ESA Altered Wikipedia Entries on Mod Chips, Abandonware

August 18, 2007 -

Using a publicly available software tool, GamePolitics has learned that the ESA, the trade organization which represents U.S. video game publishers, altered the Wikipedia entry pertaining to mod chips in August, 2006 and again in April, 2007. An entry detailing a popular abandonware website was also edited by the ESA in August, 2006.

The edits were traced to ESA HQ in Washington, D.C. using the newly-released Wikipedia Scanner.

Earlier this month, as reported by GamePolitics, federal Homeland Security agents, supported by the ESA, raided 32 locations in 16 U.S. cities over alleged copyright violations. The federal agents were seeking mod chips under provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The raids generated controversy on several grounds. While mod chips may be used to play pirated game software, they serve legitimate purposes as well, including the creation of so-called homebrew games.

In addition, GamePolitics and some other media outlets were critical of the use of Homeland Security agents in what was essentially an enforcement of big business claims against U.S. citizens.

The ESA's Wikipedia edits precede the federal raids by nearly a year, but show the organization's effort to spin the mod chip issue:


 

In one paragraph, someone at ESA deleted a nuanced discussion of mod chip legality, replacing it with a flat assertion that mod chips are illegal.

Less than a minute later, a lengthy section on the positive uses of mod chips was deleted, as was a notation that the US Supreme Court has not yet dealt with the DMCA.

Finally, a sentence stating that mod chips are legal in Australia was removed.


Along with mod chips, gamer enjoyment of abandonware seems to be a no-no at ESA HQ as well. Someone there added a snarky comment to a Wikipedia entry on abandonware site Home of the Underdogs. "HOTU's illustrious career" was edited by ESA to read "HOTU's illegal career."

Not surprising, perhaps, when you read  abandoware comments made to Wired by Ric Hirsch, senior VP for IP enforcement at the ESA:
 

Copyrights are not considered abandoned just because they are no longer commercially exploited or widely available. The copyrights in older games remain valid and enforceable regardless of whether they are found on store shelves or not, and copying or distributing those games is a copyright infringement.


VOTE: Wired is running a poll on the top Wikipedia spin jobs. You can vote on what the ESA has been doing...

UPDATE: GP reader Sleepy advises us that GameSpot gave the ESA edits a mention in a blog posting on August 16th. 


Comments

Re: ESA Altered Wikipedia Entries on Mod Chips, Abandonware

My view on this topic:  Most likely, it was the actions of a stupid employee of ESA while at work.  I don't support the ESA, in fact, I think they are corrupt, but I highly doubt this change was their policy.  I can, however, easily see a wage-slave who hates abandonware and mod chips because they give him headaches at work posting a change on the wikipedia entries in a futile attempt to make people believe that modding and abandonware is illegal.

On the subject of abandonware:  Abandonware is fuzzy at best in legality.  However, I believe that defunct companies should no longer be able to own a copyright.  I think the copyright should either go to the designers or to public domain when a game company vanishes into the ether.  Companies that simply abandon their old games should allow the game to be available to the public in some way.  If they don't, then there should be no legal recourse to them to sue people who host a download of an otherwise unattainable game.

The laws need to change, and the only way I know that you can get these kind of laws changed is with a lawsuit.  Maybe we could turn the tide on the ESA and sue one of the companies for no longer providing an old game and not allowing anyone else to provide it either.  It seems these days, someone can sue for almost any stupid thing.  (the last was just a rant, please don't throw more useless lawsuits into the mess)

Seriously though, something needs to be done.

Pirating is wrong, but I believe that distributing abandonware shouldn't be classified as piracy.

Guys if you look at those Wikipedia changes you'll find that most them were changed back to what they should be in a short space of time. So I wouldn't say Wikipedia is useless or dead. But like any form of encyclopedia it shouldn't be your only souce of info, I believe 3 different sources minimum is the norm when looking something up.

Wikipedia is a great asset. Though it can be defaced by social criminals which is a shame. Now they'll just go underground like their alleged targets. A great human resource like Wikipedia becomes the victim.

I'm all in favor of Copyright (verbatim), and returns for creativity. I live in a good country, and that is in part due to law. I do not in any way condone the 'fair use' rights abuse which underpins Corporate Business. That needs to become illegal, and punishable.

If someones buys a widget, they should be fully entitled to use it in any manner which complies with the laws of their nations. It should not be determined by the anti-competitive agenda of a Corporation. Something which is supposed to be illegal in itself. The transfer of ownership (purchase agreement) is solely between you, and the entity you brought it off, under the terms offered when the transaction took place.

Anti-competition laws need to involve jail time for the CEO's, and involved persons. Fines are merely a business expense for Corporations. The overall result of this criminal activity is profit. Profit which feeds back into Corporate lobbying (SEE: Bribe) to enact laws such as the DCMA.

With the threat of having their freedom deprived, the CEO's would be a whole lot less keen to deprive us of our freedoms The world would be a nicer place. The actual creators and producers of goods would regain a proportionate share of the return. Competition would thrive. Communities could live again. The darkness would lift.

The idea that any entity can 'own an idea' is ludicrous (especially without an implementation). The idea that something can be sold yet still remain the property of the seller, is likewise. Throughout time humanities strength has been to accumulate knowledge, modify and improve on it. To the benefit of all. Cloning adds nothing and is rightfully illegal (as set down by GOVERNMENT).

Abolishing foolish artificial restraints such as Intellectual Property and Patents would not hinder creativity or development. Quite the opposite. Their are millions burning with the desire to fulfill those roles. Oppressed by the shackles of ill conceived law and 'business expense' slaughter.

All life (especially human) finds a way around obstacles and oppression (unless exterminated). It's a law of nature. Those who seek to dominate us are the actual creators of things ranging from Piracy to Terrorism. Greed for money and power are the only motives. Most dishonorable ones. Would there be 100's of Billions of Dollars and thousands of deaths poured into Iraq if not for the oil? It's hardly the most suffering or deserved nation.

Humans are being farmed like animals in order to make the few ridiculously rich. And the rich keep crying about getting bitten. Expect it! With whatever means life has available. The 'game' is unfairly one sided. Not ALL are happy with it!

You are allowed to make a legitimate backup of a game you own a lisence to. Modchips can assist in this. If you can't produce a lisence, proof of purchase, or character evidence that you bought the game legitimately, you should cop a fine.

Jailtime for anything like this is crap. Unless you're selling like 10,000 copies of a game. Then of course, you can just claim they're backup copies for those without burners, and they may very well be provided that you specify this is a duplicate of the game for people with a lisence. Responsibility falls to the end users.

[...] entries. X Men comics historyread more | digg story RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Cartoons Fans Lounge Syndicate entries using RSS and Comments (RSS). varsc_project=2128341; var sc_invisible=1; var sc_partition=19; var sc_security="4faa61d0"; [...]

[...] GamePolitics is reporting that the ESA made modifications to the Wikipedia entry on Modchips. Using the recently released Wikipedia Scanner, which can track back anonymous Wikipedia edits to corporations using publicly listed IP ranges, the ESA was found to have made sweeping modifications to the Wikipedia entry in terms of the legality of modchips. [...]

[...] ESA Altered Wikipedia Entries on Mod Chips, Abandonware  —  Using a publicly available software tool, GamePolitics has learned that the ESA, the trade organization which represents U.S. video game publishers, altered the Wikipedia entry pertaining to mod chips in August, 2006 and again in April, 2007. Source:   GamePolitics.com Author:   GamePolitics Link:   http://gamepolitics.com/2007/08/18/esa-altered… Techmeme permalink [...]

I'm sorry to keep posting but I really need to chime in on the abandonware issue:

Sites like Home of The Underdogs and other sites dedicated to hardware platforms like the Apple iiGS, Commodore64, and Amiga, et al are SO important to our culture.

I contend that emulation and abandonware enthusiasts are at the heart of the retro revolution and the increasing interest in retro gaming. Companies that package retro games have found great success and its all due to the abandonware and emulation scene keeping it alive.

Services like GameTap, Wii Virtual Console and of course XBox Live Arcade will continue to grow and more will come along. Just because some of us like to collect complete rom-sets of abandoned platforms does NOT mean we would not be willing to buy them in new compilations and this has been proven time and again.

Stop vilifying the consumer and start celebrating their passions...

-Mark Wolfe
Co-Producer: PhillyClassic Game Expo

The Wikipedia Scanner got big publicity in the newspapers today, mainly focusing on employees of Exxon Mobil, Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, Wal-Mart editing the entries of their employers.

[...] old man dress in batman suit Read how the game publishers’ association, the ESA, put its spin on issues like mod chips and abandonware by altering the Wikipedia entries. poison ivy photo batmanread more | digg story [...]

Metagg is tracking this post...

Find out what Social News Sites are discussing this post over at metagg.com...

anyone has a full list of companies that are related to ESA?
There should be "bad-ppl-Wiki" lisiting all the affiliated
companies,crooks and liars that made those changes on
Wikipedia. At this point in time the internet community
has the biggest powers ever. let's put them to use.

No man can be an island, because someone already owns the copyright. :-p But seriously, At what point are you suprised? I mean, they are basicly taking over PR for the BSA, Which is a far more interesting subject then the ESA. But back to the point, The ESA never had anyone's interests in mind aside from their own. If you believed so, then well, I have a +10 Reality Destroying mace you can buy. :p

"commercially exploited"
ha I'm saving that, he actually used commercially exploited and implied his organization engages in it. ESA is a crock of shit, and copyrights WERE meant to expire.

If some company or person maliciously mods a wikipedia entry, do they not ban those IPs and all the other IPs owned by the company/person involved? I mean, that would just be good thinking, no?

Wikipedia is useless now, you may as well use a ouija board.

Ouijapedia?

-mw

I guess this settles the argument. After reading this the only thing I can think is the ESA (and by extension the ESRB) are NOT our friends!

forgot to rant on this:

home of the underdogs is LIBRARY and a conservatory... its like the ESA is saying you can't read old, out of print books kids, sorry, only read the NEW ones.


-

I wake up today, and the line between the RIAA and ESA is blurred ...

[...] ESA Altered Wikipedia Entry on Mod Chips [...]

So its official then. Wikipedia is useless, and ESA are frauds.

Congratulations, ESA. You are now no better than the **AA mafia.

Unfortunately, this only means piracy will increase.

With every ounce of public faith and trust an organization loses, it gains a pound of animosity.

Please, disband and never try to reform. You're not wanted, desired, or needed to any extent now, except to protect those who pay money, for no reason.

People who pirate, would pirate anyway. Those who buy legit would buy legit anyway. Those who don't like having their stuff messed with without their permission, are going to find a way to make a point.

*minute of silence for the game industry*

Typo in paragraph 2? "The edits were traced to ESQ HQ"

 GP: Thx, illy!  Cleanup in aisle six....

If HOTU is illegal then the ESA should have no problem shutting them down, you know rather than making snarky wikipedia remarks.

Not to start an organization war, but while the ESA represents "the industry", the ECA represents the consumers and I am truly curious as to how the ECA may respond to this.

Nightwng2000
NW2K Software

I had the same question Nightwng2000.

So it basically boils down to 'If we can't profit from it, no-one can have it'.

I don't agree in self-motivated censorship, regardless of what direction it is coming from, and these attempts to give only industry the right to access game-consoles etc at a programming level is a very worrying trend, especially considering things like XBox live is going to become more popular.

Look at it this way, consoles, computers etc are all probably going to end up as a combined 'Entertainment System' in the future, you watch TV, Browse the Internet and play Video Games all using the same machine, you can already have that functionality. Now we have the ESA coming along and saying 'Only Industry can have access to the code that transmits data from your Internet connection, you aren't even allowed to check and make sure that we aren't sending personal information to us or using it for, say, market research without your permission.'

Copyright was to protect the person creative enough to create the thing, not as something to stop anyone else from even finding out what is being done, if that was the case then Cezanne would have sued Renoir for using 'impresionism' in his work. The copyright law seems to be broadening to a stupid degree, and it's certainly not involving, say, artists who borrow loops from other tracks, no, it's easier to go wholesale over an anonymous and unidentfiable 'evil' that cannot be quantified or evaluated in any real-life shape or form.

I'd just like to add that the idea of 'Intellectual Property', when placed next to the concept of 'Freedom of Speech' sounds just a little oxy-moronic when they both come from the same source ;)

guys, the first step for the ECA is bringing the news forward, which we've done via this article. No one even knew about this until I stumbled upon it this morning. (Wikipedia Scanner is a lovely thing!)...

The ECA will, I suspect, adopt the stance of 'Piracy is Wrong', which is one I, and the ESA wholly agree with. I'd be interested to hear, however, on what they have to say about the way it is being approached, and whether the ESA plans to continue making exactly the same mistakes as the RIAA.

The edits, I suspect, will be blamed on the 'actions of an individual'.

I'm sort of getting the hang of how these things go ;)

I'd say that if the ESA responds at all - and I did alert them that this story was coming - they will stand behind the spirit of the edits since that has been their position.

Whether they comment will be the thing. A lot of orgs right now are being outed for their Wiki entries thanks to this new tool...

It's just a very clear reminder why the interests of game publisher and the interests of game consumers are often very different, indeed...

Unfortunately, we are all self-motivated to a degree, even those who DO use their Mod-Chips to program have to admit that a large percentage of them are not being used for legal pastimes, it's not easy to find a line where everyone is happy, the ESA seem to be a little too content to suit themselves, and, as has been mentioned earlier, that will actually make enemies of people.

The ESA's primary reference is keeping the industry happy, the ECA is between a Rock and a Hard Place on this one, and I'm glad I'm not in their situation, obviously, the ideal for any 'Consumer' is 'everything is free', whereas the ideal for the Industry is roughly the opposite, i.e. 'You pay for every use of every product for the rest of your life.'

There has to be a line drawn between what the Industry wants and what the Consumer can supply, not only for the sake of the consumer, but for the sake of the Industry itself, when even the President of EA is saying that the Game Market is getting repetitive, you have to start being concerned for the Industry in general. That's the position Hal has put himself in, in a way, and I wish him luck.

Oh gee, big surprise.

The Wiki Scanner shows exactly how corporate and government facilities always try to skewer public info in Their favor. It's nothing new, it's not really a horribly conspiracy theory, heck people have been POV'ing knowledge for the last few thousand years.

What the Wiki Scanner does, is allow Joe to see the different points of view on a subject, agenda-laden and not.


The stance ESA is currently taking is rather despicable, as it depicts a "money first, consumer second" approach.

And for a company intended to promote gaming as a whole, this is far from good.

Hey dennis, were you aware that the side banner and rss feed all link to the "PResidential debate videos" category?

As for the ESA, I think this was a stupid move pm their part- the risk/reward was just completely not worth it.

You confused me a wee bit there, Dennis.

Are you waiting on response from the ESA or ECA?

To me, the edits themselves ARE the ESA's response, unless they are going to say it was done by someone using ESA equipment without the organization's authorization.

It's the E -C- A's position I'm interested in. The consumer group, as I understood it, was seperate from the industry organization and therefore could make its own statements, even if they contridicted the stance of the ESA, industry organization.

What I'm asking is, while I suspect Hal Halpin and the ECA might, at least openly (and I'm not suggesting they or anyone would do anything different privately), speak against ILLEGAL activities, what is the position on the ESA's edits, which ignore LEGAL activities, thereby lumping even LEGALLY acting consumers in with ILLEGALLY acting indivdiuals?

Does the ECA support the ESA's actions (if this was ESA approved)? And if so, is it because they do agree with the ESA totally or because they don't want to start an organization war? Or does the ECA comdemn the actions of the ESA (if the actions were with ESA authorization)? Or is the ECA staying out of it?

Nightwng2000
NW2K Software
P.S. I don't know about everyone else, but I flubbed keeping the identifying of "ECA" and "ESA" several times writing this, despite knowing which I was writing about. I really wish the initials were more unique.

For a supposedly defunct website, HOTU seems to be doing quite well.

 

GP: eh, my bad, must have been looking at the wrong URL... fixed, and thx for the heads-up!

That's the version as it stood at that edit, click 'Most Recent Revision' (at the top of the page) for the current entry :)

Since the ESA joined the RIAA by joining that dreaded Copyright Alliance thing, i knew it may happen from these corporate dystopiaphiles......

"Damn the Copyright Patriots!" [/solidussnakemode]

It's official... Democracy is dead.

It's all been replaced by big business.

Well color me unsurprised. I'd expect this (and more) from an organization that thinks that me downloading games like Twinsen's Odyssey is going to *magically* cause all their money to disappear in a puff of smoke. (good thing I still have the original CD...now I just need to figure out how to correctly mount a CD drive in DOSBox)

I seriously doubt the wikipedia scanner is going to be of much use within the next year. Everyone who has been outed and those who wish not to follow suit will simply find other means to make edits to their skewed POV, say from an internet café or someone's uncle's home computer.

Wikipedia is USELESS because it allows broad-sweeping edits and deletions with no accountability. At least if there was a way to maintain edits in context so no one could erase history like they live in some Owellian universe then wikipedia might regain some of its credibility.

@GWG - Ryan: the big red banner is supposed to link to the YouTube stuff.

My RSS link is behaving normally and so are the other sidebar links...
Anyone else seeing what Ryan is seeing?

@nightwng - I'm saying that GP - as part of the ECA - has revealed to the gaming community this Wiki spinning by the ESA. Hal found out about it the same time you did - this morning. As such, there's hasn't been any time to formulate a response. I happen to know he is out shopping at IKEA this morning, LOL...

As to the ESA, I asked them for a comment, but didn't give them much time because I felt I could not hold this story. It's a Saturday morning and they haven't gotten back to me yet. The only response I am after from them would be a comment.

Looking at the thing myself, it seems that a NSFW link was added to the article for GameFAQS.

Although that's probably just random greifing rather than some sort of corporate propaganda.

Even if it was the same ESA IP, I should add.

@GP & GWP, yep you're both saying the same thing. The banner links to the debate videos from youtube reposted on GP.



I still think my idea for Ouijapedia is a good one and about as reliable as wikipedia :P

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but in light of this I am cancelling my membership with the VGVN - which is part of the ESA. Instead I am throwing my full support behind the ECA which I joined a few weeks ago. I know at least they wouldn't resort to such underhanded crap like this.

BTW, I thought Wikipedia recently instituted a policy where you had to be a paying member and/or had to have some sort of certifiable credentials in order to be able to edit entries now. Granted it would be nothing for a big company or group like EA or the ESA to drop a few bucks, but Wikipedia put that policy in place to curtail such incidents.

And while Wikipedia may be unreliable in some instances, for the most part I find it failrly reliable...at least when it comes to looking up info on comics, TV shows and video games. ;)

This would be why I never rely on Wikipedia for anything other than to get the gist of something. If I want actual facts, especially on anything that falls into a controversial area I'll go elsewhere.

Still it's not particularly surprising that the ESA would attempt to hide the fact that mod-chips fall heavily into a legal gray area, and can only be considered illegal due to the overly zealous DMCA. Nor is it surprising that they hate the concept of fair use; less profit for them.

I'd say it's pretty petty of them to be taking potshots at abandonware as well. Yeah the copyright hasn't expired on it due to their disuse of it (the fact that copyright for anything created this days is going to take like a century and a half to expire is beside the point), but the fact is that they are no longer gaining money from, or making use of those licenses and the fact that if they were books or movies they'd be available in a library for some time now. Like I said, makes them really petty.

@TCS

I like your idea of Ouijapedia. I vote we try and get wikipedia renamed that.

I'm tired of this hyper-enforcement of so-called copyright infringement. This sort of idiocy is going to result in the loss of a number of creative works simply because some smarmy Beltway git thinks that there's a possibility that maybe someone, somewhere, somehow, might use long-forgotten code to make another dime.

This DMCA thing has got to be repealed.

"No one even knew about this until I stumbled upon it this morning."

Well, not entirely true: http://www.gamespot.com/news/show_blog_entry.php?topic_id=25855103
 
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