disclose any and all links/ties to said general gaming culture to be ethical? Also @EZK to use you're own methodology, I'm still curious on the question10/02/2014 - 10:49am

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